If you’ve been bereaved of your child, you’re not alone. In fact, the current infant death rate for the United States in 2021 is 5.614 deaths per 1000 live births and even more, parents have lost their adult children. Whether it was a car accident, sudden illness, or another reason that took their life, grieving parents need support and assistance to cope with their loss and make arrangements to bury or cremate their child. Here are five things you can do to help bereaved parents who may need assistance with funeral arrangements or help with the many other tasks they face at this difficult time in their lives.
Help with funeral arrangements and things-to-do
Don’t assume that those left behind know what to do next. They need help, even if they don’t ask for it. You can assist with funeral arrangements and other immediate matters. Offer to run errands and make phone calls, or assist with paperwork or financial arrangements. Helping people is always a good thing but knowing how to help (and when not to) is just as important. If someone wants some time alone, honor their wishes, then check in again later on during an opportune moment. Be patient — grieving takes time and varies from person to person.
Write down your favorite memories
In times of loss, it is easy to forget all of the great moments from your loved one’s life. When a person passes away, we often feel as though everything about them has vanished as well. We want to remember them, but how do we make sense of something that seems so impossible? One way to help is by keeping a list of your loved one’s favorite memories (or even their obituary). In doing so, you may find that there are still many things that bring smiles and laughter even when times are tough. With those happy memories in mind, be open to sharing them with mourning parents. Memories can make them look back and smile.
Ask them questions
Many people don’t know what to say or how to help when a friend or family member is grieving. Here are some questions that may be helpful: What is one thing I could do to help you? How might I support you during these tough times? Are there any books/resources that might help us talk about it? Would you like me to attend your service? Do you need help going through their belongings? Is there anything else I can do right now, if not, then when would be a good time? Be prepared, they may still need you in five years. There is no timetable on grief. But if they express an interest in sharing their story with other people, give them the contact information of organizations that specialize in grief and loss issues.
Send them a gift
A small token of your support might be just what a grieving parent needs, especially if they’re struggling to find their own way to express their gratitude. There are great gift ideas for bereaved parents — from a large floral arrangement to a local restaurant gift card — that can help show them that their loss is being recognized and supported. And let them know you’re there if they need anything at all. After all, it’s one thing to understand someone else’s loss; it’s another thing entirely to experience it firsthand. That takes time, patience, and compassion from others around them. If possible, offer to help with practical tasks like running errands or taking care of other people in their lives as well as space and time for grieving.
Just listen and be present
Sometimes, you’re not sure what to say. So, just listen and be present. No words are necessary — your presence will show them that they are loved and supported. The act of listening and being a good listener will also help with your own grieving process and allow you to work through your own pain while supporting someone else who is experiencing loss. If a friend or family member has experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death, ask them if they want to talk about it. Ask if there’s anything you can do or offer to help during their time of grief.
Parents who have lost a child are often left to deal with their grief alone. Though they may receive support from friends and family, no one really knows what they’re going through—which makes it hard to know how to help them. If you can’t ask them directly, ask someone close to them that could steer you in the right direction.
About the Author
Angela is a WAHM and a California native that is now raising her 4-year-old and 5 month old in a city between the mountains of Utah. In her downtime, she writes posts about her role as a mother, wife, and her escapes back to her home state which you can find on her blog at http://lavidamom.com/