How to help those who have lost a child

There are no easy answers to comfort those who have suffered such a big loss, there are no magic formulas that will make the pain disappear. It is natural to feel useless when the child of a friend or relative dies; remember that showing your loving concern can be a comfort to a grieving family. Do not avoid them because you feel inadequate. A family is more likely to achieve a healthy and positive resolution of its pain if it receives support and understanding.

The following suggestions can help you provide that support:

- Do not try to find the magic words that will remove the pain. They do not exist. A hug, a touch and a simple "I'm so sorry" can offer support and warmth.

- Do not be afraid to cry. Your tears are related to both the child and the parents. They will cry with you, and their tears will be a healthy way to deal with pain.

- Avoid saying "I know how you feel". It is very difficult to understand the depth of loss when a child dies and you can not really understand it if you have not.

- Avoid saying "it was God's will" and other clichés that attempt to minimize or explain death. Do not try to find something positive in the child's death, such as "at least you have other children" or "it was better this way". There are no words that can make it acceptable for parents that their child is gone.

- Listen! Let the parents express the anger, the questions, the pain, and the guilt that they are experiencing. Try to understand that parents often need to repeatedly talk about their child and the circumstances of death. It may be helpful to encourage them to communicate by asking a delicate question such as "do you want to tell me about it?"

- Avoid judgments of any kind. "You should ..." or "you should not ..." are not appropriate or useful.

Decisions about showing or removing photographs, reliving the event, the idealization of the child, or the expression of anger, depression or guilt may seem extreme in many cases. These patterns of behavior are normal, especially during the first few years following the child's death, and they should not be repressed without addressing them.

- Be aware that, for parents with religious beliefs, the death of their child can raise serious questions about the role of God in this case. Do not try to offer answers. If parents raise the subject, it would be better to listen and allow them to explore their feelings. They need to arrive alone for an answer.

- Be present. Help the family at home, give a hand in whatever is necessary. Do not say "Tell me if there is anything I can do". They probably will not call you on their own even in case of need. Inquire about what needs to be done and offer to do something specific.

- Pay special attention to siblings or little sisters. They are damaged, confused and often ignore what is happening. Do not think that they are not suffering just because they do not show it. Many brothers suppress their pain to avoid adding more to their parents. Communicate with them and help them express their loss.

- Say the name of the child who died. Do not be afraid that talking about the child will cause parents extra pain. The opposite is usually true. Using the child's name, let parents know that they are not the only ones to remember their child.

- Be patient. Remember that every family responds differently to their pain. Some verbalise, others may seem incapable or unwilling to communicate, some withdraw, others react angrily or still pretend nothing, but all suffer very much.

- Share the child's memory. "I remember when he ..." can reassure parents that you appreciate their child and that you are aware of their sense of loss. Do not be afraid to laugh with happy memories.

- There is no standard time for recovery. The pain usually lasts longer than a person can think. Advise the family to be very patient and take all the time necessary. You often hear "life goes on, it's time for you to turn the page!" These requests are unjust and unrealistic. When parents express a concern about being tired, depressed, angry, irritable, unable to concentrate or unwilling to follow the normal daily tasks, reassure them that the process of mourning takes time and that they should not expect too much and too soon to themselves.

- Be sensitive to changes in family experience. Family members will adopt new behaviors and roles as they learn to live without the child. This process is long and painful. Do not think that sooner or later your friends will return to be the same after this experience, and do not even think of them.

- Suggest external help. Often the family could benefit greatly from contacting a psychologist or support groups. Do not just suggest it generically, find out if there is something specific in your city and provide precise references.

- Continue your contact with the family. The pain does not end at the funeral or the first anniversary. Stay in touch often.


November 2, 2018


You want to help him, but you miss the words. You can make your presence felt, without making things worse, with a little tact, a friendly face and offering a shoulder to cry on.
Hug her or hold her hand if she is a friend. If the person does not chase you away, go ahead with the next steps. If the person continues to cry, leave her alone. Sometimes one needs to remain alone - from space!
Do not start with such words, "Ooh, that sucks" or "It's really disgusting for you! He / she is dead! ". Try to be kind, comforting and show empathy.

