Experiencing the loss of a child, no matter their age, is one of the hardest things for any parent to experience. It goes against the natural order of life and is never expected. If you’re navigating the grief and heartache that comes with losing a child, let us first say how very sorry we are. And secondly, please know that you’re not alone.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What Is Bereaved Parents Awareness Month?
- When Is Bereaved Parents Awareness Month?
- How Can You Participate in Bereaved Parents Awareness Month?
Though it may not be talked about often, parental bereavement is more common than you might think. It’s common enough that there is even an entire month dedicated to promoting awareness around the pain of loss and grief parents feel after losing a child.
Whether you’re anticipating a loss, going through a loss, or know someone who is, there is solace to be found in the opportunity to link arms and join with others who understand the unique grief that comes with the loss of a child. The opportunity comes yearly during Bereaved Parents Awareness Month.
What Is Bereaved Parents Awareness Month?
For many bereaved parents, they suffer a deep hurt that doesn’t get seen or understood nearly enough. Society as a whole shies away from talking about death. When it comes to the death of someone’s daughter or son, there’s even more hesitation to discuss the event.
Why the hesitation? Losing a child is a tragedy of unspeakable proportions. Talking about it forces everyone to look at their own family and ask, “What if that happened to me?” Discussing the death of a child brings everyone face to face with the fact that losing a child can happen to anyone. Whether the child is unborn, two-years-old, or twenty years old, a tragic, unexpected, death could happen.
From the place of unspoken-about pain, bereaved parents have started to band together to bring awareness, opportunities for discussion, and support for one another through Bereaved Parents Awareness Month.
When Is Bereaved Parents Awareness Month?
Bereaved Parents Awareness Month occurs every year during July. You may not have heard much about it because the month often gets overshadowed by talk of summer vacation and the July 4th holiday. However, the movement to bring awareness to the journey that bereaved parents face is slowly but surely gaining momentum.
Want to see this month of awareness grow? Be a part of helping raise awareness by participating in Bereaved Parents Awareness Month if you’ve lost a child or if you know someone who has.
How Can You Participate in Bereaved Parents Awareness Month?
There are many ways you can participate in Bereaved Parents Awareness Month. Not all of these activities are going to be the right fit for you. Read through the activities and choose only the ones that bring healing to you or will help bring comfort to a friend or loved one navigating this devastating loss.
Go to an official Bereaved Parents Awareness event
Bereaved Parents Awareness Month has been slowly gaining recognition and ground within the greater bereavement communities. As it continues to grow, you might have an opportunity to attend an event put on for the month. Whether you’ve lost a child, you know someone who has, or you’ve never dealt with such tragedy, going is still a good idea.
If you’ve lost a child, attending an event could help you network and link arms with others who have endured such difficult tragedy. If you’re in the camp of knowing someone who has lost a child, you might gain deeper insight on how to love and help them through the trying days, months, and years ahead of them.
Even if you haven’t had any exposure to someone who has lost a child, attending an event focused on bereaved parents can help grow your compassion, sympathy, and understanding of what this special population needs to survive.
Attend a bereavement support group meeting
Grief support and bereavement support groups are plentiful if you know where to look. There are online grief chat rooms, grief support hotlines, forums, and physical in-person support groups. These options are typically free and open to anyone who is experiencing the pain of losing a loved one. You can find in-person support groups that gather in a variety of places including community centers, religious institutions, and funeral homes.
A note on support groups: If you’re not the grieving parent, but you were close to the child who passed away, you’re going through your own grief. Grief and bereavement support groups are open and available to you, as well. Be sure to attend to your own healing through the grief you experience.
Go to a memorial held in a child’s honor
Do you know of a memorial that’s being held for a child who passed away? Perhaps they just passed and you can attend their funeral or memorial service. Maybe they passed several years ago and the family is holding a memorial in honor of their death anniversary or their birthday in heaven. Whatever the occasion, if you have the opportunity to attend a memorial, make every attempt to do so. You may not fully understand the importance of a fifth death anniversary memorial, but if you show up and support the still-grieving parent, it will mean the world to them.
Run a 5K in the child’s honor
If appropriate, consider doing something in honor of the child that passed away. Many families choose to run 5Ks in honor of a child who passed away due to a terminal illness such as cancer. Whether the child who passed is your own or a friend’s, running in their honor and raising awareness for the disease they died from will help to continue their legacy and keep their memory alive.
Send a message to a bereaved parent
Bereavement doesn’t stop after a month, a year, or even ten years. Parents who have lost a child, whether they were two years old or 22-years-old, will feel the loss for the rest of their lives. Though the grief may become lessened over time, the loss and hurt will still be present every day that passes without their child.
If you know a parent who lost a child, send them a message to let them know you’re thinking about them and the child they lost. Many bereaved parents encourage their friends and loved ones to not shy away from mentioning their child. Though people seem to think that not mentioning the deceased child will make the incident somehow less painful for their friend or loved one, the opposite is actually true.
Talking about the child and even sharing a memory you have can help validate the pain bereaved parents are going through. This will also help keep the child’s memory alive, continue their legacy, and help bereaved parents know that they’re not alone because someone else remembers their child.
Listen to a bereaved parent
When a death occurs, there are often endless offers of support given to the grieving from friends and family members. A month or two after the funeral, however, those same offers of support wind down. Though they were initially offered shoulders to cry on along with casseroles and offers of help right after their child’s death, several months or even years into the grieving process those offers to listen and be present get swallowed up in the business of life.
One of the best things you can do for a grieving parent is to listen to them. Let them tell you how much they miss their child. Listen while they bring up memories of times past or cry as they share how old their child would be. Let them share what they think their child would be doing, what they might look like, or what they miss the most about them.
As a friend, you can support a bereaved parent in a special way just by being present and listening.
Spend time with a bereaved parent
This is a little different than the previous encouragement to lend a listening ear. While all grieving parents will need some time away from their daily life and social activities, there will come a time when they need that social life back again.
Invite a friend or loved one who lost a child to small group settings with mutual friends. Ask them out to coffee with just you. Encourage them to do something they enjoyed before by having them join you in the activity.
They may say no several times, but keep the offers coming. Provide opportunities for them to spend time with people they love when they’re ready. Don’t be discouraged if they turn you down. Providing opportunities to spend time with you will be much needed when they’re ready to say “yes.”
Share articles, information, and personal stories on social media
Because Bereaved Parents Awareness Month is relatively unknown, it’s important to be part of the solution in getting the word out. Social media is a great way to do this. You can share articles about grief and parenting, information about how grief changes you, blogs of parents who journal their grief journey after losing a child, and information about Bereaved Parents Awareness Month.
Use the power of social media to create buzz and awareness around this important month and those it represents.
Supporting Bereaved Parents
The loss of a child is one of the hardest things for any parent to experience, and support is critical to help them through the years of heartache, pain, and grief. Whether you understand because you’ve lost a child or you’re friends with someone who has, showing support to those in the bereaved parents community can go a long way.