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Support for Bereaved Parents, Families, and Friends
July is National Bereaved Parents Awareness Month, a month dedicated to a parent’s journey through bereavement after the loss of a child. Below we’ve compiled some effective ways to provide support and information on how to know when to reach out and seek help.
How to address and behave appropriately
Only parents who have lost their children understand how it feels to lose a child. Think before you speak to a bereaved parent and inadvertently saying something offensive like, Oh, yeah, you are ‘that’ Mom.
It’s ok to say the child’s name, as parents want to hear their child’s name spoken. Be the first to say their name and let the other person know it is okay for them to say their name too, as often, people are afraid they will upset the parent by talking about them. This allows for conversation and positive mental health healing.
Sharing stories of them with others soothes their parent’s hearts to know of their experiences with others.
The pain of a broken heart is real
To know what it means to have a broken heart, you actually feel your heart in pain, not a heart attack, but a dull ache that will last for a while. There are days where you feel your emotions overwhelm you.
Take time to live in the moment
Take the time to be in the moment. In random moments of tears, take time to stop, cry, and breathe. You will feel dysregulated in your emotions/feelings, like being on a rollercoaster, or riding a wave, and this will calm down after a while.
Know that grief is a lifetime process and journey
Your grief does not simply end. There is no miraculous ending to your grief and there should not be an expectation that you will no longer grieve. Grieving endures throughout a lifetime and you will think, if I would have, I should have.
Celebrate their life and enjoy the memories
Celebrate their life. It is okay to celebrate them, keeping their memory alive like perhaps on a favorite holiday, every year celebrate by doing an activity your child would’ve enjoyed.
Remember that it is okay to laugh and enjoy the memories you have of them.
Know that you are not alone
There will be many people around until after the funeral. It can be as if a massive amount of people just disappear, yet there will be some that hang around. Know that you are not alone, when friends offer to help, allow them, as this is often the only way they know how to support you.
Locate the resources you need
When you are ready, locate the resources you need, not what others think you need. There are online resources and social media support groups, as well helpful books you can buy. Find what works for you.
Learn about your child’s cause of death
You may want to read and learn more about your child’s cause of death – how it happened. Sometimes the information will not align with what happened to your child, so you can dismiss that information. Watch out not to become obsessive.
Signs when to seek help
Kristine Nunn, MA, LMFT, a Children’s Therapist at Centerstone, provides insight and alerts us to the complexities of grief in the journey of bereavement as well as how you can help a bereaved parent:
Other external factors compound the grieving process. For instance, if you are suffering from the loss of a child, and you have health problems, if you do not have a support system and you are doing it all alone, you probably should seek help to get that support system in place.
If there are extra unusual stresses in your life while you are coping with the loss of a child, which is one of the hardest things for a human to cope with, combined with high stresses, then you want to seek help. Of course, if you don’t have support system, you would want to reach out for help.
If a parent is starting to have strong thoughts of suicide, such as wanting to die along with their loved one, it’s a red flag that they need to seek immediate help.
How friends and partners can help
If you are the friend or partner of someone going through grief, look out for troubling signs and red flags, which prompt urgent intervention and connect them to a counseling center and to professionals that really want to help them in their journey.
Rely on your faith, family and friends
Cinnamon Miller-Duncil is a Wraparound Facilitator at Centerstone. A bereaved parent, who lost her teenage son Liam, she provides support as a seasoned counselor for positive mental health healing and offers personal insights from her journey of bereavement of how to cope, manage and have hope.
Some days you will feel like you hate the world but tomorrow will be brighter. Your relationships with your family, friends and co-workers will change. Some relationships will become acquaintances where there once was a strong relationship, some relationships will end, but new ones will begin. Rely on your faith. I believe God has a journey planned for all of us. I get up every morning and go to bed every night, knowing it is another day closer until I will see my son, Liam, again, I am here to follow that journey until then.
Centerstone is here for you. If you or any member of your family is having a hard time coping with the loss of a child (or anything else), we can help. Centerstone remains fully operational and continuing to serve our clients and communities. Connect with us today by calling 1-877-HOPE123 (877-467-3123) or visiting centerstoneconnect.org.