How to help people in mourning

Every change in itself represents a stress capable of destabilizing us and, therefore, it requires the finding of a new balance that allows us to better face the difficulties with which we will still have to measure. These are moments of particular fragility, and it is strategic to be able to cope with them in the best way to be able to recover as soon as possible, in addition to learning how to treasure critical moments so that, if they reappear, it is easier to cross them.

A crucial point that we must strive to pursue is that of not neglecting and letting go, but taking care of ourselves during the whole period of prostration. There are many ways to take care of yourself, starting with the small attentions you need to dedicate yourself to the bigger and more challenging projects.

Making a positive decision instead of a negative can make the difference in these moments:


choosing something that will comfort us rather than throw us further down can help us to cross the dividing line between those who succumb to pain and those who attack the crisis by creating a change in the direction of those who decide to live (or survive).

Being attentive to yourself

can mean, as I mentioned a little while ago, to consult a good doctor, take care of your body (massage, hairdresser, beautician, etc) start a psychological journey, go to see an exhibition or a film that we like, make a gift, attend friends and relatives.

Building a support network

it is essential not to feel alone but to be supported and encouraged by people who are more or less important to us. Friends, relatives, acquaintances, neighbors, family members, can all be precious elements. An idea can be to draw up a list containing the names of all these people and organize themselves so that in turn you can stay a bit with each one.

Put death in the right place in our memory

The place where death can be placed is found after experiencing and traversing all the painful emotions that the episode inspires. If you do not live them but you reject them, you avoid pain but only at first: it is an illusory well-being that hides an unprepared pain which, at the next painful event, risks activating itself with a good share of additional interests.

Create your own separation rituals.

It is important to make a symbolic sense at the end of a phase and at the beginning of a new phase. The rituals practiced years ago (such as the wake and the extreme greeting to the deceased) are now much less common and this is a shame because they were partially reparative of the loss, allowed to better mentalize the event and become aware of facilitating the processing. Anne Ancelin Schutzenberger, in her book "Coming Out of Mourning" provides some interesting insights in this regard: "The ceremony must have the greatest possible meaning for the family; it is important that the relatives do something to become the protagonists of the funeral. Bringing a design, a poem (for a child) or flowers from your garden means creating a personalized separation ritual. (...) Many people regret not having done something that was done at that time, or not having been present at the time of separation. In this case it is possible to perform, immediately or later, what psychotherapists (...) call a "surplus of realism": symbolically represents farewell or separation. "

Allow yourself 4 pleasures a day

It is important to indulge in some pleasure without feeling guilty: do not stop time in the name of the deceased, but try to reactivate your own engine to live for those who are no longer there. You can make a list of what we like (even small gestures) and check every day to make at least 4 activities included in this list.

Errors not to be committed

This point is aimed above all at those close to bereaved people and concerns, in general, the discourse of not giving advice to those who do not ask them. We avoid providing words of consoling clumsy because they can hurt a lot and remain etched in the mind of those who receive them for a long time. Here is a selection of phrases that it is best to avoid saying: "You'll see, you'll come out", "you have to make a new life", "in time everything will come back", "you've known it so little ... it's not like losing a child as happened to me "," do not worry and think about a new pregnancy "," You have no right to show your sadness in front of your children ". If you do not know what to say better keep quiet: a silent but close person can still produce a beneficial effect. Rather than speaking for sentences, it is better to simply admit our dismay and inability to say something, while recognizing the pain that the event causes in us and the emotional closeness to the suffering: "it's so terrible that I do not know what to say, but I feel that I am very close to you and if you need something, it counts on me ".


October 29, 2018


You want to help him, but you miss the words. You can make your presence felt, without making things worse, with a little tact, a friendly face and offering a shoulder to cry on.
Hug her or hold her hand if she is a friend. If the person does not chase you away, go ahead with the next steps. If the person continues to cry, leave her alone. Sometimes one needs to remain alone - from space!
Do not start with such words, "Ooh, that sucks" or "It's really disgusting for you! He / she is dead! ". Try to be kind, comforting and show empathy.

