After the loss of a child or other loved one, it can be tough to know what to do. People want to be helpful, but often don’t know how to best do this.
“This is a delicate time and certainly one that is individual and not always
expressed with the atypical assumptions of grief,” says Lisa Bahar, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist/Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor in Dana Point, CA. “It is helpful to come from a perspective of not necessarily knowing how another is feeling.”
She notes that relating to someone experiencing grief can be a vulnerable place because there is many times lack of acceptance of what has happened. This is sometime expressed as a denial of a child being gone–the parent might not believe or their mind cannot accept the child is gone. Therefore they might respond in what may not seem as an accepting (and instead perhaps defensive or disconnected) manner.
“As a clinician, I will certainly provide added support as an option, but will not force, since it is an individual experience of grieving and processing what has happened,” Bahar explains. Support Group Considerations:
Validation. Support groups provide a level of validation and understanding from individuals who are experiencing similar situations, and who are dealing with it in their own way.
Sharing Feelings. Many times people experience a sense of failure (why them and not me? Why would God to this to me or the child? Take me instead, etc.) “These are very important times to feel, process and be with what is happening,” she says, noting the groups can help,” she says.
Don’t push if the parent is resistant to going to a group or sharing feelings. “Resistance is their process and where they are at. Forcing or insisting is only going to make situation worse.”
Timing. People come when they are ready. “Many times the process of feeling will come random without warning,” Bahar adds. Eventually human emotions can catch up to us if we are not dealing with them. Sometimes a person arrives for sessions when they are ready, perhaps they know this intuitively, she says.
Individual Needs. The timeline for support/therapy is individual. This is up to the person, unless the facilitator of the group has a certain preferred
recommendation out of respect to the other group members.
The HOPING Group is held the first and third Monday of every month at 7pm in the Barry D. Brown Health Education Center at the old Virtua Hospital (106 Carnie Boulevard, Voorhees, NJ). Check out the map for location and directions and the calendar for upcoming meetings and events.
Internationally, a new trend is brewing. People — often strangers– gather at a coffee shop and discuss end of life issues. Death Cafe is based on the ideas of Bernard Crettaz a Swiss sociologist and anthropologist, who set up something called Cafes Mortels. The first Death Cafe in the UK was held in September 2011 and was facilitated by a psychotherapist.
The aim of Death Cafe is “To increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives,” according to www.deathcafe.com. Death Cafes are now held all over the world in coffee shops, people’s houses, and other places. It is part of a set of projects about death called Impermanence.
A local NJ Death Café, facilitated by Grief Counselor Ann Coyle, RN, will be held on Tues. March 12th from 6-8pm at the Treehouse Coffee Shop on 120 W. Merchant St. Audubon, NJ 08106.
Support groups can be extremely beneficial for a parent who has lost a child. Parents can receive a great deal of support and guidance while they are dealing with grief, says Kristine A. Kevorkian, PhD, MSW.
Giving people an opportunity to tell their story helps in their grieving process, she explains. When Dr. Kevorkian was a hospice medical social worker, she co-facilitated bereavement support groups for kids and teens who lost loved ones, even siblings. Support groups also offer an opportunity also to learn how others have coped with something similar.
Here are some tips to finding a group that is good for you:
Check with local hospitals and associations that offer grief support groups.
Ask others who have experienced a similar loss if they went to a group or counseling and if they found it helpful. Many will say they did.
Visit a few different groups (places) and get the feel of the people and what is being discussed and shared. Some groups last for a number of weeks while others are ongoing.
If a person finds him/herself attending for six months or longer, Dr. Kevorkian advises he/she should consider individual grief counseling so they can get the help they need.
“All in all, I think we’d cope better if we shared more about how we’re dealing with grief rather than staying silent about it,” she says.
The HOPING Group is held the first and third Monday of every month at 7pm in the
Barry D. Brown Health Education Center at the old Virtua Hospital (106 Carnie Boulevard, Voorhees, NJ). Check out the map for location and directions and the calendar for upcoming meetings and events.
Or when will this awful, gut-wrenching pain go away? Parents who have lost children often say they feel a sort of deep sorrow that up to that point had not be imaginable. Often parents note they feel they will never feel joy again or fear the darkness will not lift.
“One of the most common questions I’m asked, both as a therapist and as someone who writes about grief, is how long it lasts. How long will I grieve? Does it ever end?
My answer is always the same: It’s different for everyone. But I can tell you that grief almost always lasts longer than the people around you expect it to.”
Bidwell-Smith shares hope. “I do believe that there can be an end to active grieving. I think there comes a time when the real, raw pain of grief ends, when you no longer think about that person’s absence first thing in the morning.”
For families who have lost a loved one, the kindness staff and family members provide during their darkest time is lasting. In this Nurse.com piece, Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse Ann Coyle, RN, shares her experiences with helping one family navigate the grief process and memorialize their lost children.
Ann is also the facilitator of the HOPING (Helping Other Parents In Normal Grief) Bereavement Support Group for family who have lost children. “It is so important for families to be able to grieve and remember their children whose lives were brief, but whose lives mattered,” she says. “I consider it a blessing to be able to help bereaved families, and I am amazed every day watching them heal and grow to be able to help other parents who are facing the same experience.”
In this Huffington Post article Ann Coyle, RN, Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse at Virtua Voorhees Hospital in Voorhees, NJ, and facilitator of the HOPING Bereavement Support Group for family who have lost children, shares her thoughts on grieving the loss of a child.