How To Help A Friend...Who's Lost A Child

Friends are a valuable asset in life. They serve a special purpose in our lives, even if we don't interact every day. Because of our value of friendship, this week Imagine Hope is going to cover ways to help friends when they are going through tough times. Nancy Comiskey shared some of her thoughts on this topic in an article for O magazine that we will share with our readers this week. How To Help A Friend Who's Lost A Child

"A wife who loses a husband is called a widow. A husband who loses a wife is called a widower. A child who loses a parent is called an orphan. But...there is no word for a parent who loses a child, that's how awful the loss is"- Neugeboren

Losing a child is one of the top fears parents face. It is one of nature's cruelest moments. Whether it is due to stillbirth, miscarriage, sudden infant death syndrome, illness, or after years spent with a child, the pain is intense and crippling.

Unfortunately I know this pain. I've lost 3 children from miscarriage. No one quite knows what to say. Many say the wrong thing to try to help themselves ease their discomfort. It doesn't matter that I have 2 children I get to parent, the loss of the 3 is always there. Triggers of grief are every where you turn. Reminders of the loss at any moment catch you off guard no matter how long it has been.

If you have a friend who has experienced any kind of child loss pain, Comiskey offers some wonderful tips for you to support him or her.

  • Don't say "Tell us if we can help", instead say, "Tell us when we can help". Don't take no for an answer.
  • Stay by your friends side through the initial doctors appointments, funeral meetings, and services. They need support. Even if it is just driving them and sitting in the car.
  • Do practical things for your friend. Mow the lawn. Cook meals for them. Do their dishes. Take a walk with them.
  • Don't try to say the right thing. Saying "I don't know what to say" can help your friend decide where to take the conversation.
  • Don't say nothing because you don't know what to say. Ignoring the loss will only dismiss the pain your friend feels.
  • Remember that sometimes your friend might want to talk, but sometimes they might just need a break. But always offer and let them decide.
  • Parents who have lost a child are often lonely. Invite them along and offer to keep them company.
  • Don't compare your pain. Even if you have suffered a horrible loss,trying to empathize through your pain (unless you have lost a child too) will feel unsafe. The loss of a child is such a unique pain. Comparing it to other loss could feel insulting.
  • Cry with them.
  • Don't try to fix or offer religious counsel unless your friend is asking for it.
  • Remember your friend will be different after this loss. It changes a person at the core. Accept them for where they are and love them the same.
  • Read up on more ways to help a friend. Comiskey shares a website with resources:

I hope these tips have given you some clear direction on helping a friend after the loss of a child. Just reading this shows your love for your friend. Go show them that love today!

Check in all week to read more about helping friends through an illness, addiction, hard relationships, and depression. Thanks for reading!

Source: “How To Help A Friend..." By Nancy Comiskey from O’s Guide to Life; The Best of O, The Oprah Magazine p. 260-262

Written by Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW, LCAC

Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW, LCAC is a licensed therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Teri enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples and relationship counseling. Teri also does family counseling, child counseling, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield.