Suggestions For Supportive Communications

Do’s                                          

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Do let your genuine concern and caring show.

Do be available to listen, to help with the other children, or whatever else seems needed at the time.

Do say you are sorry about what happened to their loved one and about their pain.

Do allow them to express as much grief as they are feeling at the moment and are willing to share.

Do encourage them to be patient with themselves, not to expect too much of themselves and not to impose any "shoulds" on themselves.

Do allow them to talk about the special and endearing qualities of the loved one they lost.

Do give special attention to the family's children at the funeral and in the months to come (they too are hurt and confused and in need of attention which their parents may not be able to give at this time).

Do reassure them that they did everything that they could, that the medical care their loved one received was the best or whatever else you know to be true and positive about the care given their loved one.

Do offer them some level of emotional support through phrases such as “I am so sorry” or “I can only imagine how difficult this must be for you” or “I know this must be stressful.

 

Don’ts

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Don't let your own sense of helplessness keep you from reaching out to a bereaved friend or relative.

Don't avoid them because you are uncomfortable (being avoided adds pain to an already intolerably painful experience).

Don't say: "you ought to be feeling better by now" or anything else which implies a judgment about their feelings.

Don't tell them what they should feel or do.

Don't change the subject when they mention their loved one or avoid mentioning their name out of fear of reminding them of their pain.

Don’t say you “understand” what they are going through when you really can only “imagine what they must be going through.”  While two people may have experienced and injury or loss, they never really share the same exact emotions.

Don't try to find something positive (i.e.  a moral lesson, closer family ties, etc.) about the death

Don't point out that at least they have their other children (children are not interchangeable; they cannot replace each other).

Don't say that they can always have another child (even if they wanted to, and could, another child would not replace the one they've lost).

Don't make any comments which in any way suggest that the care at home, in the emergency room, hospital or wherever, was inadequate (parents are plagued by feelings of doubt and guilt without help from their family and friends).