No matter what kind of caregiver you are, whether you are a hospital medical provider (MD, NP, RN, RT, etc.), primary care physician, OB/GYN, hospital chaplain, religious clergy, social worker, therapist, counselor, etc., when you interact with a bereaved parent or a soon-to-be bereaved parent, your actions and words can be immensely powerful.
These parents are going through the worst experience of their lives. Offering these resources may not change their hurt, but it will help them during this most difficult time. Giving this information to parents as early as possible early in their grief journey will let them know they are not alone.
Offer Helpful Resources Immediately
Help Lighten the Weight on Parents' Shoulders
- Cancel future appointments and let the family know so they will not have to deal with it themselves or get triggering reminders.
- Make a note on the records of the other children in the family so that other care providers are aware of their loss.
- Use the child’s name if families are comfortable discussing their child.
Consider Bereaved Parents' Grief
- Grief begins long before the actual death of a child. It can begin with unexpected hospitalizations, new or unexplained diagnoses (terminal or otherwise), or traumatic accidents.
- Past experiences with trauma or loss will dictate how a family responds to a presenting crisis. For example, a family with a history of a prolonged or complicated NICU stay may be quicker to panic in response to monitor alarms than others. Even bringing their child to the hospital for a routine medical appointment may be difficult for a family who has had a child die.
- Every grieving individual has their own unique thoughts, feelings, and ways of dealing with their grief. There are, however, some themes common to many bereaved parents.
There are many ways to help parents cope the loss of a child. For example, delivering food, running errands or just being present to give them company and an ear to listen to are all great ways to support bereaved parents.