The loss of a child is like no other. Losing a child to a tragic accident is grief that lasts a lifetime. It can be difficult to know what to say or do when someone you care about is grieving.
You may be afraid of intruding, saying the wrong thing, or making the person feel worse. While you cannot take away the pain of the loss, you can provide some needed comfort and support. You can let the family know that you care and offer help in practical ways such as buying groceries, running errands, dropping off meals, etc. Listen with compassion and be willing to sit in silence and most of all refrain from giving advice. Avoid saying things such as:
- It’s part of God’s plan
- Time heals all wounds
- They are with your loved ones now
- They are at a better place now
- They are with all the angels
- Avoid "should's" (ex: You should go to church.)
The death of a child is one of the most difficult experiences one could ever endure. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Grief does not unfold in orderly, predictable stages. It can be an emotional rollercoaster, with unpredictable highs, lows and setbacks. Feelings of guilt, anger, despair and fear are common reactions. A grieving person may cry uncontrollably, and it is important for us to reassure them that it is normal what they are experiencing. Grief can affect us more than just emotionally. It can affect us physically, mentally, socially and spiritually.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, author of “On Death & Dying,” identifies five stages of the grief model: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. She explains that there is no script for grief; we cannot expect to feel any of our emotions in a particular set pattern. It’s a misconception to think that one moves through these stages chronologically. Instead, people will move through all five stages rather haphazardly. Some stages are repeated, while others are never fully experienced.
There is no timetable for grieving. It can take months, years or a lifetime. Remember that the bereaved will always remember the loss of their child and it will forever change their lives.
Hellenic Therapy Center is located at 567 Park Avenue, Scotch Plains, (908) 322-0112, www.hellenictherapy.com.