It inconceivable. The pain that a parent experiences when their child dies. There are no adequate words to describe what they are going through or how deeply their emotions run. Parents who have lost a child find themselves in a canyon of immense sadness. Friends, family members, teachers, coaches and peers struggle as they want to provide comfort. Being available, authentic and thoughtful are three very important concepts to embrace. You may not have the perfect words, and chances are, your words won’t offer much comfort, but here are some of the things that you should try avoid.
A bereaved mother posted this article, 7 Mistakes people make when a child dies on her blog.
- Announcing the child’s death on social media. The death of a child is not gossip and is not appropriate for anyone else to share this information in this way, unless the parent has specifically asked you to do so.
- Alerting everyone you know of the child’s death. Again, this is not gossip. This is a tremendously painful reality for the parents who have lost their child.
- Showing up to a memorial service or the funeral dressed too causally. Honor the family and the child who has died. It is not appropriate to show up dressed in yoga pants or causal attire.
- Sending a picture of your kids in the holiday card. While you might think that a picture of your kids brightens any room, it is disrespectful to the family in mourning. Holidays and anniversaries tend to be extremely difficult time for parents after the death of their child.
- Telling the parent to call if there is anything they need. All the parents really need is their child back. Do not expect them to call you to tell you what they need. Offer specific help, for example, do the grocery shopping, cut the grass, or just make a pitcher of lemonade and sit quietly with them.
- Avoiding saying the child’s name. Say the child’s name. Say it often, and especially around the holiday’s, the child’s birth date and on the anniversary of their death.
- Telling the parent that they need to see a therapist when all they are looking for is a friend. Loosing a child can make you feel like you are loosing your mind. It is so painful. While counseling and therapy can be extremely helpful for anyone experiencing a significant loss, it does not negate the need for friendships. You might think they aren’t thinking about you at all, but they certainly notice when you haven’t come around or offered any support after their loss.