10 tips to comfort someone at grief

Take what happened. It is not easy to talk about death, and many find it difficult to raise the subject. However, avoiding the question just because it's inconvenient will not help your friend. Maybe you think that discussing other issues is a good distraction, but a person who suffers will not find it easy to laugh at your jokes or chat about frivolous subjects. Ignoring the biggest problem in his life is not the right way to support it, so be brave enough to bring the issue into play, instead of behaving inappropriately as if nothing had happened.

Do not be afraid to say the word "dead". Do not say: "I knew what happened". He says, "I heard your grandmother died." When you tell the truth, even if painful, show your friend that you are willing to talk about the hardest aspects of life. He needs someone who understands it and is able to discuss it.
Name the person who died. Saying the name of the deceased could make him cry, but it will help him to understand that, despite the departure, it is still important for other people.

Express concern. Explain to your friend that you are sorry for the death of this relative. Show him your displeasure and tell him that you love him, to comfort him. Even hugging or resting a hand on his shoulder can allow you to communicate your regrets for what you are facing. He says: "I'm sorry".
If you knew the missing person, share memories with your friend and make a list of his best qualities. Talking about everything that made the deceased special can help your friend feel a little better despite the loss he suffers.
If you and your friend are religious, offer to pray for him and his family. If it is not, tell him that you think of him and that you are deeply sorry for his loss.

Be honest. Since talking about death is difficult, it can be difficult to express your most sincere feelings in front of your friend. However, using one of the many stereotypes that people pull off to facilitate conversations about death will actually not be very useful. If your most honest emotions are external, you will seem more sincere, and your friend will be more likely to turn to you when he needs someone to listen to him. Avoid making statements like "You're in a better place" or "He would like you to be happy right now". After all, you do not know if it's the truth, right? Listening to these empty phrases is not very useful. If you have difficulty expressing your feelings in words, you can try to say a phrase like: "I was speechless, I can not express the regret I feel".

Ask How are you

Ask him/her how he/she is. Maybe assume it's a trivial question, but many people fear to ask it, or do not want to face the answer at all. When your friend goes to work or is in the presence of acquaintances, he probably pretends that everything is fine. That's why, if you're a good friend, giving him enough space to talk can be quite useful. You must be ready to accept his answer, even if it is difficult to hear.

Do not judge. Let it be itself, whatever it means. Everyone reacts differently to the loss of a relative, and there is no unequivocally right or wrong answer. Of course, maybe your friend has a reaction you never expected, but it's important to allow him to express his feelings without judgments.

Get ready to get to know your friend more deeply and experience behaviors that you may not be used to. Despair and pain can emerge in many different ways. He may be in a state of denial, anger, drowsiness or feel another million emotions due to loss.

Do not say "Time heals wounds". Time can also ease the initial pain, but when a loved one dies, life is no longer the same. Proponents of this idea almost seem to suggest that there is an expiration date for pain: at the end, people should feel "normal" again. However, for many this does not happen. Instead of channeling the energies to help your friend "turn the page", he tries to be a source of support and happiness in his life. Never press him to overcome mourning as fast as possible. Forget the "five stages of pain". There is no real timeline to deal with suffering, and all manage it differently. To think that dealing with pain means overcoming a series of stages can be useful for someone, but for many others it is not a valid theory. Do not expect your friend to follow you.

Do not say: "You are so brave". It's a simple and apparently kind sentence, but it can make people who suffer suffer worse. Why? If you say to someone who is brave, this person may think that you expect a certain strength from him despite suffering. When someone loses a loved one, he may have some difficult times, stumble and fall. If you love your friend, you know his world is upside down, so you should not expect him to always behave bravely


October 21, 2018


You want to help him, but you miss the words. You can make your presence felt, without making things worse, with a little tact, a friendly face and offering a shoulder to cry on.
Hug her or hold her hand if she is a friend. If the person does not chase you away, go ahead with the next steps. If the person continues to cry, leave her alone. Sometimes one needs to remain alone - from space!
Do not start with such words, "Ooh, that sucks" or "It's really disgusting for you! He / she is dead! ". Try to be kind, comforting and show empathy.