When a friend's child passes away, many people don't know how to react. They don't know what to say and are at a loss of words in the face of such a great tragedy. On the other hand, there are those who have enough to say, but they don't realize that what they are saying is only adding to the grief and anger of the grieving parent. Here are tips on what to say and what to do in such a situation, and on how you can help the parents cope.
If you are a close friend, don't just tell them to call you if they need anything. They are not going to call you, and you know that. Just be there for them. Be available. A lot of guests would be dropping in to pay their condolences. Send over some food that they can use. Even if relatives are visiting or if the servants seem to be managing fine, inform them that you would be sending over a dish. Be there. Run errands for them. Help in the cleaning up of the house and in the looking after of the other children.
Don't be afraid to talk about the deceased child or say his or her name. The child was a real person.
Don't go up to the parent and start talking about destiny. Also, don't say that they will get over it soon and the hurt will fade away. By doing so, you are minimizing the tragedy, trying to make it seem like a trivial event.
Most people start off with the line, I know how you feel. Unless you have also suffered the loss of a child, it is unlikely that you would be able to comprehend the magnitude of pain the grieving parent is feeling. So don't say it. It may make the parent want to look at you and yell, How do you know how I feel?
Listen to what they have to say. It would help them to get their feelings out.
Be patient with them. There may be times when they are in a foul mood and are rude to you or are generally grumpy. They may even snap at you. Don't take it personally. Just give them their space. It's going to take them time to adjust.
Don't start feeling awkward if they start crying - or if you start crying. It's a grave tragedy, and we're all humans.
Realise that no matter what you say, you won't be able to reduce the pain they are experiencing. Just being there will help far more than anything else. Don't keep asking them if they are feeling better now a few months later. They were not suffering from any illness or disease.
It would be easy for them to just sink into depression and lose interest in life. They may just want to stay indoors - especially if they don't have any other children. Encourage them to start moving out again, and help get them involved in daily activities. If you have been thinking of joining a cooking or yoga class, get your friend to join in with you.
Encourage a return to exercise. Exercise helps kill stress and will keep them healthy, mentally and physically.
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- The Indiaparenting Team