What Grieving Parents Want Professionals To Know
April 29th, 2007-Today the police called and asked my husband Mike and I to come down again to the station and meet with Joshes dad and step mom for the umpteenth time. Little do I know that the rug will be pulled out from under me severely and quickly without any warning as it was 2 years ago when I was told that my 20 year old son Josh had gone missing.
Upon arriving at the police conference room they told us that my son had been found. A moment of pure joy that was followed by the next comment b y the police,” his remains were found yesterday afternoon by some individuals in a remote area several hours away from Lewistown. The area has been cordoned off and evidence is being collected.“
It takes all my strength and concentration to simply remain where I am under the continued assault of information. Josh my son is dead. I ask if they know what has happened and they say yes he has been killed and an investigation will follow.
These memories of that fateful day when I found out my son had been murdered will remain with me forever. In my work with Grieving Parents I was surprised to find how many of them had similar stories and each of us talked of how we wished professionals were more adequately prepared for how to work with parents who have just gotten the news their child has died. Below are some things that grieving parents would like to see professionals know:
Looking For Significance-What we are looking for in the midst of a trauma is significance. We need to know that our relationship to the patient is acknowledged and that we don’t have to relinquish our family position just because our loved one is in the hospital or has died.
Need to be Informed-Obviously, it will not always be possible or even wise for family members to be with a patient during all life-saving procedures. However, we need to be kept informed. A liaison should be assigned to the family, someone who can explain what’s happening, someone who will represent the doctor and the family well. A liaison can also offer to call a pastor, chaplain, or friend. A liaison should also help provide privacy for the family, and most of all they need to be gentle. We have just been severely traumatized, our child has died or is dying, we are in a strange environment, and we are frightened. We need someone who will establish good rapport and establish our significance
Answer Our Questions-We will have all kinds of questions. “Is he conscious? Is he in pain? What happened? What are the medical people doing right now? Why is it taking so long? Will he live?”
We need someone to explain hospital procedures and answer questions. A caring staff person who is well informed can go a long way toward preventing malpractice suits and most certainly promote goodwill between the hospital, the doctor, and the patient’s family.
Parents are often so frustrated by the lack of answers by medical personnel that they feel a malpractice suit is often the only way to force an explanation of what happened and get answers to their questions.
I have learned that families can handle an “I don’t know” or “I did everything I could” answer much more easily than a medical person’s refusal to answer or a medical person’s apparent avoidance of the family. When our questions aren’t answered by medical personnel, we are left to come up with our own answers and they may well be wrong.
Do Not Avoid Us-As medical professionals please do not be evasive because you are afraid of us and our questions. Instead gather information and inform when we ask. Be aware of volunteers from bereavement support groups who can be called to talk with and/or sit with a family facing the death of a loved one.
Do Not be Afraid to Show Sympathy- for fear we may “fall apart. When we cry or show some other emotion, we are not doing so because you showed concern. We are doing so because someone has finally given significance to us and our situation and we feel it is safe to express our true feelings.
Allow us to Vent-It is helpful if someone shows enough concern that we know it is safe to express our feelings and our fears. Once we know it is ok to express our true feelings, the strong emotions usually dissipate quite quickly. However, when we sense it is not safe to show our emotions, we generally do everything we can to hold them in until some often insignificant situation arises and the top explodes off of our emotions like an exploding volcano.
Provide a Liaison-If a hospital can provide a caring person to stick with the family and even call and check up on them later, that will go a long way to create good will and positive attitudes between the family and the medical establishment.
Educate Yourself- It is important that medical personnel become well versed in how to help families when things don’t go the way they had hoped. Don’t just read clinical material on bereavement; read articles and books written by bereaved people.
Don’t Let Us Leave Empty Handed – Gather information for us on support groups. Prepare a resource list of helpful books and articles. Hand it to us. Give us a card with the telephone number of a minister, grief recovery coach or counselor. Send us home with some books that will address our situation. Make arrangements to have someone check on us periodically. I was told a medical professional asked, “Well, what kind of time-line can we put on grief?” The answer to that question, “Everyone and each situation is different so grief takes as long as it needs to for each individual.” So please give us time, and please give us permission to grieve.
Peace & Light,
Certified From Heartbreak to Happiness Coach
“Who then can so softly bind up the wound of another as he who has felt the same wound himself?”