There are ways you can offer comfort
You may feel completely lost when trying to find ways of how to comfort someone who has lost a child, but there are ways you can help.
Losing your child is the worst nightmare of every parent on earth. If you aren’t a parent, it can be hard to empathise with the feeling of utter dread that comes with this thought.
Despite the nightmarish reality, losing a child is very rare – but nevertheless, it is a very real situation for some people around the world.
When people think of the loss of a child, most people think it was from a miscarriage or due to illness or accident. However, when someone has their child taken away from them or removed from the family home by Child Services, it can also feel to the parent as if they have lost their child.
This can be due to an unintentional neglect or because of mental health issues in the child or parent.
It can be impossible to know how to comfort someone going through these struggles. It seems like anything you say will feel empty and not help at all.
However, in this article, you will learn how best to communicate and how to comfort someone who has lost a child.
It is almost more important to know what NOT to say – and to know alternatives that can be much more helpful, than to know what you should say and do.
What NOT to say to someone who has lost a child
When a person in your life loses a child or has their child removed from the family home, it can be extremely difficult to know what to say. Knowing how to comfort someone who has lost a child can be one of the most confusing things.
You want to be able to say something to support them, but most things you say will likely cause offence, or come across in the wrong way.
Think about how heightened the other persons emotions are, and how they might easily (and unintentionally) misconstrue what you say.
Here are a few things you should never say to someone who has lost a child.
“I know how you feel.”
Unless you have been through child loss yourself, you do not know how they feel. It is as simple as that.
Even if you have lost other people close to you, such as your parents, partner or best friend. Nothing can be compared to the experience of losing a child.
Saying “I know how you feel” might sound like empathy to you, but it will only come across as ignorant to the other person.
“You will be fine.”
This is a common thing to say to someone who is going through a hard moment in their life. However, saying it to someone experiencing child loss sounds like you are diminishing their grief.
Often, it is impossible to ever “get over” losing a child – you just learn to live with it.
Although, unfortunately some people simply cannot cope with the grief and can fall into a deep depression – or even suicide. If you are concerned that someone you know is in this situation right now, please call someone.
“He/She wouldn’t want you to be sad.”
This statement puts an enormous amount of sadness and guilt onto the person suffering the loss!
Making an assumption for their child, when they likely already feel they have failed their child can bring about even more upset and pain.
Try to refrain from making any statements, which might put more guilt onto the parent.
“You should stay strong for your other children/partner.”
Often, the suffering parent is unable to cope with their own feelings – let alone the grief and pain of others.
Of course, a parent who has suffered the loss of a child, who also has other children to think about, will likely be going through a huge challenge already.
They will want to be strong for their other children or their partner. However, think about the strain this puts on them.
It prevents them from being able to grieve themselves.
Rather than telling them to stay strong for others, try to support them (in the ways below) and their family by being their strength.
How to comfort someone who has lost a child
Now we have covered a few things you should NOT say, let’s focus on the solutions and alternatives.
How do you comfort someone who is in so much pain after losing a child?
Here are a few tips.
Offer practical relief
Nothing you say will take away a person’s pain after losing a child. However, you can help in other ways.
You don’t need to be their therapist – hopefully they will visit a grief counsellor without needing to be urged to do so, but you can also offer aid in a practical way.
If the parents child has died, this could be by helping them to organise the funeral. You could help them to pick Children Urns, offer to cook meals for guests, organise venues or flowers – or even just sit with them in the car or at the church or funeral venue.
Likewise, if the parent has had their child removed from the family home, you can offer to simply visit them and sit with them during difficult moments.
Be there to help them keep their home in order and to keep their place clean and tidy, or to give them help with food if they are not eating properly etc.
Let them know you are available for them to talk to
Someone who has recently been through child loss might not want to talk.
That’s okay. The deluge of emotions a person goes through is very overwhelming.
By simply letting them know, “I am always here to talk, day or night,” you are opening up communication without forcing it.
Help them to get some sleep
As basic as it might sound, sleep is one of the strongest influencers of our mood. Stress, anxiety, depression and low moods / mood swings are all influenced by how well and how long we sleep for.
Getting a good nights sleep also helps the body to replenish. So, if the suffering parent has not been eating well or looking after themselves as well as you might hope they would, getting a good sleep can work wonders.
Read this article to help your friend to get the sleep they need.
Be understanding with their moods
Speaking from experience, one of the most important things you can do for the parent is to be understanding.
They might snap, shout, cry, be angry at you for no reason, make up stories in their head, or simply be “absent”.
This is normal.
I have seen some of my best friends lose their children to death and to “the system”. One of the things I noticed was their personality changes.
One friend went into a spiral of negative behaviour.
Another friend told me I wasn’t there for her, when all I ever did was try my best to be there for her.
Long story short, I was isolated during the Covid Pandemic (as I have underlying health issues), so I couldn’t visit her at all – but I did try to phone a lot. It turns out, she was comparing me to another friend of ours who was able to visit her, as she was not isolating.
My friend was in a strong state of depression and had very bad anxiety over the loss of two of her children. There are ways to help manage and cope with depression and anxiety.
Having a strong social circle – even if just with one or two friends / supporters can mean the difference between recovery and staying in a negative mental cycle.
Understanding and just “being there” in whatever way you can, is one of the most important things you can do to support someone who has lost a child.
Photos by Claudia Wolff and Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash
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