Bereaved Parents Day is a new awareness day which first took place in 2020. This was created due to the realisation that there was not much out there in terms of support for parents who had experienced the loss of a child.
This years theme is: You Are Not Alone.
Losing a child of any age can have long-lasting effects on the parents, including depressive episodes, poor well-being and marital disruption. A study from 2008 followed the lives of bereaved parents for up to 18 years after the loss of their children and found that those who did not receive help, support and early intervention were more susceptible to these long-term effects compared to the parents who had a strong support system and other remaining children – therefore, this years theme ‘You Are Not Alone’ is an extremely important topic to have.
Sadly, many babies, infants and children lose their lives each year due to various causes.
In 2021, there were 2,323 infant deaths (aged under one year) and 852 child deaths (aged 1 to 15 years) that occurred in England and Wales; these figures were both higher than those recorded in 2020 (2,226 and 789, respectively).Office of National Statistics
Sometimes, when a loved one experiences such a traumatic loss, it can be difficult knowing what to say or do to help them, especially if you have not experienced the same type of loss.
When asked, many bereaved parents stated that just knowing that people are there and are willing to listen to them and talk about the loss can be a big help as grief can often feel very isolating and lonely.
Some people are often worried about using the child’s name in front of the parents after the loss, out of fear that this will cause unnecessary upset. When in fact, many parents wish that others would use their child’s name in conversation, as this shows that they have not been forgotten, they are no less important than they were when they were alive and that people still care. Yes, it may bring some tears, but this is a normal response and can often bring relief for the grieving parents.
Some other helpful tips for supporting grieving parents are:
- Ask how they are feeling THAT day – Feelings and emotions can change from day-to-day (or even hour-to-hour!) so it is okay to ask them daily how they are feeling. Remember, it is important to allow them to express themselves in an open and honest manner, even if this is difficult to take in.
- Be patient, they may not want to open up right now, but that does not mean that they will never want to talk about it. Do not force it, but be there for them when they are ready.
- If the parents seem to be comforted by keepsakes and old photographs, why not suggest looking at these together? Ask them about some of the photographs – ‘What is the story behind this one?’ / ‘What are they giggling at here?’ / ‘This looks like a beautiful holiday, where was this? Tell me about it!’ It may bring some tears, but most likely a mixture of happy tears from happy memories as well as sad tears for the lost future.
- Try NOT to give reassurance on things that you are not certain of, such as ‘Everything will be okay’, ‘I am sure they will find the answers you’re looking for’ and so on – Remember, if you are unsure of what to say that is okay! One bereaved parent told Lullaby Trust, that a friend of theirs once said ‘I am not quite sure what to say…. other than I love you and I am here.’ And this was the most kind and genuine thing that anyone said to them during their grieving process.
- Grief affects people in different ways; some people may try to stay busy and active to take their mind off of things while others may retreat from socialising and take a step back from their day-to-day responsibilities. Offering to help them with some every day chores can be a big help! For example, offering to do some shopping for them, the laundry, cooking a nice meal for them, cleaning up for them or sorting through some of their child’s belongings with them can be a great comfort.
- Give some extra love and attention to any remaining children in their family, especially if the parents are struggling to do so for themselves. Offer to take them out for an hour or so to give the parents some time alone together, or even just playing with them in the comfort of their own home with the parents can sit and have a coffee or get other things done.
*If you would like to show your love and support to grieving parents, or if you would like to share your story, or spread remembrance for a lost child, please join us in lighting a candle on the 3rd July at 7pm (GMT) – You can post a picture of your candle using the hashtags #AChildOfMine #YouAreNotAlone #NationalBereavedParentsDay2023 #NBPD23 #ACOM
Helpful resources and support:
If you are struggling to cope with the loss of a child and you feel that this is having a long-term effect on your day-to-day life, please do not hesitate to reach out to your GP, they will be able to point you in the direction of local resources and support to help you.