There are many grieving parents who have a wonderful support system of friends and family after the death of their child. Unfortunately, much of it often only lasts for about six months to a year.
Once a parent hits that one-year mark, many of the people who are in that support system expect us to start “pulling ourselves together” and going back to who we were before, instead of being all gloomy and sad. We are even told we need to see a counselor and get some help to get over it.
Yes, some of us might need counseling. But many parents I know who go that route end up dropping out, because it isn’t really helping. The counselor is going by the book, based on what they have learned in their schooling, or based on their own grief of losing someone like a parent, but just can’t quite seem to reach the level of walking with those of us who have lost our child, which is what we desperately need. (This blog is not telling anyone to not get counseling. Please find a qualified counselor as soon as possible if you feel it is needed to help you get through some of the worst of the grieving process.)
Not all, but most pareavors (parents who have been bereaved of their child) find that the most helpful thing they can do is to connect with other pareavors who were dumped onto this same unwanted journey and will walk with them through the dark valleys of deep grief.
Here are six specific reasons to connect with other bereaved parents.
- We are a safe sounding board. Our grief needs lots of grace. And the best place to safely share and vent your raw and real emotions is to those who have experienced the same blackness, confusion and turmoil. There is no shame, and no judgment on your thoughts or feelings when it comes to other parents who have been right where you are.
- We will not only let you talk about your child, but are honored to help you keep his or her memory alive, no matter how many years it has been since they left this earth.
- We understand the turmoil leading up to the sunrise and sunset dates, as well as things like not going to church on Mother’s Day, being unable to get in the “holiday spirit” etc., well beyond just the first year.
- We have experienced the physical trauma. We know what it is like
- to be so forgetful that we think we are losing our minds or are terrified we are getting early dementia
- to get sick easily because our immune system has been compromised
- to not be able to handle crowds or noisy places like we used to
- to have no energy to get out of bed, much less get dressed or take a shower, weeks and months into our grief (including years later for seasons here and there)
- to not be able to attend certain events for many years because they are grief triggers for us
- to have “grief fog” for years, and the frustration it brings
- We understand that the word “family” has a totally different meaning to it now, and we understand why you don’t want to have a family picture taken or go to a family reunion.
- You won’t get hurtful clichés and inappropriate Bible verses thrown at you to try and fix you or make you feel better.
There are so many more reasons; these are some just off the top of my head. So now the question becomes, “How do I connect with other pareavors to get this kind of support?” Let me share some suggestions with you.
- There are many wonderful and encouraging Facebook pages for grieving moms and grieving parents. I am guessing you have probably already discovered a few that are a good fit for your beliefs and struggles.
- With self-publishing on the rise, there are more and more books written on this subject.
- You may have also discovered that YouTube has videos out there to help with your grief journey.
- There are also some great conferences and retreats where you can get away for a few days and move toward a greater measure of healing.
- And of course, there are actual support groups for grieving parents that meet locally on a regular basis.
Just a personal note on those last two: When our daughter Becca died, I didn’t want to go to a support group or any kind of gathering/conference for parents who have lost a child. I thought it would be morbid, and I didn’t want to sit around with a bunch of people who were a mess like me. I thought I would leave feeling worse than I came. But what I discovered is that it was wonderful being around a group of people who were a mess like me, for all the reasons listed above and more. They “got it!” I didn’t have to exhaust myself by wearing a mask making them think I was okay, or feel the need to apologize for laughing or crying at any given moment for no apparent reason. It was so very refreshing and healing.
Here at Grieving Parents Sharing Hope (GPS Hope) we are doing everything we can to provide multiple ways for you to connect with grieving parents for encouragement, based on what works for you, including…. DRUM ROLL PLEASE….
We have launched a weekly podcast specifically for grieving parents!
The first episode was released on April 23, 2019 and a new one is released each Tuesday. The Grieving Parents Sharing Hope podcast is for those who are looking for light in their darkness, and for hope that your life can still have meaning and purpose as you learn to live in a way that honors the life of your child instead of being stuck in the deep grief of his or her death. You can find it several places where podcasts are found. (We hit a snag with iTunes and are hoping it will be there soon, as well.) It is also on our website, along with the show notes. Just go to www.gpshope.org/podcast.
In case you are not aware, here are several other ways that GPS Hope is providing ongoing support for grieving parents.
Support Groups (It is easy to facilitate a local GPS Hope Share & Care group)
The Hope Mobile (our 38-foot motor home we live in) to meet personally with bereaved parents, or to minister through speaking and music to your group
Whether you connect with us here at GPS Hope in some way, or you connect with other groups, the bottom line message is that you are not alone, and there are those of us out here who want to walk with you until you can share that same message of hope with someone else coming along behind you.
Last year I put together a list of top ten recommended books. If you would like to have that list sent to you, just let us know and we would be happy to do so. (Since that time, I have read Imagine Heaven by John Burke and highly recommend it as well.)
Expressions of Hope is written by author, speaker and singer Laura Diehl. She and her husband, Dave, are the founders of Grieving Parents Sharing Hope (GPS Hope). Dave and Laura travel full time in their Hope Mobile (a 38-foot motor home) to be more easily available for speaking and ministry requests, including being invited to hold one-day GPS Hope & Healing conferences.
Laura is a national keynote speaker and has also been a workshop speaker for events such as The Compassionate Friends and Bereaved Parents USA national conferences, along with being a guest on radio shows, podcasts and other media channels such as webinars with Open to Hope.
If you would like more information about Laura as a speaker for your next event or want more information on hosting a GPS Hope & Healing conference, click here.
GPS Hope exists to walk with grieving parents through the suffocating darkness of child-loss, guiding them to a place of hope, light and purpose.
We also support families, friends and coworkers who want to know how to support these parents both short and long-term.