I can’t say I know how a bereaved parent feels as I haven’t been through that tragedy.
I can’t even begin to imagine the hurt, the pain, the longing, the aching, the lifelong wishing for a different outcome.
Although I had a molar pregnancy loss and subsequent chemotherapy treatment, the pain I experienced, despite being unbearable at times, would not compare to losing a child, one I’d carried for months, one I’d held, one I’d kissed goodnight, one I’d loved intensely from the moment I set eyes on them.
Of course, unfortunately, I’m in the position of knowing too many people who’ve experienced a stillbirth or the loss of a child. And so, with their words ringing in my ears and knowing a smidgen about their experiences, I felt it would be helpful to share some suggestions of how you could support someone you know who has lost a child.
Please be aware that I have sought support in writing this as, although I faced loss through molar pregnancy, I certainly did not feel able to write this without the words of wisdom from those who have experienced child loss. Do be aware, though, that while this advice is based on people who know what it feels like, everyone is different; it is not a one-size-fits-all approach.
Traumatic times often reveal true friends and those who cannot cope with being a part of your life. While you may not have the right words (does anyone know precisely what to say to a bereaved parent?), getting in touch will mean a lot. Just knowing that someone is thinking of you will mean a lot.
Jenny shared her experience of losing a child and says, “The worst response was no response; we just want acknowledgement of their existence so anything you say will be better than nothing.”
When you do contact your friend, there are a few things you ought to bear in mind:
- Joanne feels strongly that you should avoid starting any sentence with “At least,” because when it comes to the loss of a child, there really is no need ever to insinuate that things could have been worse. Louise agrees with this, believing that encouraging someone to find a silver lining when they are filled with grief is not a decision that a friend or family member should try to make.
- It might feel easier to you to not mention the child who has passed away, but that should be the choice of the bereaved parents. The number one thing that Louise from Little Hearts, Big Love wanted to share with her friends and family members was that talking about her child, Jessica, was something that she needed and still needs. By others mentioning her, she says, “It tells me that you remember that she lived; that her life mattered; that she is still loved and remembered.”
Listening intently is essential. Sometimes, being that friendly ear, the one that will take everything in without offering advice or similar stories, might be what your loved one needs. Child loss doesn’t come with a manual, so while some of your friends or family members will feel the need to talk to you about what’s happening in their lives, others won’t. Go with their wishes at all times.
Every parent is different. Every situation is different. When Chantele had a stillbirth with her second son, Ebben, she invited people to visit him in hospital, see him, hold him, talk to him, just like you would with any birth. While meeting a stillborn baby or deceased child would obviously be incredibly tough, doing that for the bereaved parents could be an important thing for them. If they are keen for you to share this traumatic time in their lives with you, please try to be there if at all possible.
Cry if you want to
It is common for people to feel as though they shouldn’t cry about situations that are not their own, but actually, when something terrible has happened to a friend or family member, it is ok to cry. Sadness due to grief is never restricted to one or two people. Most bereaved parents will understand that a child’s death impacts a large number of people.
National Bereaved Parents Day
3rd July marks National Bereaved Parents Day, chosen because A Child of Mine’s founder and CEO, Gayle Routledge, lost her son, Lewis, on this day in 2010. Sadly, he was diagnosed with cancer at the age of just eight months and was two years old when he passed away.
At 7pm on Saturday 3rd July, people across the UK are encouraged to light a candle to remember those children who were taken too soon. This year’s theme is “Keeping Their Memory Alive”.