When A Senior Has Lost a Child


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Bereavement is difficult regardless of how old we are or whom we are grieving. But many of us can’t imagine anything more painful than having one of our own children predecease us. At any age. July is National Bereaved Parents Month, and we at Home Instead Senior Care serving the Southeast Valley would like to take this opportunity to offer some ways you can support a senior in your life who has lost a child or grandchild. These suggestions can also apply to those experiencing the loss of any loved one.

  • Ask the question: Many parents long to keep the memory of their deceased child alive by talking about them, while others feel it is a private matter. Before you assume one way or the other, ask your senior his or her wishes and respect them. It may be uncomfortable in the moment but it will help you better comfort your senior in the long run.
  • There is no timetable for grief: Whether your senior’s child died decades ago or last year, there will probably always be days when they feel an acute sense of loss. Take the time to honor and acknowledge that feeling, then gently try to engage your senior in something that will help them focus on more positive things.
  • Avoid platitudes: Some things that are intended to be helpful can sound preachy. According to the American Hospice Foundation, the following phrases are the types of things best left unsaid:
    • "I know how you feel." One can never know how another may feel. You could, instead, ask your senior to tell you how he or she feels.
    • "It's part of God's plan." This phrase can make people angry and they often respond with, "What plan? Nobody told me about any plan."
    • "Look at what you have to be thankful for." They know they have things to be thankful for, but right now they are not important.
    • "He's in a better place now." The bereaved may or may not believe this. Keep your beliefs to yourself unless asked.
    • "This is behind you now; it's time to get on with your life." Sometimes the bereaved are resistant to getting on with because they feel this means "forgetting" his or her loved one. In addition, moving on is easier said than done. Grief has a mind of its own and works at its own pace.
    • Statements that begin with "You should" or "You will." These statements are too directive. Instead you could begin your comments with: "Have you thought about. . ." or "You might. . ."
    • You can’t take the place, but you can take the time: If your senior has special memories of a certain activity they used to do with the deceased, such as reading aloud or going to ball games, consider taking on that role, or something similar, in your senior’s life. Be sure to do this with the understanding (tacit or spoken) that you are not trying to replace the deceased, simply to create new memories to share with your senior.

For more information, please call Home Instead Senior Care of the Southeast Valley at 480-827-4343 or Like us on Facebook.

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