I hate somber questions such as this, but I think these questions are what this site was built for.

What are some ways grieving parents can cope with the loss of their child? Does it make a difference whether the child's death was expected (e.g. caused by terminal illness) or the age of the child?

As a corollary, what can friends of the grieving parents do to help them through this terrible ordeal?

asked 11 Jan '10, 21:23

Matthew%20Jones's gravatar image

Matthew Jones
accept rate: 18%


This is always a difficult situation. I know that I usually feel uncomfortable and find it difficult to find the right thing to say. Especially when the parent is a close friend.

I have recently taken a seminar that included grief and trauma counselling. The website does provide some resources but most of their material is focused on helping children deal with a loss or traumatic event.

One of the main things I remember is to avoid saying things like "this will pass", "time heals all wounds". They suggested that the most helpful thing is to ask the person what they need, "what can I get you?", "What can I do for you", try to help them manage the basics as much as possible "Have you eaten today?", "Can I get you a glass of water", and to make sure the person knows that you are available to listen if they need or want to talk.


answered 12 Jan '10, 01:54

Tammy's gravatar image

Tammy ♦♦
accept rate: 18%

+1 for not repeating the classic sentences.

(12 Jan '10, 08:00) Emi

I've never lost a child (thank goodness) but I lost my father, and I can say that another thing not to do is fail to acknowledge the person's loss, simply because it's uncomfortable for you. Just say something.

Don't worry about possibly saying the wrong thing. Don't over-think it. It's not about you. It's about them. Do your best to put yourself in their shoes, and rally around them, be there for them, and acknowledge their grief.


answered 12 Jan '10, 02:08

YMCbuzz's gravatar image

accept rate: 12%

I think Tammy and YMCbuzz make all the points I would have also made.

I am also truly grateful that I have never experienced such a loss. I think that trying to help someone/a friend deal with such a loss can be emotionally very trying too.

Accidents and sudden deaths are very traumatic and I think that the shock effect makes the acceptance of such a tragedy hard to accept. Just being physically close to the family, holding their hands, taking care of them (with regard to food and beverages ) until they are ready to be verbal seems to make sense to me. I would definitely avoid talking until I felt that they were ready to speak.

Terminal illnesses Depending on the relationship that you already had with the parents I would try and see how I could help them by understanding/analyzing their state of mind. If I saw that the parents were somewhat emotionally prepared/relieved there is no more suffering I would console accordingly. As YMCbuzz mentioned, I would share their grief with them.

Miscarriages I have seen and witnessed several woman become very distraught after having a miscarriage or still birth and in some cases, this trauma has caused the mum to be to withdraw into her own shell, so to speak. Until the person concerned is emotionally strong enough I don' think that "cliche" sentences will do any good. I think couples can also have a strained time during such cases, when the father to be feels disorientated and alone while his partner grieves for their unborn child, so family support as needed would be beneficial in my opinion.

I try to empathize, whether they are good friends or people I have just met. Once I feel like I really understand what they need, (if my support or help is needed) I find that I can be helpful to them. This is something that works well for me, so I have no hesitation in recommending it.

NOTE: This question has made me really made me think, so thank you for asking it Matthew Jones.


answered 12 Jan '10, 08:47

Emi's gravatar image

accept rate: 19%

edited 13 Jan '10, 22:22

My son, Jeffrey 26 years old, died on the 19th October 2009 in a car accident. We have a another son Ryan who is 25 years old. We are devistated and it feels if our hearts are torn in pieces with the sudden death of our son.

We really appreciate the support of our friends especially their prayers. We are so blessed to receive sms's and phone calls of people who are praying for us. At this stage of our grief we do not find comfort in the words "you still have each other and your younger son" or "you will get over it, it just takes time" or " you can be lucky that you have had a good relationship with your son". We are longing for our son, his place is empty and can never be replaced. Our pain is so deep.. only God can reach and touch our broken hearts. Every day we experience God's care and love. We are having terrible moments and days, we are suffering, feeling very depressed and sad but we are fortunate to have a God who is looking after us, who is helping us and who gave his son to die on a cross for our sins.

We are coping by reading the bible and praying more. If a friend offers help, we ask for a prayer to strenghen us and help us through this terrible time. We read good christian books and we are especially interested in the resurrection of the body and life after death.

We all are going to die. For the believer death is crossing over to eternal life with God where we are not going to have pain, worries and suffering.

It helps a lot to have a friend who listens to your broken heart.


answered 25 Jan '10, 13:26

Helen%201's gravatar image

Helen 1
accept rate: 0%


I'm terribly sorry to hear about your son's tragic death. Indeed, no words can end the pain, and nothing will replace him in your hearts. Most of us on this website are parents of young children, but I don't think it is any easier to lose a grown child.

(26 Jan '10, 15:26) Scottie T
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Asked: 11 Jan '10, 21:23

Seen: 3,573 times

Last updated: 25 Jan '10, 13:26