I spoke to people who have actually experienced these losses, spoke to a couple of professionals, and did some research. A lot of what I found out is common sense. However, when a tragedy occurs such as this type of loss, common sense does not always prevail. We are human and our emotions sometimes get in the way of common sense.
First of all and probably the most important thing to remember is this:
"The biggest help for those of us who want to help another is to remember this is an individualized process."
- Kambi Swan, Licensed Professional Counselor, specializing in Trauma -
Remember that every person grieves differently. There is not a one size fits all for helping someone. Losing a child is different than losing a spouse, parent, etc. Also, the life experiences of the survivor affects the way they grieve. If they have experienced prior losses they may recover quicker than someone who has never experienced a loss. If the survivor is experiencing other issues in their life during the time of the loss, they may not do as well as someone who is well grounded and their life is stable.
Losing a child is one of the hardest losses because it challenges the natural order of life. We don't expect to out live our children. Losing a spouse depends a lot on the health of the relationship at the time of death. Someone who has been madly in love with their spouse for 30 or more years will have a harder time recovering than someone whose marriage was on shaky ground or where there was unhappiness. Both still grieve, but it is different for each and recovery time varies.
Christmas is one of the hardest holidays if you have lost a child. I have chosen to
re-post this from last December's blog to help anyone who may be going through this.
Some things to remember when trying to help a person with this type of loss:
1. The first year is called "The Year of Firsts". This is a readjustment period. First holiday without their child or loved one, first birthday, first anniversary, etc.
2. Take all preconceived notions of grief off the table, everyone grieves differently.
3. Remember, they haven't lost a person, they've lost a relationship. Relationships are what makes each person different. My niece passed this year. My relationship with her was as her aunt, my sister's relationship was as her mother. Same person, big difference.
4. Please, please, please remember to avoid trite statements (but not limited to the following):
- They are better off now
- God needed another angel
- You can have other children
- God called them home
5. The survivor is trying to find meaning in the death of their loved one. Each person has to find their own meaning and it may not make sense to you. It doesn't have to, just accept it for them and go on even if you don't agree with it.
6. The survivor is trying to come to terms with the why of their loved ones death. They must do this on their own. You may have ideas and you can share them as long as they are not judgemental or cast blame on someone. The survivor knows things they are not telling you, you may not have all the story. You don't need to know everything, this is not your journey, it is theirs and they must travel it in their own way.
7. Call or visit them and just be a listening ear for most of this time, but do not avoid the subject either. Let the survivor bring up the subject and then participate, don't avoid. Remember the lost loved one with fondness always keeping it on a positive note.
8. The survivor is also searching for relief of responsibility. They will ask themselves:
- Could I have prevented this?
- Did I pay enough attention?
- Did I miss something that could have made a difference?
The survivor will relive many past moments looking for clues. They are looking for peace with what's happened. They are looking for closure. Let them, do not discourage them.
9. Do not recommend medication. Not everyone needs medication and most should not have it. A lot depends on what was going on in their life when the death occurred. Leave this to the professionals. It is always better to deal with and recover from a trauma such as this without medication.
10. Be supportive. Do not give advice, there is no way you could understand what they ar going through. Even if you have experienced a similar situation, rememeber "it's an individualized process".
Here are some good resources:
Griefshare - a national support group that will put you contact with other people who have expereinced the same type of loss; https://www.griefshare.org/
Rainbow Kids - a support group that targets children who have lost parents or other significant family/friends; http://www.rainbowkidswi.org/
Bereavement Support Group Online; https://www.dailystrength.org/group/
"Life, Death, and Beyond" by Mack Lyon; https://www.amazon.com/Life-Death-Beyond-Mack-Lyon/dp/0929540174/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1481834302&sr=1-1&keywords=mack+Lyon
"Jesus Wept : Trusting the Good Shepherd When You Lose a Loved One" by Leroy Brownlow: https://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Wept-Trusting-Shepherd-Loved/dp/0915720124/ref=sr_1_37?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1481834977&sr=1-37&keywords=leroy+brownlow+books
"Farther Along - The Writing Journey of Thirteen Bereaved Mothers" - by 13 mothers (Amazon lists author as Carol Henderson); https://fartheralongbook.com/about/
"Healing After Loss" by Martha Whitmore Hickman; https://www.amazon.com/Healing-After-Loss-Meditations-Working/dp/0380773384
"Widow to Widow" by Gineveve Ginsburg; https://www.amazon.com/Widow-Thoughtful-Practical-Ideas-Rebuilding/dp/0738209961
"Don't Ever Give Up!" by Bob Spurlin; https://www.amazon.com/Dont-ever-give-Bob-Spurlin/dp/B0006S9YVC
Additional help is available: I want to add a number 11 to this list. Number 11 is to pray everyday for your friend or family member who has lost a loved one.
"Pray often for God's help, comfort, and guidance."
- Bob Spurlin, author ("Don't Ever Give Up!")
Psalms 55:17; James 5:13; Psalms 55:22: 1 Peter 5:7
One scripture that always gives me comfort is found in Revelation21:4:
"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain."
So, we can see that there are lots of things we can do to help our loved ones deal with the death of one of their children or a loved one. It requires us to step up and take it upon ourselves as it will not come to us. If we love our friend or family member and are truly sincere about wanting to the help them, then follow the guidelines in this week's blog and you should become an important part of their support system.
Do you know someone experiencing this loss? Are you trying to be a member of their support team? Do you have first hand experience in this area? Are you willing to share your thoughts with the rest of us (the readers).