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When a family member, friend or co-worker experiences a loss of a loved one, we are at times unsure of what to offer as comfort. Below are some helpful tips that were submitted by a few who have experienced such loss.
DO allow them to express as much grief as they are able and are willing to share with you.
DO be available; to listen, to run errands, to help with the other children, or whatever else seems needed at the time.
DO deal with the grieving individual gently and positively.
DO encourage them to be patient with themselves and not to expect too much of themselves.
DO give special attention to the child’s brothers and sisters at the funeral and in the months to come (they are often in need of attention which their parents may not be able to give).
DO recognize that grieving has no time limit and varies from individual to individual both in the way they express their grief and the time required to stabilize.
DO talk about your memories of the deceased and the special qualities that made them endearing.
DO acknowledge the loss through visits, phone calls, sympathy cards, donations, and flowers.
DO remember important days such as birthdays, the death anniversary, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and any other significant day, which may be difficult for the bereaved. A telephone call, visit, or card means a great deal to a bereaved parent.
DO make specific offers to help, i.e.
• I am going to the store. What do you need?
• Can I take your kids on Sunday afternoon?
• On Thursday I will be bringing by dinner for the family.
• I will take your child to skating lessons on Sunday.
• Can I come and baby-sit tomorrow evening to give you a break?
• Do you want to get out tonight to talk, walk, or both?
• Offer to take the children to school, birthday parties, and extra-curricular programs.
• Immediately following the loss, take charge of the household and inform family and friends of the tragedy, help answer the phone, help dress and feed the children (if applicable), and set up a meal plan.
DO appreciate that your bereaved relative or friend doesn’t always return phone calls right away.
DO talk in your natural tone of voice.
DO remember that when you phone, even if it is to only leave a message, the bereaved feel comforted by your efforts.
DO continue to support bereaved well beyond the acute mourning period, even if it means years.
DO congratulate the bereaved on good news while appreciating that they still carry a tremendous burden of grief.
DO find local support through bereavement groups, church, mosques, synagogue, bereavement organizations, and forward the information to the bereaved family.
DO give the bereaved time to resume the activities they participated in before their loss.
DO learn how to give good hugs. The bereaved need every heartfelt hug they can get.
DO expect your relationship with the bereaved to change. When you are bereaved, every relationship is affected in one way or another.
DO share your own good news with the bereaved. They still want to hear it.
DO feed and walk the dog who has probably been forgotten about.
DO talk to your children about the loss, death, and the rituals surrounding death.
DO find the right time and the right materials to broach the discussion of loss and bereavement with your children.
DO provide your surviving children with a picture of the departed as a cherished memento.
DON’T avoid mentioning their loss or the person’s name out of fear of reminding them of their pain (they haven’t forgotten it!).
DON’T change the subject when they mention their deceased loved one.
DON’T tell them what they should feel or do.
DON’T make any comments which in any way suggest that their loss was their fault.
DON’T point out that at least they have their other children (children are not interchangeable; they cannot replace each other).
DON’T say “you can always have another child” , “you can always get married again”, or other related comments in effort to minimize their loss.
DON’T say “you should be coping or feeling better by now” or anything else which may seem judgmental about their progress in grieving.
DON’T say that you know how they feel (unless you’ve experienced their loss yourself you probably don’t know how they feel).
DON’T tell them not to cry. It hurts us to see them cry and makes us sad. But, by telling them not to cry, we are trying to take their grief away.
DON’T allow your own fears from preventing you from offering support to the bereaved.
DON’T say, “If you need anything call me” because the bereaved don’t always know how to call and ask for your support.
DON’T be afraid if you make your bereaved friend or relative cry.
DON’T think that good news (family wedding, pregnancy, job promotion, etc.) cancels out grief.
DON’T have expectations for what bereaved parents should or should not be doing at different times in their grief.
DON’T forget the overlooked mourners (grandparents, uncles, aunts, close friends etc.) who need your support too.
DON’T force bereaved people to talk about their loss. They will engage you when the time is right.
DON’T find yourself saying any of the following:
• It was meant to be.
• He’s in a better place now.
• Time heals all wounds.
• I know just how you feel.
• You are still young enough to have more children.
• Are you not over it yet?
• At least you have other children.
• You’re young, you can always get remarried.
• It was for the best.
• Now you will have an angel in heaven.
• It could have been worse…
• It’s been ______ amount of time and you have to get on with your life.
DON’T be afraid to cry or laugh in front of the bereaved.
DON’T assume that when a grieving parent is laughing, they are over anything or grieving any less.
DON’T underestimate the impact of grief on children. Children understand and retain a lot more than they may show.
DON’T think that children are too young to appreciate loss or death.