How may the comforting of bereaved parents be achieved? Sometimes it seems that the only people who truly understand this grief is another person who has also lost an offspring. Statistically, child loss is one way which can cause the most severe type of grief (complicated grief). https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/complicated-grief/symptoms-causes/syc-20360374https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/complicated-grief/symptoms-causes/syc-20360374
This is what we bereaved parents wish others to know.
People mean well when condolences are offered. However, it is common for us to be told that we should “get over it” or “we should be all better in a year” or “stop crying, move on, cheer up”. Stated simply, parental grief is something that can be lingering (in greater or lesser degrees) under the surface. We do what we must to honor and remember our beloved child. If that means occasional tears, so be it.
The loss of a child (no matter the age) is much more complex than other relationship losses. This particular loss involves the missing of much potential and promise, not only for parents, but also for siblings. For parents, we dream the what-if scenarios. What if our child was still here? Would he or she have been learning to walk, riding a bike, enjoying reading, playing sports, etc.? If an adult child, what kind of job may they have had? Would they have gotten married? Could we have had grandchildren? For any age, would they have been kind?
We scan the faces of friends and strangers when in public. We search for those of the same gender and would-have-been age of our child with a bit of a pang in our hearts. When we inevitably find one similar to our lost child, we think how lucky these other parents are and they may not even know it.
Comforting Bereaved Siblings
For siblings, perhaps they may wonder if they would have shared a bedroom. Maybe they question if they would have been a helpful sibling to them. Maybe they desire to know if they would have shared fun secrets or hobbies or travels.
All of us, whether parents or siblings, still desire to have that special person to love and to hug and to be family.
Speaking of children, they, just as adults, may have the words of condolences rolling around in their heads. One four-year-old sibling asked her parents to stop going to church. Why, you may ask? “She had heard many say God needed her brother and took him to be with Him, so she didn’t want God to ‘need’ any other family members. She would also ask if we could climb a ladder to ‘peek’ into heaven to see her missing sibling.”
In another sibling story, a child, who was born after his sibling’s death, surprised his parents on the day of his sister’s wedding. “When he went to congratulate the couple, he sobbed in his brother-in-law’s arms as he said, ‘I’ve waited my whole life to have a brother I could actually hug.’ His parents had assumed incorrectly that since he wasn’t born when his sibling died, that he wouldn’t miss him.”
Sometimes a parent may catch themselves being overly protective of their remaining children. This could create a sense of fear in not only the parents, but also the children. If fear is an issue in your life, here are a couple of posts: FEAR IS THE LOCK and Transform Fear.
Perhaps those offering support to grieving families would do well to hug more, listen more and speak less.
Healing Child Loss Grief
In comforting bereaved parents, each person must discover what brings comfort and strive to gravitate toward those practices. Frequently, the arts bring solace to grieving parents. Whether it is creating in music, theater, or literary, culinary or visual arts, putting something of oneself into artistic routines can be beneficial. Attentive, appreciative listening, viewing or partaking of others’ creative efforts offers healing. (Think art museums and concert halls.) Art, Grief and Life elaborates.
Being outside in the realm of nature is another healthy habit that many choose. Appreciating the beauty of nature is very comforting. Remember, trees, plants and wild animals are good listeners! It feels good to release our grief to the winds.
Pets can be rapt listeners as well. Plus there is the mutual benefit of snuggling. Looking into your pet’s eyes, you may find your own love reflected back at you!
Many of us speak to our child on the other side of the veil. They are capable of hearing us. Sometimes we may receive a response. It could be through words coming to your mind. Maybe it could be visions or dreams. Nature or just everyday life may send signs. The secret is being aware. OUR VISITOR is a Christmas-time example. MIRACLES AND DUETS details a beautiful dream! Many bereaved parents question themselves or others as to if something is truly a sign. It is best to simply accept it as a sign and welcome the peace and happiness it offers.
Connecting with other grieving parents can be a great source of comfort as we are all acutely aware of the experiences and the feelings. Even though each loss, child’s age, and cause of death, as well as our own personal response is unique, there is enough commonality to be beneficial.
Other Helpful Tips
Allowing oneself to consume healthy foods and to get sufficient fresh air, exercise, and sleep are key to being optimally functional, whether one is actively grieving or not. Meditation can be a meaningful and relaxing experience. You may find Why Gratitude? works to give you a change of heart. WASH AWAY NEGATIVITY! speaks of the importance of properly hydrating and detoxing oneself.
Critically, one must deal with loss when it happens. Otherwise, the grief resides in one’s body and could have potential negative effects on one’s health and relationships. Locating a good grief counselor may be wise. Perusing recommended books or websites on grief has been helpful to many.
Faith is a critical component in many grieving parents’ lives with the connection to a Higher Strength. This atmosphere of music, love, prayer and fellowship provides much needed solace in comforting bereaved parents.
Comforting Bereaved Spouses
Spouses must take care to check in with one another and keep the lines of communication open. There are gender differences in grieving habits. Because of this, each member of a marriage may have very differing ways of processing grief. For example, some wish to express their feelings while others may not. Having this understanding is important for couples to realize, otherwise, the marriage could be at risk. https://gboncology.com/blog/gender-differences-in-grief/
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As a grieving parent, may you find your new normal. Take one day at a time if necessary. May you find the solace you so richly deserve in your journey toward becoming a comforted bereaved parent.