Written by Clara Hinton
The first several weeks following the death of a child are usually filled with lots of emotional grief support. Friends drop by your home with food. Cards arrive daily. Phone calls of encouragement come quite often. Then, almost as suddenly as the support began, it ends. Friends become scarce, and when they are around, they don’t know what to say so they often remain silent. As a parent, it feels like everyone has forgotten your child, and that leaves a parent with a lonely, empty feeling.
The death of a child makes others feel very uncomfortable. Friends and family members alike often are afraid to mention the name of the deceased child for fear of bringing up sad memories to the parents. What others fail to realize is that it is very healing for parents to hear the name of their child spoken, as well as to hear stories that bring warm memories to mind. Parents long to hear about their child from others. Fond remembrances are comforting and aid in healing.
As a parent, it often helps to talk about your child to others, breaking the ice of being uncomfortable. Remind others that you love to hear your child’s name spoken in a warm way. It will often be up to you to lead the way with talking about your child. Once you make the effort, others will know that they, too, have permission to talk about times spent with your child. They will find that it’s healing to them to talk about your child, too. The bond of friendship you share will become even stronger as you walk through this journey of grief hand-in-hand.
Be prepared for the few who might suggest that you should be ready to “move on” with your life, though. Many simply will not understand that your loss presents a continuing empty void that needs attention. The absence of support leads a parent to believe that their precious child has been forgotten. Actually, others have not forgotten, but they might feel that enough time has elapsed to provide healing. What most people don’t understand is that grief, while it does get better, is a slow, difficult journey that takes lots of time and hard work.
How can a parent cope when others are not providing adequate support? It’s a great idea to find a local support group, if at all possible. Face-to-face support can be the one thing that keeps a parent going during those lonely, dark moments. It helps to find a group where you can talk freely about your feelings, vent openly without fear of someone making you feel inadequate, and where you can mention your child’s name without being made to feel uncomfortable.
When it seems like others have forgotten, bring your child’s memory alive by talking about past experiences. Invite some of your child’s friends to your home and plan something like an informal get together and perhaps have your child’s friends help you begin a memory book or some sort of scrap book. An activity like this can be quite healing to all involved.
Others have a tendency to forget special days, anniversaries, and occasions such as your child’s birthday. Rather than waiting for others to send a card, plan a meal and something such as a balloon release, candle lighting, or planting of a flower or tree in memory of your child. Ask your friends and family members to join you for these special occasions for additional support.
Have others forgotten? Not always. Most times they are afraid to bring up memories for fear of adding more pain. When you openly remember your child, so will others. And, you will soon have a built-in support system that can carry your through the difficult days into healing.