Q: My son's best friend's mom just passed away. I am concerned for my son and don't know what to do for him. He is distraught. How can I help my son? 

Response:

Grief is a normal and natural reaction to the death of a loved one. No two people grieve the same, even in the family. I am certain that your son’s friend and mom are like family to your son. Losing his friend’s mom can and will bring up all kinds of feelings for your son including his own relationship with you.

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The best advice to you is to “listen” and be present for your son. As parents we have a tendency to want to make things better for our children and take away their pain. Unfortunately, grief does not have a timetable. It is necessary for your son to experience his sadness and grief and be able to sit with it. Avoid comments such as “she’s in a better place”, “be strong”, “at least she’s no longer suffering”. These statements dismiss his feelings instead of acknowledging his pain. Just tell him you are available whenever he wants to talk, or just sit together. There is nothing like the gift of your presence.

Allow him to talk about his grief and listen. Just listen and be present. He will then do the same for his friend.

There are some warning signs if you think your son’s grieving has affected him greatly and interrupted his daily routine. Such signs include: lack of sleep, nightmares, decreased appetite, sudden weight loss, excessive crying, or absence from school. He may benefit by speaking with a licensed professional counselor. At the Hellenic Therapy Center, 567 Park Avenue, Scotch Plains, NJ, we have a team of licensed professionals available day, evening and weekend hours. Call us at 908-322-0112 or visit www.hellenictherapy.com.