The Importance of Adequate Support for the Bereaved

In his book, The Spiritual Lives of Bereaved Parents, Dennis Klass, Ph.D., discusses the importance of bereaved parents maintaining connection with their deceased children in communities that support that connection. Our ability as bereaved parents to access and receive support from other parents who understand our pain is critical to us feeling less isolated in our grief. Adequate support also is crucial in helping us adjust to a world without the physical presence of our children.

Soon after my daughter Jeannine died in March of 2003, it was suggested that my wife Cheri (Jeannine’s mom) and I go to a bereavement support group sponsored by a local agency. The group met weekly for six consecutive weeks.

The group facilitators were very skilled, supportive and had some useful information about the grief process. However, we were the only individuals in the group who experienced the death of a child. The group did not meet our needs because we could not readily identify with the other participants’ pain and vice versa.

Eventually, we found another support group that was specifically for bereaved parents. We attended that group for over two years and were supported by the facilitator and other parents to maintain our connection to Jeannine. As a result, we felt less isolated in our grief. We found a community that understood our excruciating pain.

Bereaved individuals do receive support from family or friends, but many times it does not last long beyond the funeral. Many may subscribe to the belief that support, like grief, is time-limited, or that it may prevent the bereaved from resolving their grief.

In reality, the bereaved need ongoing support because of the circularity of their grief and due to the fact that grief journeys are lifelong in many instances. Ongoing support from others is also crucial because of the bereaved’s desire to be supported in maintaining ongoing connection to their loved ones.

Many bereaved individuals find support groups to be helpful. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • If you are considering going to a bereavement support group (which I’d highly recommend), find a support group that will understand your own unique pain and support your ongoing connection to your loved one.
  • Go to at least three support group attendance meetings before you decide whether or not the group is a good fit for you.  If you feel that the group is not meeting your needs after three sessions, find another one that will be a better fit.
  • If you can’t get to a particular support group meeting because of transportation or other reasons, online bereavement support is available. The Compassionate Friends has online support for families who have been affected by the death of a child.  Phone support may also be available as well.  Facebook also has a variety of groups that support bereaved individuals and provide a way to connect with other bereaved individuals throughout the country and world.

“A single beam cannot support a great house” – Chinese Proverb

David Roberts

More Articles Written by David

David J. Roberts, LMSW ,became a parent who experienced the death of a child, after his daughter Jeannine died of cancer on 3/1/03 at the age of 18. He is a retired addiction professional and is also an adjunct professor in the psychology department at Utica College, Utica, New York. Dave has presented workshops at national conferences of The Compassionate Friends and Bereaved Parents of The USA beginning in 2008 and 2009 respectively. Dave was also the keynote speaker at both the 2011 and 2015 national gatherings of the Bereaved Parents of the USA. He is also a featured speaker,workshop presenter and coach for Aspire Place(www.aspireplace.com) Dave has also written articles for several other grief and self-improvement publications. He has co-authored two books with Linda Findlay of Mourning Discoveries. One is on navigating grief during the holidays and the other is on pet loss. One of Dave's articles” My Daughter is Never Far Away" can also be found in Open to Hope: Inspirational Stories of Healing and Loss. Excerpts from Dave's article for The Open to Hope Foundation, called The Broken Places, were featured in the 2012 Paraclete Press DVD video, Grieving the Sudden Death of a Loved One. Dave has also appeared on Healing the Grieving Heart radio show as well as on the Open to Hope television show. Dave’s website: www.bootsyandangel.com is devoted to providing support and resources for individuals experiencing loss.

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  • Nelly Latchmansing says:

    Good morning, I lost my only daughter in a plane crash on the 15th of May this year. I am a single mother. I am having problems dealing with it, what can I do to go further. Hope to hear from you, Nelly

    • Hi Nelly: Please accept my condolences for the death of your daughter. The death of our children is unnatural because it defies the natural order of the universe. Our children are not supposed to die before us. I remember early in my grief journey, the difficulty that I had dealing with the death of my daughter Jeannine because of the excruciating pain of grief and the difficulty that I had in making sense of my world without her physical presence. In time we earn to adjust to our forever changed world and experience learn to experience joy in the midst of sadness. Our journeys are a marathon and not a sprint, so please be kind to yourself along the way, Nelly

  • Shirley says:

    Dear Mr. Roberts,
    Your article could not be more true. I have not lost a child. That is a thought I can not even fathom. I have however lost my wonderful sister to homicide. She was brutally stabbed to death in her own home last September.
    My doctor recommended a support group immediately. Where I lived, the only group I could find was through our local hospice. Like you, I was the only one there that lost someone to murder. I could identify with the loss of others, but no one there understood the complications that come with homicide death. Still, the group was support for me. The rest of my family lived 800 miles away, that group allowed me a space and time to openly talk about my feelings.
    I have sinced moved back to my home state. I had the overwhelming need to be closer to all of my family. Fortunately, I live in a much bigger city and found a support group for loved ones of homicide victims. The group is wonderful. Everyone there ‘gets it’.
    I’ve learned so much from these wonderful people. The group is led by a victim’s assisant which is part of the city’s police department. Our family also has a victim’s advocate provided through the prosecutor’s office. We have not yet reached the trial part of this journey. The trial has been continued twice, with the next court date set for September 13th. The people in my new group have helped me so much to prepare for the upcoming trial, what to expect, how it really is.
    Thank you for getting the word out. It is so very important to have others that can identify with you when you suffer a huge loss. I know I wouldn’t have made it through the last 11 months without all of my friends in support groups.
    Again, thank you.
    Shirley Wiles-Dickinson

    • Hello Shirley:
      Thank you for your validating comments about my article. Please accept my heartfelt condolences on the death of your sister. As an only child, I cannot begin to fathom the pain of dealing with the death of a sibling. I am glad that you have been able to find a support group that is meeting your needs and where you are understood. That is such a major piece in us learning to cope with the pain associated with the death of a loved one. I know that I could not have coped during early grief without the support of other bereaved parents. Your comments also point out the importance of dealing with issues related to the cause of death as well as the pain of loss. An effective support group can help with both.

      Take care Shirley

  • Alicia says:

    Hello. I’d like to write Good Morning, but I just don’t know if it is one. I lost my 20 year old son on May 3rd 2010. It is too much for me and I am reaching out for help in all directions. I am blessed with so much support and love from family,friends and fellowship from a support group. I am struggling to accept that I must now live without my son, in a physical reality. He is very much with me in Spirit but this is not yet enough for me! I have to accept the unacceptable. I attended one meeting of a support group for bereaved parents but it was too soon for me. I will go back soon because I realize it is where I need to be. In the meantime, the moderator is reaching out to me with email and newsletters and I so appreciate her connection. Reading your article and the postings from other people who have suffered major losses gives me hope that I can cope with this brutal pain. One Day At A Time I will try to grieve and recover. Thank You for sharing your HOPE, Alicia

    • Hello Alicia:
      Please accept my condolences on the death of your son. I am glad that you are reaching out for help and support because my ability to do that helped me cope with the death of my daughter Jeannine. I also benefited from a good support group for bereaved parents as well early in my grief. Alicia,I struggled for a long time to accept the fact that I had to live without the physical presence of Jeannine. When you are talking about the death of our children there is no set time frame to come to terms with the fact that our children are no longer a part of our physical world. Our grief journeys are truly individualized. I am glad that you know your son is with you in spirit. The knowledge that our children are never truly far away is key to helping us adjust to our forever changed reality.

      Take care Alicia