Family – siblings, grandparents and extended family
As parents grieve, bereaved siblings will need support in their own grief. For grandparents, the death of a grandchild can seem like a double loss because they are experiencing the loss of a grandchild, and witnessing the distress of their own child.
As parents grieve, bereaved siblings will need support in their own grief. When we listen to bereaved children and teenagers, they tell us that their needs are:
- to be surrounded by adults they can trust and turn to
- to have their feelings received without judgement or criticism (they will already feel vulnerable and helpless)
- to be allowed to cry whenever they need to (it is not helpful for them to be encouraged to be brave)
- to have an accepting and secure setting in which to express anger and other feelings safely when tears don't flow easily.
Some practical ideas for providing these safe ways are:
- allowing lots of physical exercise or shouting and noisy play
- steering them towards cushions or a punching bag (if you have one)
- going for walks, playing sport or allowing a very messy painting session
- open and honest conversations about feelings.
School & Supporting grieving children – see Information for Professionals.
Coping with the death of a grandchild can seem like a double loss because grandparents are not only experiencing the loss of a grandchild, but also witnessing the suffering and distress of their own child. Grandparents may feel guilty, thinking it should have been them because they have lived a long life. Grandparents may need to seek support whilst working through this grief experience.
Many of the supports available to parents are also available to grandparents. You may wish to read through this information and the resource list to give you some ideas of what may help you during this time. There are also many resources especially for grandparents.
Friends and family members will have different ways of responding to a child's death. Some may keep themselves busy to avoid facing a child's death, while others may isolate themselves. Although this behaviour can cause misunderstandings and hurt feelings, it is important to understand that this is often a response to their feelings of distress for the bereaved parents and children, and an inability to know how to talk to them or help.
Many family members and friends will provide good support, both practical and emotional, while others may need guidance in learning how they can support the parents and family better. While the child, parents and siblings are the ones most obviously in need of emotional support, other members of the family and even close friends need support as well.
It may be beneficial to seek emotional support. By seeking emotional support, extended family and friends can better cope with their own range of emotions – emotions from seeing their son, daughter, brother, sister, niece, nephew or dear friend undergoing such difficulty – and allows them to reenergise to continue in their supporting role.