Tips for Dealing with Bereaved Parents
Helping Bereaved Parents: Do's and Don'ts
Do let your genuine concern and caring show.
Do be available...to listen, to run errands, to help with the other children, or whatever else seems needed.
Do say you are sorry about what has happened to their child and about their pain.
Do allow them to express as much grief as they are feeling at the moment and are willing to share.
Do encourage them to be patient with themselves, not to expect too much of themselves and not to impose any shoulds on themselves.
Do allow them to talk about the child they have lost as much and as often as they want to.
Do talk about the special endearing qualities of the child they have lost.
Do give special attention to the child's brothers and sisters at the funeral home, during the funeral and in the months to come (they too are hurting and are confused and are in need of attention which their parents may not be able to give at this time).
Do reassure them that they did everything they could, that the medical care received was the best or whatever else you know to be true and positive about the care given their child.
Don't let your own sense of helplessness keep you from reaching out to a bereaved parent.
Don't avoid them because you are uncomfortable (being avoided by friends adds pain to an already intolerably painful experience).
Don't say you know how they feel (unless you have lost a child yourself, you probably do not know how they feel).
Don't say "You ought to be feeling better by now" or anything else which implies a judgment about their feelings.
Don't tell them what they should feel or do.
Don't change the subject when they mention their dead child.
Don't avoid mentioning the child's name out of fear of reminding them of their pain (they haven't forgotten!).
Don't try to find something positive about the child's death (moral lessons, closer family ties, etc.).
Don't point out that at least they have their other children (children are not interchangeable -- they cannot replace the child who is gone).
Don't say "You can always have another child." Even if they wanted to and could, another child would not replace the child they have lost.
Don't suggest that they should be grateful for their other children (grief over the loss of one child, does not discount a parent's love and appreciation of their living children).
Don't make comments which in any way suggest that the care given their child at home, in the emergency room hospital or wherever was inadequate (parents are plagued by feelings of doubt and guilt without any help from their family and friends.).
Prepared by Lee Schmidt, Parent Bereavement Outreach, Santa Monica, CA 90402 ©1980