Tips for Dealing with Bereaved Parents
A Letter to Ann Landers on What to Say to Bereaved Parents
In my line of work as a nurse, I sometimes find myself dealing with situations where a child has died. Often, friends and relatives don't know what to say or are afraid of saying the wrong thing, so they say nothing, which is unfortunate. I came across this article written by Linda Sawley, a pediatric nurse, which I have found very helpful. Please share it with your readers. — Vancouver, B.C.
An Open Letter to Bereaved Parents
I won’t say, “I know how you feel” — because I don’t. I’ve lost parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends, but I’ve never lost a child. So how can I say I know how you feel?
I won’t say, “You’ll get over it” — because you never will. Life will, however, have to go on. The washing, cooking, cleaning, the common routine. The chores will take your mind off your loved one, but the hurt will still be there.
I won’t say, “Your other children will be a comfort to you” — because they may not be. Many mothers I’ve talked to say that after they have lost a child, they easily lose their temper with their remaining children. Some even feel resentful that they’re alive and healthy, when the other child is not.
I won’t say, “Never mind, you’re young enough to have another baby” — because that won’t help. A new baby cannot replace the one you've lost. A new baby will fill your hours, keep you busy, give you sleepless nights. But it will never replace the one you’ve lost.
Your may hear all these platitudes from your friends and relatives. They think they are helping. They don’t know what else to say. You will find out who your true friends are at this time. Many will avoid you because they can’t face you. Others will talk about the weather, the holidays and the school concert but never about your child. Never about how you are coping.
So what will I say?
I will say, “I’m here. I care. Anytime. Anywhere.” I’ll cry with you if need be. I’ll talk about your loved one. We’ll laugh about the good memories. I won’t mind how long you grieve. I won’t tell you to pull yourself together.
No, I don’t know how you feel — but with sharing, perhaps I will learn a little of what you are going through. And maybe you will feel comfortable with me and find your burden eased. Try me.
Ann Landers, ©1997 Creative Syndicate