BEING A FRIEND TO A BEREAVED PARENT
When someone you love dies, it changes your life forever. It is not something you can “get over”; the loss now becomes part of who you are.
At FGP, our knowledge of bereavement and grief is truly based on observation and experience. We have learned so much about grief and how people handle it through our families and our own research, but know we are not experts. Despite not being experts, we still believe that what we have learned to this point is worth sharing. The key is grief is such a personal and, sometimes, isolating experience. Each family we support has handled their grief and loss in their own way. There is no right or wrong though the one constant for each of these families is that their family will never be who they were prior to diagnosis and loss. This reality can be both confusing and disappointing to those who love bereaved parents because we miss the people they used to be before cancer came crashing into their lives. As we move forward with our own lives and handle the loss of this person who was not our child, we might expect that the family should be moving along at our pace, but that is unrealistic. It can be very hard for people who love bereaved parents to accept this because we want them to not hurt, to ‘get better’ and go back to who they were before the child’s death. Unfortunately, bereaved parents need to work through their grief at their pace, not ours. Realistically, their pace may not be what we consider fast enough or we may think the parents are ‘not handling it well’ because they are crying and missing their child terribly. Both crying and missing their child are normal and healthy reactions to a loss of this magnitude.
Many of us are ‘fixers’ and when faced with friends who are hurting in this way, it feels out of control and hard because it is not fixable.
Since we can’t change or fix the situation, what can we do?
Talk about the child
Ask questions about the child
Spend time with them
Say the child’s name
Help them find resources
Remember that their way may be different than your way of grieving
In other words, just be their friend rather than problem solver and you will be on the right path.