After the Death of a Child
Parents who loose a child or an adolescent will move through some of the most intense suffering it is possible for humans to endure. Their suffering is so intense that it is intimidating for those around them. Friends and family often start avoiding the grieving parent after a few months either because the intensity of the pain the parent still feels is intimidating or they are afraid of making it worse or they are impatient with the grieving parent who seems to “not be getting over it” fast enough. This pamphlet is a teaching tool intended for the friends of grieving parents. Its goal is to provide an overview of the grieving process so that friends can better understand the often long and difficult path towards normalcy and renewed living. Most important, it is intended to help friends be there for the long haul.
- The shock phase is when everyone wants to be there to support. Be there and present but be sensitive to the parent’s level or exhaustion
- The moving things out or giving things away phase
- Try and be there to help clean out dressers, distribute things to family and friends, and deal with the “room” issue. It is often recommended that the house be sold. If this is opted for, helping prepare the house for sale is a good idea.
Hanging on Phase
During this phase, erecting a cross where the accident happened, wanting to talk to his friends, wanting to hang onto the person in any possible way is normal. To allow this to happen within reason is important. To not rush the letting go phase is important
The hiding away phase
During this phase the grieving parent just wants to hide away. This phase is a hard one and can last from a few months to a few years. During this phase, friends also feel that they want to give the parent space because whenever they are with the parent, the parent may cry or show the grieving pain they feel. The parent does not want to impose their grief on others so they simply hide away. You should meet with them often, preferably weekly or biweekly to share and to grieve. Face to face is important. The grieving parent needs to know that the intensity of her grieving can be expressed without their friends running away. Be there for them.
The moving things out or giving things away phase
Eventually, the parent starts to want to reconnect with the world and live again. These signs are subtle but become clearer and clearer with time. Be there to introduce them to new people, go to new places and facilitate the “coming out” phase. During this phase, the last things that the parent hangs onto will be let go. This may be old clothing, walls full of photos etc.
The getting life going again phase
As the parent starts to recover some of his/her emotional responsivity (ability to laugh, to be curious, to look others in the eyes more) they will want to restart their lives. Often, for the first time since the loss, the parent is able to not cry for an entire day. This may take a few months or a few years. What is important is patience from all those around the parent. In this phase, friends are important in that they can provide opportunities for social activities. Grieving parents will often have lost almost all their social network by the time they reach this phase. The good friends will still be there and are important at this particular stage.
Life long bond
To have been there through this period with a friend will create a life long bond that is unique and powerful. It also carries responsibilities, i.e., the responsibilities of true friendship. Be ready to allow that to happen.