Written by Clara Hinton
One of the most used phrases following the death of a child is, “Call if you need anything.” Friends mean well, but it is a most generic way of backing away from a difficult, uncomfortable situation. Very few parents who are grieving the loss of a child will ever call for anything, even though the needs are many. They simply don’t have the strength needed to make the call.
Instead of leaving an open-ended statement such as, “Call if you need anything”, there are very specific things a friend can do to help a grieving parent that will be appreciated more than words can tell. Most parents need someone willing to listen. There is a need for every parent to tell the story of the death of their child, but very few people are willing to listen because hearing about the child’s death makes them feel too uneasy. By lending a listening ear, you can greatly help in the healing process. Parents will want to tell the story of their child’s death over and over again!
“Call if you need anything.” A parent will not call because grief leaves a heart broken and depleted of any strength. Sometimes it’s all a parent can do to get up in the morning, let alone find the strength to call a friend asking for some help. Instead of waiting for a call, a friend should take it upon himself to go visit the bereaved parents and offer to accompany them to the grocery store, the bank, and even to church for the first few times following the death of their child.
Often a parent will feel totally lost from the grief, and it is difficult to think straight enough to buy food items that complete a meal. Banking becomes ever so difficult. When grief overpowers a parent, any kind of organizational skills become difficult, so a simple bank deposit becomes a very complex undertaking for the bereaved parent.
Going to church for the first time following the death of a child can be the loneliest feeling of all. The songs in church will easily bring on a stream of tears. Seeing the empty seat once occupied by the child can be devastating to the parents. There is a desire to go to church, but grief can bring on an almost paralyzing fear. How much easier the first few attempts at church will be when accompanied by a friend!
Instead of saying “Call me if you need anything”, offer to accompany the bereaved parents to the cemetery. The first few visits there will be extremely difficult, and parents often need someone to help them through this lonely time. You can offer to stay in the car while the parents have some alone time at the actual gravesite of their child. Just knowing you are close by will be a comfort.
Remember that grief does not end for the parents whose child has died. Over time, the grief will soften, but it will never totally go away. Parents need caring, non-judgmental help during this time of grief.
A supportive friend will do much more than say “Call me if you need anything.” A caring friend will truly be there to help with the everyday activities of life until the grief subsides enough that the parents can move forward with some normalcy in their living. Parents need continued help and support following the death of a child. Most always, the little things mean the most. Don’t just offer to help. Go a step beyond, and be there with listening ears and hands willing to help!