Friday, July 23, 2010

Helping Grieving Families

In reading Amy's blog and having experiences with grieving parents, it seems like there are so many simple things that can be done to make them and their families feel loved and cared for. Here are some suggestions for reaching out to families with ill/terminally ill children and families who have lost a child. I hope you find them helpful and please feel free to include your own thoughts.

Reach out to families struggling with a child who is terminally ill through these suggestions:
  • Do not wait for the parents to reach out to you. They can’t. Reach out to them through prayer and encouragement.
  • Send the siblings of terminally ill children gifts like teddy bears to “love” for their sibling. ICUs and just plain hospitals have rules not allowing children in many times, especially if they are ill. The siblings can feel like they are loving their sick brother or sister even if they can’t see them.
  • Send text messages of hope for their ill child.
  • If you are a medical provider:
  1. With each shift there is a different medical, philosophical and spiritual approach. Make the tremendous effort to provide as much consistency as possible.
  2. Give parents as much opportunity as possible to think of the choices they are having to make without forcing decisions on them.
  3. Answer phone calls as quickly as possible.
  4. Allow parents to hold their child as often as possible.
Reach out to families who are grieving through some of these suggestions:
  • Make eye contact. Welcome them when you see them.
  • Remember their deceased children with them – through things you experienced, thought and wrote that are loving memories for you, of their children - and by visiting their child’s gravesite or memorial spaces.
  • Ask them how their grieving is going – even a year or more down the road.
  • Understand that memories can be awakened with something you might be completely unaware of. Amy vividly recalls the smells of the soaps used in the PICU and couldn’t use the soaps in her church because of that. Another mother has said that the sound of a helicopter is too much for her after hearing helicopters all the time when she was in the hospital with her daughter. You have no way of preparing for these things, but you can be sensitive to them.
  • Again, reach out. Even when you don’t know what to say or do. Be honest with them, telling them your fears and lack of wisdom for their situation while at the same time expressing your love and desire to be there for them.

I want to thank Amy and Allan for the time and effort they took to genuinely answer so many questions and share their lives with us. Please visit their blog to follow them and the progress of The Joy-Hope Foundation. May God bless them richly and give them peace.

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