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Features Health & Wellness Ways to help families survive the holidays after losing a child

“Time heals all wounds” is a tired and worn cliche that isn't always true, according to The Compassionate Friends, a national self-help bereavement organization. When the wound is a child who has died, the best support to help a bereaved family survive the holidays may simply be that of friends and relatives who care.

“So often friends and relatives stay away from grieving families, uncertain how they can help at this time of the year,” says Patricia Loder, Executive Director of The Compassionate Friends, herself a twice bereaved parent, and a bereaved sibling. Here are eight ways those close to a family can provide support, she says:

• Recognize the holidays have changed for them — don't pretend they haven't.

• Offer to help with holiday shopping and gift wrapping.

• Invite the family for dinner instead of expecting them to host.

• Respect the family's privacy — don't press for a commitment just to get them involved and out of the house.

• Coordinate activities with surviving siblings (don't let them be forgotten during this important time of the year).

• Be open to the idea that the family may want to end old traditions that have suddenly become painful for them. Suggest and be open to new traditions that incorporate the child who died.

• Reminisce. The number one fear of bereaved parents is that their child will be forgotten.

• Give them the opportunity to talk about their child and join them in sharing remembrances of better times.

• Above all, don't avoid grieving parents, siblings, and grandparents. It's not contagious.

A local Chapter of The Compassionate Friends is being formed in Western North Carolina. Anyone who has had a child die in their family is invited to an informal meeting. Call Paulette Cloutier at (828)371- 8963 for more information on when and where you can attend.


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