Talking about how to help a grieving parent is not something I was sure I would ever be able to do here. And yet it’s something I feel called to share about because it’s a club my mother is a member of along with many people we now know. It’s taken me nearly four years to share about this but if it helps one person support a bereaved mom or dad, then it’s worth it.
How to REALLY Help a Grieving Parent
Today would have been my sister’s 27th birthday. Instead Meredith is forever 23 because she passed away unexpectedly about four years ago. Just a few weeks after her 23rd birthday she was found dead in her apartment. I stood next to my mom (Grambo) as she found out that her daughter was gone. It’s something I would wish upon no one and something I will never forget.
Watching a woman, a fellow mother, my mother, fall to her knees in despair is something I will never forget. The heartwrenching sob that was ripped from her chest is a sound that is forever part of me.
There are stretches of days from 2011 that I don’t remember much about. I remember vividly helping to plan my sister’s memorial service and attending it and the wake following it. But the days following it are mostly missing for me. It was a haze. Nights full of being afraid to sleep without my own son next to me. Days full of a surreal feeling that it all had to be a dream. Moments where I could barely breathe.
And through my own grief, I was with my mother every single day. She already lived with us at the time and I’m thankful for that because I’m not sure she would have survived otherwise. Years earlier we had watched a close family friend who didn’t survive the loss of her own daughter. All I could do was try to support my own mom through her grief and pray she would make it through.
Over the past few years I’ve spent a lot of time at support groups for families that have lost children and learned a lot about how to help grieving parents.
- DON’T say you that you understand. And please, don’t share the story about how your pet died or even about the death of your father. We understand you’ve felt loss and we feel for you. But losing a child is not the same as losing a cat. It’s just not.
- DO say, “I’m sorry and I love you.” It won’t fix anything but it does remind us that people are there for us.
- DON’T be afraid to talk about the child. In the early days this can be rough and may not be great. But as time passes, the world moves on. Yet, we still feel our losses every single day, especially around the holidays, birth days, and the anniversary of the death. Please don’t be afraid to say their name. We love hearing it!
- DO share memories. If you find pictures of our child, please share them. Please tell us about things you did with them that we might not have known about. Or even just share a favorite story even though we’ve talked about it a hundred times already!
- DON’T tell us it will get easier. Sure, time puts distance between things. But it will never be easy. It will always be a huge hole in our hearts and our lives. Our grief will change, yes. But it will never be easy.
- DO let us grieve. There is no time limit on grieving. We won’t “get over it” and “move on.” But we will learn to live again and with support from friends and family, we will survive.
Donations, meals, and other support is wonderful. We appreciated all that everyone did for us in those first few weeks following Meredith’s death. So thank you. Thank you for everything you all did. But don’t be afraid now. It’s been almost four years, but we’re still grieving and missing her every single day.
And thank to those who aren’t afraid to talk about Meredith. We love new stories and pictures of her. It’s like she’s here with us, still living and breathing. So thank you.