Bereaved Parents Month was founded in 1989 by a group of bereaved parents that wanted to bring awareness to those that were grieving the loss of a child. Although it is beneficial for bereaved parents to be recognized and validated in their loss, the depravity extends far beyond a month of recognized mourning. What do these families need? How can helpers attend to those that have lost a child? How can families that are mourning communicate their needs. As July ends, and a new month begins, let us take a few moments to address those questions.
Child loss is something that aches until our last breath. Parents that have dealt with such a loss are forever different. Many describe their life before the death of their child and after the death of their child. Bereaved parents need to feel heard, understood, and validated in their pain. They cannot be “fixed.” They yearn to be with their child, and hopelessness is common. Many times, parents need someone to help with the logistics. Maybe help with other children, meals, or their house cleaned. But other times, they need someone that won’t shy away from the strong and difficult emotions to process. They need someone to sit through the ugly cry, and refrain from giving the silver lining. This can be difficult for others to watch a loved one go through this immense pain. Know this is part of the process.
Parents that are mourning need to move through those emotions with a place to put the pain. Create scrapbook. Visit the gravesite. Create a memorial. Walk in the park that meant so much to your child. Speak your child’s name. Share memories with others. Find people that do not shy away from difficult emotions. Join a grief group or an online support group. Find a place to put the pain. This pain must be dosed. You are allowed to seek out joy. You are allowed to smile again. You are allowed to plan a vacation. The grief will always be there, and finding a way to dose this over time will be essential.
As a bereaved parent, I am grateful to have July as a month to recognize my own pain, reflect, and assess my emotions. I am glad we have a month to honor our children, and the hopes and dreams that they carried with them. I am also aware that we grieve every month. Every day. And every hour. Our grief changes throughout the years, but we will always love our children, and so we will always grieve them. We will honor them for the rest of our lives. I hope that if you are coping with the loss of a child, that you find a way to honor your child each day.
Written by Kristen Ernst, MA, LPC
Kristen Ernst, MA, LPC is the owner of the Center for Hope & Healing in St Charles, Missouri. Kristen has years of experience counseling hospice patients, and those afflicted with grief after coping with the loss of her own son. Her private practice concentrates on grief and traumatic loss. She also contributes as a specialist in grief support as a group facilitator, writer, and educator in the community.