Losing a loved one is difficult no matter the age, but the grief of parents who have lost a grown son is often overlooked, notes compassionatefriends.org. Many assume the grief is less than it would be if the son was younger; if the son was married, they tend to focus on the immediate family’s grief. Parents who have lost a grown son go through the same grieving process that other parents do, and it’s important to deal with them in a constructive way.
Let the parents know you’re available to listen or help whenever they need it. It’s okay to tell the parents you’re not sure what to say; simply offering your support will go a long way.
Remember, as you comfort the parents, that everyone grieves differently. Grief isn’t always predictable and might involve extreme emotions. The grieving process takes an average of 18 to 24 months, notes helpguide.org, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be longer or shorter.
Listen to and acknowledge the parents’ feelings when they open up to you. Don’t try to make them feel better or tell them they’ve cried enough; just listen.
Remain patient if they talk over and over again about how their son died. Retelling the story is part of the grieving process, notes helpguide.org. Each time they tell the story, the pain lessens.
Offer practical help without the parents having to ask. It’s sometimes hard for people to ask for help. Some services you can offer include dropping off dinner, helping with funeral arrangements, taking care of housework, looking after pets or taking the parents out to lunch or for a walk.
Encourage the parents to take care of themselves as they go through the grieving process. Eating and sleeping properly and taking prescribed medications are important, even if they seem trivial during the grief.
Help the parents gather photos and put together an album about their son. Print some of the photos and frame them.
Share stories and memories of their son or listen to the parents share memories as a way to comfort them.
Encourage the parents to think of a way to honor their son. They might create a scholarship in his name, plant a tree or place a plaque at a place that was special to him.
Keep in mind holidays and special dates, such as the son’s birthday, as the parents grieve. These days will be tough; you can help plan special ways to help the parents cope.
Suggest that the parents join a support group to talk with other parents who have experienced grief similar to theirs. Counseling may also help the parents move through the grieving process.
Tamara Runzel has been writing parenting, family and relationship articles since 2008. Runzel started in television news, followed by education before deciding to be a stay at home mom. She is now a mom of three and home schools her two oldest children. Runzel holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication from University of the Pacific.