Things to avoid:
- Bereaved families will never “get over” the death of their child/sibling so please don’t expect them to ever go back to the person they were before.
- Avoid clichés, “At least you have other children,” “they’re in a better place” etc. Well- meant statements like these are unhelpful and hurtful. Other children cannot replace a child that has died.
- Don’t say “I know how you feel.” We can never know how someone is feeling and it is inappropriate to compare their grief with our personal experiences such as divorce or the death of pet.
- Don’t judge. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Especially don’t say, “You should…” or “you shouldn’t…”
- Use their child’s name. You cannot make someone feel worse or ‘remind’ them of their grief as they are living with it every day but being able to say their name brings comfort.
- Accept a wide variety of emotions and/or behaviours. Some people may be more emotional, others may be angry, others may not express any outward grief at all. Everyone grieves differently and this is their normal.
- It is ok to say to someone grieving, that you don’t know what to say. Simply listening is far more helpful.
- Maintain contact, don’t wait for the bereaved person to contact you as they may not have the energy or emotional strength to do so. Phone, text and try to arrange to catch up, having someone continue to show they care can be comforting.
- Use the same language of the person you are supporting such as “passed away” or “I lost my daughter.” Don’t say “died” unless they do.
- Understand that parents who lose a child also grieve future milestones they expected to experience. Eg. First day of school, getting their licence, getting married, having children and every single family celebration.
- Acknowledge birthdays, anniversaries and other difficult days. These days are harder than others and bereaved families fear that their loved one will be forgotten
No one can fix grief. You’re not expected to. Just please be a friend.