Written by Clara Hinton
One of the most difficult results of grief following the death of a child is the change that occurs in relationships with friends. Because grief is not a fun thing to be around, and causes many changes in the grieving parents, friends tend to withdraw. Many friends do what is easiest during a time like this. They slowly fade out of the picture.
Parents grieving child loss have had their lives torn apart. Everything that once made sense, no longer makes any sense. Nothing seems right for a long time following the death of a child. Even eating a meal can become a difficult task. Food seems tasteless, and gathering together for a dinner often brings tears. Parents have been thrust into a world that is entirely new to them, and it takes time to pull everything back together again to the point of finding pleasure and joy in everyday living.
During the months following the death of a child, friends can play an important part in the healing process of parents experiencing grief and related depression. These lonely months are times when friends are needed the most, and are found the least. It is not uncommon for friends to become so scarce that one is left thinking that grief is contagious.
What can a friend do to help parents grieving the loss of their child? The most basic thing of all is to simply be there! Don’t disappear! Try to keep the friendship intact by keeping involved.
Because the death of a child makes everyone uncomfortable, friends often avoid the couple who is in grief. If eating pizza together every Friday night was a fun thing you did together, then continue to get together. Of course, your time together won’t be the same. In fact, it might be filled with an awkward silence at first. Don’t pull away, though! Grieving parents need the comfort and normalcy of old friends!
Many people say they can’t take being near “downer” people. There is no mistake about it—grief can bring about many changes, some of them not pleasant. There might be tears, anger, and moodiness. A good friend will be sensitive to the parents in grief, allowing them to freely express their emotions without being judged. Laughter will come to the grieving parents in time, but until then they will need the understanding of friends to help them get back onto the path of finding meaning and joy in their living.
Grief is not contagious! While grief is not fun to be around, be assured that it will not take residence in you. Allow your friendship to be sealed by continuing to be a friend to the bereaved parents. Invite them to dinner and a movie. Ask them to go to the mall with you. Continue to call just to ask the simple question, “How are you feeling today?” Be sure to lend a listening ear.
Caring friends can make a huge positive difference in the lives of parents who have lost a child. Often friends will be the only link to normal living parents have in the first months following the death of their child. By acknowledging the child’s death, and still remaining a faithful friend, you will be a tremendous source of help to parents walking that lonely journey from grief to healing.