You may think that you will say the wrong thing. You may think that avoidance will make your interaction better. You may thing you will shatter a bereaved parent’s world all over again by the very mention of their lost child…. But you would be wrong.
True, it may be hard for them to hear the name, to remember their little one in the world before everything broke, and to share about their experience of losing one whose life they hold more precious than their own. But the absolute worst thing you can say……. is nothing.
I have had this conversation with friends who were unsure how to approach the subject, but I have always reminded them that speaking about Delilah was not an off-limits subject. Sometimes it brought tears to my eyes, and sometimes it brought smiles. Sharing her with others was/is part of my recovering, but I will never be angry at someone for the mention of her name.
Parents NEED to know that their supporters are behind them and willing to talk about the uncomfortable. You don’t need to worry about saying “the right thing”, you just need to say SOMETHING. Even if it’s “I’m sorry”, or something as honest as “You know, i don’t even know what to say, but I am here for you.” I have been lucky enough to have friends and family that do this, and I’m sure it’s helped with my own grief, but I have talked to other parents who have sadly not received the same support, and they suffer more because of it. So I beg you, if you truly want to be helpful….
Say SOMETHING…. ANYTHING that will acknowledge the loss and the child. Even if you can’t quite comprehend the loss on the same level, understand that this makes us know you are trying to empathize. Simply not discussing it and/or hoping it won’t come up is bound to do damage to your relationship with the bereaved parent. So do that relationship a favor and bring it up. We (bereaved parents) write blog posts in hopes of sharing, we write books, we get tattoos, we wear memorial markers in jewelry or other such things as subtle hints that it’s truly OK for you to bring up the lost child. No really, it IS ok. If it were an off limit’s subject, we will tell you if it’s not the right time, but 98 percent of the time, we are proud to share with you, and even happier that you asked. The entire conversation will not be about the child (especially as time passes), but even the brief mention, will mean the world to that parent.
This will be part of our push at the Tangerine Owl Project’s October SPARK (Supporting Parents through Awareness, Respect, & Kindness) Remembrance Event this October. Take the taboo out of conversation about uncomfortable things. It sucks, it’s tragic, but it happened, and we need your support, so SPARK the conversation with those who need you.