No parent expects to live longer than their children. The death of a child brings such unimaginable grief that is almost impossible for others to relate to if they haven’t walked that road. On a recent episode of Your Hope-Filled Perspective, I had a conversation with Alycia Morales about the pain, the wounds, and now the sacred scars she bears after her son, Caleb, died a few years ago (see How Do You Overcome Grief after the Death of a Child?). As a body of Christ followers, we want to do as the Bible commands and weep with those who weep. But sometimes we don’t know what to do or say if we haven’t been through a similar situation. So I asked Alycia to guide us, as someone who has walked through the death of a child. Her words of wisdom are here.

10 Things Grieving Parents Need and Don’t Need
By Alycia W. Morales

On January 2, 2021, at 11:30PM, I answered the phone call no parent wants to receive. The officer told my husband and me to hurry. Our middle son, Caleb, who had just turned 19 in November of 2020, was in surgery for trauma from a single car accident. At 1:00AM on January 3, a woman in scrubs met us in the waiting room to let us know he had too much internal bleeding for them to be able to save his life. Our lives, as you can imagine, were forever changed in one sudden moment.

I’m often asked what others can do for a parent who’s grieving the loss of their child. Grief is difficult enough when it’s a parent or pet or friend. I have friends who have lost both their spouse and a child, and they’ve confirmed that child loss takes the most out of a person. So how is one to respond when a loved one loses a child?

1. Give them space and time to grieve, not limits.

Too often, concerned onlookers will suggest it’s been long enough and it’s time for the parent to move on from grieving, asserting limitations to the process. What the parents need are space and time to process their loss. No one but the grieving parent can or should decide how long that process will last. For some, their deep grief may dissipate at the end of the first year. For others, it may persist for several. The truth is grief will be a companion for the remainder of the parents’ lives. It just loses its sting after a season.

2. Bless them with acts of service, not lip service.

One of my favorite Proverbs is 17:27-28. “He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. Even a fool is considered wise when he holds his peace; When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive.”

If I told you some of the things I’ve read or heard of family members saying to their loved ones who have suffered a child loss, you would cringe. Rather than saying the first thing that comes to mind, ask if there’s anything you can do to be of help. Serving the parents during their time of mourning will resonate much longer than any condolences you can give. Offer to do their shopping, clean their bathroom, or watch the kids while they manage arrangements.

3. Parents need to be included, not shunned.

One of the most heartbreaking things I’ve read in the social media groups I’m part of is that some family members and friends have left the grieving parents off the invitation list for parties, social gatherings, and special events. The excuse is the parents will be a downer because they’ll want to talk about their loss or may cry at the event.

Rather than not inviting the parents, let them decide if they’re up for a party or not. They need fellowship with others who love and care for them. They need to celebrate life in the midst of their grief. Doing so provides them with hope and an opportunity to find joy in their day. Grief should never disqualify us from living.

4. Parents need to share their stories – and hear yours. Please don’t shut them down.

Memories are all grieving parents have left of their child. They want to share theirs and hear yours, not be shut down when they bring up their child and how much they miss him or her. If you’re unsure if it will hurt them to talk about their loss or their child, ask if it’s okay if you talk about it. Grieving parents will respond honestly. You may even witness a light in their eyes and a smile.

5. Parents want the anniversary of their loss to be remembered, not forgotten.

Write down the date your family member’s or friend’s child passed away. Keep track of it like you keep track of birthdays and wedding anniversaries. This is a significant anniversary in their lives, and it comes around every year the same as your birthday does.

You may find your loved one getting quiet or withdrawing as that date nears. Reach out with a note, text message, or phone call and let them know you’re thinking of them and how much you also miss their child. This lets them know their child and their loss have not been forgotten.

There are also things we as the grieving parents must remember we need—and things we don’t.

 

Wondering how to genuinely support grieving parents. Read more for practical ways to offer comfort and understanding, including what to say and do, and what to avoid. Your compassion can make a world of difference.

 

6. We need to grieve, not avoid the pain.

When Jesus heard that John the Baptist was beheaded, He departed to a deserted place by Himself. When Mary fell at Jesus’ feet, weeping for her brother Lazarus, Jesus wept. There are chemicals in our emotional tears that bring healing when we release them. It’s okay to grieve.

Anytime we avoid facing emotional pain in our lives, whether it’s grieving child loss, admitting sin, or overcoming a wrong done to us, we prolong the hurt and the harm we experience. It’s important to own those wounds so we can be healed of them. Only when we allow the healing to come will we be free from the pain.

7. We need to take care of ourselves and our family, not ignore our needs.

For this season, grieving parents need to prioritize their personal needs and the needs of their spouse and children. This may look like taking family leave from work, changing a child’s educational situation, or stopping extracurricular and volunteer service activities for a season. Your family will need to process grief together, in a safe space. Grief counseling may be necessary, as well.

8. We must allow room for joy, not just grief.

Oftentimes, a grieving parent will feel guilty for experiencing happiness or joy, smiling, laughing, or having a good day or fun time. Ecclesiastes 3:4 teaches us there is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. We must allow room for both in our life. There’s no need to feel guilty for living. Jesus came so we may have life more abundantly.

9. We need to fellowship with others, not isolate ourselves from life.

Proverbs 18:1 says, “A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages against all wise judgment.” It’s one thing to allow a day or two, or even a week, to take care of yourself, but isolating from family and friends for an extended period of time is unhealthy. God created us for relationship. There is opportunity for healing when we fellowship with others.

10. We need to seek life, not remain focused on death.

Guarding your heart may prove difficult when grieving the loss of a child. That’s when it’s time to rely on God. Philippians 4:6-7 tells us we’re to be anxious for nothing and to ask of God to meet our needs. When we do so with prayer, supplication, and thanksgiving, we will receive the peace of God, which surpasses all of our understanding and “will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” The scripture then reminds us to think on things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy. This is how we take our focus off our grief and put it back on life. We must consistently take our thoughts captive to Christ and focus on what He has done to give us eternal life. Because every day we are one day closer to eternity with Him and reuniting with our loved ones who have gone home before us.

 

 

About Alycia Morales

Photo of Alycia Morales, authorAlycia Morales is the author of Surviving the Year of Firsts: A Mom’s Guide to Grieving Child Loss. She and her husband Victor live in South Carolina, where they’ve raised six kids to adulthood. You can find her at AlyciaWMorales.com

Connect with Alycia:  Website / Instagram / Facebook / X / Pinterest / LinkedIn

 

 

 

 

Sacred Scars: Resting in God’s Promise that Your Pain is Not Wasted

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Your ragged and torn past may be the key to God's future for you.

 

We all endure trials, pain, and hardship in this life. Too often we believe these experiences disqualify us from being useful to God. But the truth is, your past pain and brokenness serve as preparation for what God wants to do in and through you – if you will surrender to and trust him.

Just as Jesus’s scars didn’t disappear after his resurrection, our emotional or physical scars tell our story and lend credence to our testimony of God’s love and power. If you are ready to turn your past pain into present comfort and future hope, let Dr. Bengtson be your compassionate guide.

Find out more and order here: Sacred Scars

 

Find out how to be there for grieving parents with empathy and understanding. Learn how to provide the support they truly need during their most difficult times, and how your actions can offer them solace and strength. Click here to learn how to provide meaningful support to grieving parents. Your compassion can make a difference.

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