In August 2009, our beautiful 12 yr. old son, Andrew Christopher Dorsey, was diagnosed with brain cancer. After 4 surgeries and in less than 4 months he left this world for Heaven.
I have written a few suggestions for friends of a grieving parent.
- Realize that the grieving parent may be able to do things in the first days of loss that she will not even imagine doing a month from now. So don’t expect that “healing” will be an incremental process. It’s often one step forward and two steps back.
- Realize that emotions are often stronger than knowledge. It may not be the right thing to say, “He’s in a better place.” Of course he is in a “better place” but a parent wants her child with her.
- Realize that in the grieving process, laughter and tears coexist. They are each a gift from God.
- Follow the lead of the grieving parent regarding talking about her child. She does not want him forgotten. He still lives…just not with her anymore. (It was very difficult to hear my son talked about in the past tense so I often used present tense and often still do almost a year later.)
- Realize that the grieving parent will do things in her time and in God’s time. Friends and family so want the parent to “feel better fast” but that feeling of being “rushed” is another burden placed upon the parent.
- Please DO NOT compare the loss of an elderly parent to the loss of a child. It IS NOT the same at all.
- Please DO NOT compare the “grief” experienced when a child goes off to college to the excruciating loss of a child.
- If you are unsure what to say, just say you are sorry and you are praying. Often an embrace and sharing tears is better than offering a trite or pat phrase.
- Don’t feel you need to offer suggestions for the grieving parent to get back to “normal” or to find a “new normal.” Grieving is a process and it takes a lot of time. A THOUSAND things every day and night are bitter realizations that you no longer have your child with you.
- Realize that every relationship is changed when a parent loses a child because the grieving parent IS changed forever. I, personally, felt “marked” and different. The first few times I went to the grocery store, I cringed when an employee casually asked, “How are you today?” I would usually mumble, “Ok” when I really wanted to scream, “My son just died!!!”
Regarding #6, My heart goes out to those young women I personally know who both lost their mothers. I think, other than losing a child, that the loss of a parent at such a young age is so tragic and a deep loss.