Written by Clara Hinton
Following the death of a child, parents are left with a void that they never before thought possible. Every activity, every hour of the day, and every thought seem to have an emptiness that will not go away. In order to do something to help cushion the pain, parents will often want to talk about their child to anyone who will listen.
Talking about the child who died brings wonderful relief and comfort to parents. They find great joy in reminiscing about past vacations and holidays with their child. There is such benefit in recalling funny antics that involved their son or daughter. As the parents talk openly and freely about their child, it gives a much-needed reassurance that the child who has died is remembered.
There is a problem, though, with parents desiring to talk with friends about their deceased child. A lot of the time, those who are closest feel very uncomfortable about the death of the child. There is the feeling that being together with friends, and talking about the child who is now not here, will only bring up very sad memories of what has happened. Many times friends refuse to do the one thing parents need the most—to speak the child’s name. Friends will often shut down and fail to mention the child by name ever again. Many parents are left feeling very abandoned by this. They begin thinking that even their best friends don’t care!
What should a friend do? First of all, be honest. Simply explain that it is going to take a while before you can join in on conversations about the child who has died. And, it is going to take you even longer to be able to use the child’s name. Explain that you will certainly try to verbalize their child’s name, and you will make every attempt to do so. Parents will greatly appreciate your honesty, and it will ease the pain of thinking that you don’t care.
Allow the parents of the deceased child the freedom to talk. There is great healing in knowing that you have friends who care, who will allow you to talk openly about your child, and who will listen as you frequently use your child’s name. There is such healing in hearing the child’s name! A name personalizes everything. When a parent can say “my Aimee” instead of “my daughter”, they feel like Aimee is being acknowledged as “their child”—the only Aimee, the one who belonged only to them.
As you hear the deceased child’s name frequently being spoken, changes will occur within you. Sooner than you think, you too, will be saying such things as “I remember the day Aimee and Alyssa made mud cakes together. They were determined to make us eat those things!” The more you use the child’s name, the more comfortable you will become.
Friends want to help their friends through the pain of child loss. By allowing the parents to use their child’s name in front of you, you are helping them acknowledge not just the fact that their child died, but that their child lived. When a parent hears someone whisper their child’s name, their hearts soar! “Someone remembered! Someone really remembered!”
By using the deceased child’s name, you show the parents that their child is still alive in your memory and in your thoughts. There is great healing when a parent hears someone remember their child—their special child—by name!