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The Compassionate Friends offer understanding
Editor’s note: The following is from The Compassionate Friends, which offers support to parents who have experienced the death of a child.
Our children have died from many different causes and range in age from infancy to adulthood, but as parents we all share the common knowledge of the agony that comes with the death of a child. The pain and anguish a parent feels is very real. For some the grief is lessening, for others the pain is still new. Whatever the timeline, this is a terrible adjustment for one’s mind, body and spirit.
The Compassionate Friends (TCF) of Vernon is a self-help group that offers friendship and understanding for parents who have experienced the death of a child. The purpose of the group is not to dwell on the grief shared in common, but for bereaved parents to help one another work through their grief and readjust to life. Many parents have commented that, “When one of our children dies, no one can really understand except another parent who has experienced the same kind of loss. It is comforting to know that someone else has had the same feelings and fears. When left alone to deal with things like this you begin to wonder if there is something wrong with you or you begin to think you are going crazy.”
To onlookers, some grief behavior seems very strange, but we must remember that all people are different and will handle grief in their own way. Feelings of unreality, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, general apathy, guilt, hostility and idealization of the dead child are all normal feelings. There is no specific time line for grieving, what works for one may not work for another. Family and friends should support the bereaved parents’ needs to cope with grief, and not be judgmental about how they choose to do it. Physical illness goes hand in hand with emotional stress. Grief causes stress, and there is more stress-related illness in our society today than ever before. If someone you know seems to be lost or stuck in their grief encourage them to seek help, either professionally, through TCF or other bereavement groups and give them support and encouragement when they express the desire to seek help.
Bereaved parents must heal from the inside out, and most do if given time. When a relative or friend says something like “Cheer Up,” or “life isn’t all that bad,” it contradicts the feelings of the bereaved person; to the bereaved it really is that bad or even worse. A better statement to validate their feelings would be “I know the death of your child must make you terribly sad, and you have the right to be.” This statement does not make unrealistic demands at a time when it may be impossible for the bereaved to meet other’s expectations. Sure we want them to “cheer up,” and “be happy,” because we love them but maybe right now they just can’t do it. Give the bereaved space and time to work out their feelings.
TCF meetings are held on the last Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. at the People Place in Vernon. For more information please contact any of the following: Darlene or Allen at 250-558-5026 in Vernon or Kelli at 250-379-2465 in Falkland.