Be an Effective Comforter to Bereaved Parents
- Listen quietly and uncritically.
- Mention the deceased child by name.
- Say you are sorry. Admit your own helplessness and frustration. Cry if you feel like it.
- Reassure the parents that SIDS is not their fault. It is not anyone’s fault. Reassure that they were good parents and that there was nothing they did or didn’t do that caused their baby to die.
- Allow parents and siblings to express as much grief as they are feeling and are willing to share.
- Recognise parents’ needs, including their right to talk about the child they have lost as much and as often as they want or need to. This can have a very healing effect.
- Encourage the parents to talk freely about their feelings and to be honest about what kind of help they really want from others.
- Ask before you do! Everyone’s needs and desires are different. Be sure the kindness you plan to do is acceptable beforehand.
- Give special attention to siblings. They are hurt and confused too, and their parents may not be capable of being very supportive at this time.
- Remember the parents with a note or phone call on the birthday or death anniversary of the deceased child. Just say, “I wanted you to know I was thinking of you and remembering"
- Don’t avoid parents because you are uncomfortable. Being avoided by friends and professionals adds pain to an already intolerably painful experience.
Don’t make comments which in any way suggest that the care given the child at home in the hospital, at the babysitters, or wherever, was inadequate. Parents are plagued by feelings of doubt and guilt without these suggestions.
- Don’t change the subject when they mention their dead child.
- Don’t avoid mentioning the Childs name out of fear of reminding them of their pain. (They haven’t forgotten!)
- Don’t suggest that it was “God’s Will” or He “needed” their child. Parents will spiritualize their child’s death when ready.
- Don’t point out that “at least he or she was so little when you lost him or her. It would have been harder if he or she was older”. Regardless of age, any loss is devastating.
- Don’t point out that they can always have another child, or suggest that they should be grateful for their other children. Children are not interchangeable and cannot replace each other.
- Don’t give advice about what they should feel or do. Feelings are never right or wrong. They are individual to each person.
- Don’t say “You ought to be feeling better by now” or anything else which implies judgment about their feelings.
- Don’t say you know how they feel. Unless you have lost a child yourself, you can’t know how they feel.
- Don’t assume their grieving is over in a few weeks or even a few months. They will never stop grieving the loss of their child and may need your support for an indefinite period of time.
- Don’t try to find something positive, such as a moral lesson or closer family ties because of the child’s death.