In the last 14 days, three of my friends have lost their children tragically.
I watched in despair as their anguish played out in social media spaces, where they cried, spoke of losing a child way too soon, all while wondering how they were going to cope and move on.
What I just described is a feeling no parent wants to have and in fact, no parent wants to bury their child.
We often want to have words of comfort, but during their grief, I am noticing that some of you are choosing curiosity over empathy.
Whatever do I mean, you ask? Simply put, it is crass, for example, to ask how someone has died. Why does that matter? They are gone. If the family members choose not to say, that is their business. To help some of you to be better, I asked a friend of mine, Margaret, who has gone through the loss of her family members, to give me a general idea of what we can do to be empathetic and kind in the face of this kind of tragedy.
Many of you are also expecting return calls in a timely fashion and are becoming offended when they are not returned. It is not about you. Do you want to be empathetic? Heed the words below.
“In my opinion, losing a child is an unnatural occurrence,” Margaret says. “According to the circle of life, parents should die before their children. Losing any loved one is exceedingly difficult, and people who want to offer comfort are often at a loss in terms of what is appropriate and therefore cause more damage with their words than they realize. Trying to explain away someone’s grief is not comforting; it hurts.”
1. “God knows best.”
2. “He (or she) is no longer in pain.”
3. “Stay strong” or “be strong.” They may need to be vulnerable and cry for days, weeks or months. You are telling them how to feel and what to do, and that is highly inappropriate.
4. “God never gives you more than you can bear.”
5. “He (or she) is in a better place.”
In addition, DON’T try to dissuade the person from seeking therapy by referring them to God and the Bible.
What you can do to help:
1. The best thing to say sometime is nothing; just be present physically and emotionally.
2. If you have not experienced that kind of loss say, “I cannot even imagine what you’re going through, but I am here to talk if you need me.”
3. If you have experienced a similar loss, say, “I can’t say I know what you’re going through because each person grieves differently, but what helped me was people listening when I needed to talk and people sharing human stories about my loved one. Stories that reminded me of his or her passion for life and their love and kindness to all.”
4. Take them food, especially if they have children.
I am praying this helps some of you to be better. Find love in your souls, or at the very least, curb the morbid curiosity within, and use grace to help you to help the grieving parents.