July is Bereaved Parents Awareness Month. As a pediatrician, I’m so glad we have a month dedicated to the unique grief parents face who have lost a child. While it’s difficult to know what to say to someone who is grieving, especially when it’s a parent grieving the loss of his child, it’s also critical for these grieving parents to have a supportive community during this difficult time.
Here, I’m sharing a few things I’d like to tell bereaved parents everywhere.
If you’ve lost a child, I am so sorry. That is a pain I know I cannot take away. I hope some of these words will be hopeful for you. If you are someone who knows a parent who has lost a child, these might be helpful to share with your grieving friend.
You’re not alone. The only thing harder than grieving is grieving alone. But you don’t have to. Other parents have, unfortunately, gone through what you are going through. In fact, God knows what you’re going through, too. That might sound strange, but it’s true. God knows exactly how you feel because He lost his son. Jesus was God’s only child. God knows what it’s like to lose your child.
I encourage you to reach out to God and reach out to your community during this time of grief. We are not meant to live life alone, and this is especially true when we are grieving.
It’s OK to find happiness. Some grieving parents feel guilty when they experience happy feelings. They think feeling happy somehow betrays the child they lost. Or they feel like if they have joy they are somehow not being loving to their child.
But it is possible to experience more than one emotion at a time. You can feel sadness and joy. Pain and happiness. One does not discount the other. Allow yourself to do something that makes you happy and don’t feel guilty about it. Feelings of happiness and joy are OK. They do not mean you aren’t grieving or you aren’t sad. They simply mean you are human.
There are still experiences to have, things to see, conversations with people you love.
This is not the end of your story. I know it feels like life is over because you lost your child. But you are still living, and that means your story is still happening. There are still experiences to have, things to see, conversations with people you love. It may be hard to believe it now, but your story does not end here. Just as Christ’s story did not end in death, but in resurrection. There is always hope because death is not the end of the story.
Please share this with any parent you know who has lost a child. Or, even better, make a date to sit down with them and talk to them and tell them these things in person. Nobody should grieve alone, especially parents who have lost a child.
To learn more about how you can connect with other bereaved parents, or how you can support one in your life, visit bereavedparentsusa.org.
Dr. Meg Meekerhas practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for 30 years. She is the author of the online course “The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids,” which is part of The Strong Parent Project.