10 Ways to Help Parents With Grieving Hearts
1. Be there. One mom put it so well. She said, “It’s not the words you spoke; it’s the tear you left on my cheek.” Commit to walk with me through the valley no matter how long it takes. It may take awhile. Statistics show that a parent is considered newly bereaved for five years. I may tell you I want to be alone. Yes, you should honor that. But know that I don’t mean forever, just maybe right now. What I really want is for you to be there.
Will I? Can I? Or will I say the wrong thing in an effort to help in some small way? Can I truly just "be there"?
2. Pray for me. Don’t stop, although I may even tell you to. My faith has been shaken and I feel as though I have been betrayed. I question how God could have allowed this to happen. I may even be angry with Him for a time. I need your prayers. I am too wounded and weak to pray for myself.
I know I can do this one, for in the most honest times, it's all I am clinging to. I know that the Lord holds Esther so close, and we are clinging to His strength, His guidance in the most difficult of times.
3. Don’t expect very much from me, especially those first few months. It is a challenge for me to get out of bed and on a good day I might remember to brush my teeth. Even though my world has stopped, life continues. I have to cook, clean, take care of my remaining family, and often go back to work. Help me. Bring over a meal. Take my children to the park or to a movie. Do my laundry. Run to the grocery store for me. Don’t wait until I ask you; I probably won’t.
4. Don’t offer advice or give me clichés. I don’t need a sermon on how best to grieve. Don’t offer me clichés such as, “Time heals all wounds,” or “It is God’s will.” Don’t assume that you know how I feel. Even other bereaved parents don’t truly know my grief. We are each unique, so don’t lecture me. Just walk with me and be there.
What will I say? How will I say what is on my heart, the hurt, the sadness, the loss and mourning, when your hurt, your sadness, your loss and mourning is cutting so much deeper than mine? Will I be there?
5. Say the name of my child. I love to hear it! Remember a story about him and share it with me. Let me talk about him; don’t change the subject. I may tell you the same things over and over and over, but please just be there.
This I won't have trouble with. We loved her so richly while she was growing in Rhonda. We planned, we prepared, we spoke of the future and our adventures to come. Her beauty and her touch on so many hearts will be something to share forever.
6. Accept that I am different now. I will never be the person I was before. A mom told me the other day that she was watching old videos and as she saw herself laughing and having fun with her daughter, she missed her. She also said, “I missed me.” We have lost our innocence. We have lost a portion of ourselves, and we are different now.
This is where I say I am "mourning". Things changed.
This is a hard one for me. I feel that our friendship as it was before changed on the night we got the news. Suddenly the movie that we had been trying to fit into our schedule had little to do with the reality of now. I feel that loss, each time we talk the hard talk. I feel the loss of what was and the unknown of what our new life will be. Does that make sense? Sometimes I wonder. Selfish, definitely. Painful? Very much. Instead of planning our next adventure, our next trip, our next batch of cookies or concert.....we have grief, for loss, memories, mourning...
7. Don’t judge me. I may wear a T-shirt with his picture and visit his grave every day, sometimes twice a day. It may make you uncomfortable if my office cubicle looks like a shrine to the one I lost. Please give me some time.
8. Watch for the signs. Be alert to behavior that may be dangerous. There are those who cannot move beyond their pain; encourage them to talk to someone in the professional field. Search out a support group for them, and offer to go to it with them.