Friday, December 5, 2008

Healing a Parent's Grieving Heart

On another messageboard I read frequently someone told the tragic story of a family who just had a child die. They asked, "What do I say? What can I do?" This is often the question asked. I referred them to the page For Friends and Family but then the next resource I reached for on my shelf was this book: Healing a Parent's Grieving Heart: 100 Practical Ideas after your Child Dies by Alan D. Wolfelt. PH.D and I remembered what a great help this was to me after Gabriel died.

The author is a grief counselor for 25 years, and although not a bereaved parent himself, he has heard the stories of thousands of grieving parents. You can read his bio here. He also holds Center for Loss workshops in Colorado.

It is not a huge book- so it is easily overlooked. I bought it at Borders so you may be able to find it at your local chain bookstore. This book is not specific for pregnancy loss or stillbirth, but of great value none the less. It in the foreword, Andrea Gambill, editor of Bereavement magazine calls it a 'small but powerful book' full of 'common sense and compassionate suggestions'. Absolutely right.

I particularly appreciated the the layout where each page is its own topic with a specific idea at the bottom of something you can DO. From "Keep a Journal (go to a bookstore and pick a blank book- get a cup of coffee and start your first entry)" to " Take Good Care of Yourself (start taking a multivitamin if you don't already), every single page gives me an idea of something specific I can do. Just flipping through the topics I feel energized.

Here are just a few:
Understand the unique grieving needs of Dads/Moms/Grandparents (each its own page)
Wear a symbol of mourning
Plan a ceremony
Organize a memory book
Prepare to answer the question "How many children do you have?"
Be aware your grief affects your body, heart, social self and spirit

If I could type out the entire book for you here I would. But instead I suggest you get a copy. No matter where you are in the journey I think it is useful. I have given it to several friends who have had someone close to them die. Once I gave the teen's book to a family where the mother died very unexpectedly- the aunt told me later what a huge help it had been as they were able to flip through and talk about the different ideas and ask "Now, what are you feeling about this today?"

He has several other books on the topic of grieving- for children, for teens, for parents. I have linked just a few below.

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