Saturday, January 15, 2011

How to Help Grieving Parents

Beginning immediately following Micah’s death, many of our friends and family came alongside Heather and me and were of tremendous blessing to us in our grief. These friends and family members seemed to know just how to help us. Below are five ways in which these friends and family members were helpful. We thought we would post a list of things that were helpful to us so that if you have friends or family members who have also lost a child, you might also try to be of blessing to them.

(1) Remember the Child: Send the parents a note, card or email on important days. If you remember the child’s birthday or the date of the child’s “home going,” send the parents a card letting them know that you are remembering them and praying for them on that day. When you talk to parents about their family situation, try to include the memory of that child in the conversation.

(2) Communicate: Call the parents. Keep communicating with them, even if they don’t respond. Don’t stop communicating with the parents just because you may not be sure how to address their grief. Don’t be afraid to let the parents talk about the deceased child. In fact, most of the grieving parents I know appreciate the opportunity to share memories with you of their deceased child. Even though the parents might be emotional, the parents appreciate the opportunity to grieve with you; they don’t want you to try to carry on your relationship as if nothing happened. Parents live with the constant reminder that their child is no longer here, so you don’t need to be concerned that bringing up memories or talking about the child will somehow increase their level of pain. Instead, we think grieving parents would be encouraged to know that you care enough to enter into their grief with them.

(3) Practical Assistance: In the immediate aftermath of the death, find ways to be of practical assistance to the parents. For us, having meals prepared was one of the most helpful and practical ways for people to help us. Especially early on, preparing a meal was just too difficult of a task. See if you can provide the family with a home-cooked meal, or, if that is too difficult, a frozen meal or a restaurant gift card. Shovel the driveway or mow the lawn. Clean the house or help with laundry and dry-cleaning. Make a Target or grocery store run on behalf of the family. Heather and I found it particularly difficult to be in large crowds of people or even to go to places such as the grocery store where there are vivid memories of shopping with the child. If you are going to the grocery store anyway, consider asking the parents if you can pick anything up for them on their behalf.

(4) Prayer: Pray that (1) God would use this suffering in the lives of the parents to be drawn closer in a new or existing relationship with God through Jesus Christ, (2) that the marriage would be sustained, that no blame or disconnect between the parents would occur, (3) that the parents would realize their own limitations and reach out an seek the help of God, professionals, and friends and family.

(5) Resources: If you have a favorite Bible promise that relates to suffering, write it down and send it in an email or note to the parents. If you have a favorite book, song, sermon, or music album that would provide the parents with an opportunity to worship God through their suffering, provide that to them. We appreciated not only the resource itself, but also just the fact that we have friends, co-workers and others who were thinking of us.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you both for that list! It is very helpful to know what would best speak to parents in these horribly difficult situations! We think of you and Micah often! Keeping in prayer for you all!!

    The Carey's