3 Ways to Help a Grieving Parent

sad_womanGood friends bring life to dying souls. But it’s so hard to know what to say and do when your friend is grieving the loss (or soon to be loss) of a child.

We’ve been asked many times over the last 2 years, since the death of our daughter to cancer, by good-willed people who wish to help their grieving friends what words they could say or what actions they could do that would lessen the heartache of their friends.

And we’ve known good-willed people who have tried their best to bring peace to their grieving friends, only to cause more frustration and angst.

Hopefully this post can shed some light with these 3 ways to help a grieving parent. It’s true, your friend needs you. But your friend most likely doesn’t know what part of you he/she needs. That’s the tough part, and there are no easy formulas or answers. But I encourage you to chew on these things, and perhaps they can give you some insight.

1. Don’t smother.

I know what you want to do: stay at his house (or hospital or hospice facility) and hug and talk and hug and talk. You want to read Bible verse after Bible verse that has to do with God’s peace, thinking right things, and the familiar all-things-work-together-for-good kind of verses. Those moments are necessary but will come later.

But here is something to keep in mind: your friend already has trouble breathing. His child just died or is about to, and the oxygen is quite low in the room as it is. He doesn’t need you hovering around with lots of words…


Your presence can be enough just don’t over do it. Don’t feel like you have to say something. And don’t think that if you keep silent you are causing more awkwardness. Things are way beyond awkward for your friend. But if he loves you as a friend, your time-sensitive presence will land deeper into his heart than words ever could at this time. Trust me, your words will be needed later.

2. Don’t neglect.

Please don’t think that your friend needs to be alone. And if your friend has other family members around them, don’t think that is enough. If she is your friend, be there.

For most people going through a tragedy of this magnitude, your company is vital to their mental and emotional health. Their burden is way too heavy to carry without you. Some people think that a short visit will intrude and cause more harm. So they decide to stay away…


If you are concerned whether or not a visit will be too much for your friend, simply contact them and say something like, “I love you, and I want to be there for you. But I don’t want to intrude. Please let me know how I can be your support through this. Tell me to come over, and I’m there. Tell me to leave, and I’m gone.” But don’t assume you know what they need or want.

3. Do distract.

If your friend lost his child, that’s all he has been thinking about every second of every day. And the torment can be unbearable. Sometimes a good distraction can get his mind on something else and bring some degree of relief.

Do something with your friend that he likes to do: fishing, bowling, running, watching sports or movies, toilet paper-rolling a neighbor’s house…anything. Something he enjoys. And if he loses focus during this activity, it’s OK. If he cries when he catches a 5 lb. bass, that’s OK, too.

Remember, everyone is different. It’s tough to figure out how much to do any of these. So don’t be afraid to ask your friend what they need from you. That shows that you love and care for them, PLUS you are sensitive enough to meet the needs they have.

Even though those needs will likely change tomorrow.

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