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12 Ways You Can Help a Grieving Parent

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I lost my daughter Hannah to Krabbe disease four months ago. She was 23 months old. We spent a stressful two years watching her slowly die.

After Hannah passed I had lots of people say to me, “I just don’t know what to say or what to do. How can I help you?” At first I didn’t know what to tell them, but now I want to share some of the things I’ve learned over the last four months of grieving.

These are some ways you can help a grieving parent:

1. A simple text, even just saying “I’m thinking of you,” is always is helpful.

2. Please don’t ask the question, “How are you doing?” We all know the answer to that. Let’s face it, after losing a child you’re never going to be great.

3. A grieving parent doesn’t like making plans because they may wake up that day and not feel like doing anything. Or maybe they want to be alone. If they do make plans and cancel you should be understanding.

4. The grieving parent may not reach out to you as often as they did. This is something I’ve done. Don’t be insulted by this. They are grieving and their mind isn’t always there. Remember they just went through a traumatic experience.

5. Don’t say, “She is in a better place.” In reality, she isn’t. She should be here with her family.

6. Sometimes, just sitting there and listening to them cry and talk about their child is enough.

7. Hugs are always helpful.

8. Don’t stop being there for a grieving parent. You’re not annoying them or upsetting them. They want to be thought of and they want their child remembered. Even if you only contact the grieving parent once a week, it helps.

9. Remember the anniversary dates of their child, like their birthdate and even their “Heaven date.”

10. Be strong for them. A grieving parent is trying to remain strong for their family — they’re trying to be the best parent, wife or husband, sibling, etc. They need a friend to be strong for them.

11. Remember there isn’t a timeline for grief. Instead of the process getting easier, it gets harder. The longer a parent goes without seeing or holding their child, the harder grief becomes to handle.

12. Please know a grieving parent will never be the same person they were before. They are going through the unimaginable and it will take some time for them to figure out a new way of life without their child.

Originally published: May 5, 2015
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