Executive Director of Compassionate Friends, Largest Self-Help Bereavement Support Organization, Suggests Five Ways to Help Families After a Child Dies

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In the wake of the tragic Newtown, Connecticut elementary school shootings, Patricia Loder, Executive Director of The Compassionate Friends, the nation's largest self-help bereavement support organization after the death of a child, provides five ways friends can help grieving families after a child dies.

Candle Lighting

Compassionate Friends members remember children during a recent candle lighting

Only a parent who has lost a child can truly understand the devastating and life-changing effect this has on the families involved.

When any child dies, it is a tragedy. But when a community, state, and nation is rocked by the deaths of 20 young children and eight adults, as happened in Newtown, Connecticut, this becomes a time for everyone to pull together to help the grieving families.

“Only a parent who has lost a child can truly understand the devastating and life-changing effect this has on the families involved,“ says Patricia Loder, Executive Director of The Compassionate Friends (TCF), the nation’s largest non-profit self-help support organization for bereaved families after the death of a child. There are more than 650 chapters in the United States that service all 50 states, plus Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam.

“It is said that for a parent, when a child dies, the future dies, too,” adds Mrs. Loder, herself a twice bereaved parent, as well as a bereaved sibling. “When this is multiplied by the grief of 20 families that lost young children, as in the Newtown tragedy, it is especially important that the community join together in any way possible to help the families that have been shattered. It’s important to remember that some of the adults who were killed also have parents and siblings who are grieving.”

According to Mrs. Loder, there are some universal pointers bereaved parents and siblings agree friends may want to keep in mind when trying to help the grieving families.

  •     Don’t try to find magic words that will take away the pain. There aren’t any. A hug, a touch, and the simple words “I’m sorry” can offer the most comfort.
  •     Don’t be afraid to cry. Those tears are a healthy release both for both you and the family, and a tribute to the child who died.
  •     Listen to what the parents and siblings have to say. Let them express their anger, their questions, the pain, and the disbelief they may be experiencing. Don’t discourage them from talking about their feelings. Remember that siblings are often considered the “forgotten mourners” and need to have their grief validated, too.
  •     Be there. Don’t say “call me if there is anything I can do.” That call will probably never come. Think of what the family needs to have done and offer to do specific tasks.
  •     As time passes, remember the child by sending a card to the family or calling on special days. A bereaved parent’s worst fear is that their child will be forgotten.

One of the most important points friends should remember, adds Mrs. Loder, is that there is no set timetable for grieving. “Some people believe healing starts the moment the family arrives home from the funeral. Bereaved parents and siblings are transformed into different people who will never be the same as they were. Grief doesn’t end in a week or a year, and it may never end. But the pain does get softer in time with the help of friends who care.”

There are 10 Connecticut chapters with the nearest in Danbury, Waterbury, and Bridgeport. The Compassionate Friends National Office is using an emergency fund, created for situations like this, to provide local chapters all grief materials necessary to help the grieving families in Newtown.

To learn more about The Compassionate Friends and its many programs for bereaved families, visit http://www.compassionatefriends.org and http://www.facebook.com/TCFUSA on Facebook or call toll-free 877-969-0010 during regular week-day office hours.

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Wayne Loder
The Compassionate Friends
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