This week, in a senseless act of violence, a family in our town joined a group no parent wants to join. I know. I’m in the group. Bereaved parents.
A 13 year old girl was gunned down as she walked home from school with her friend. The guy is caught. He confessed. Now the family must face their loss and grieve.
How can you help? How can you help a grieving family?
Don’t ask for details and don’t post speculation. Ever.
Print off your pictures of their child. Mail them or take them over sometime in the coming months. Yes, the picture may be available on Facebook or Instagram, but the family may not have access to the pages. I had my son’s password, so I had access to his Facebook, not all parents do.
If you know the family well, be there. Listen. Let them talk. Cry with them. Don’t pepper them with questions or offer quick answers. Patiently listen. Remember, any pain you are feeling over this loss is nothing compared to what they are feeling. Please don’t make this about you, your pain, or your grief.
Don’t offer platitudes and trite sayings like, “She’s watching over you now” or “She would want you to go on with life.” Simply say, “I’m so sorry for what you are going through. I care. I am praying for you and your family.” Then pray.
Pray for peace, hope, and strength. They have lots of decisions to make and a hard road ahead. They will need our prayers.
Written notes are much better than comments on posts. Comment on a post with kind words, then send a note. If you don’t know the family, take the note by the school office; they will deliver the note. Going through all the comments now will be overwhelming. Written notes can be gone through when the family is able.
Don’t offer, “Let me know if you need anything.” They don’t know what they need and will be unable to ask; they are in shock and overwhelmed. Offer to bring a meal in a few weeks or, better yet, give them gift cards to area restaurants so they can go out when they are able. Offer to mow the yard, plant mums, or help in other specific ways.
They are overrun with visitors and offers of help now. Don’t forget about them in a few weeks when something else takes over the headlines. They will need help in a few weeks and a few months from now, especially as the numbness wears off.
Go to the funeral. Be there. It matters.
Love them well, my friends. In a month or six months or three years, they will still be grieving. On the anniversary of the shooting, the news will feature it and they will relive it.
Say her name. Lauren. Say it out loud. It will help her family and her friends heal to know she is loved and remembered. Tell stories. Share memories.
Love them well. As you have loved us.
Thank you all who love hurting families,
Kathleen B Duncan, mom of seven with one in heaven