Families who have lost a child

It is hard to imagine any greater grief than the death of a child. When a child dies, so does one aspect of the family’s future. Each member of the family experiences loss in his/her own way.  Grief is also individual. Every member of the family should be given space to grieve in their own way.

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What should a professional take into consideration when meeting with families who have lost a child?

Mourning parents do not necessarily have the strength to reach out to different sources of support, even though they may feel the need for this type of assistance.

Professionals who come into contact with these families bear the responsibility for supporting them and steering them to find further support.

Acknowledge the grief of the family, regardless of how and at what age the child died. A child exists from the moment the pregnancy has begun and the child-parent relationship does not end once the child becomes an adult.

Every member of the family reacts in his/her own way to grief and death. Ask how the family is doing, even if it has been a long time since the family experienced the loss.

Grief never goes away entirely, it simply changes form and one gradually learns how to live with it. Never assume that anyone will “get over” the grief or that the loss will be forgotten with time.

When supporting a family, it is better to approach them with empathetic silence and a quiet presence than to say things like, “You are young, you still have a chance to have more children”, “Time heals all wounds, so you just need time”, “You have to be strong so that you can support your other family members”, “I know how you must be feeling”, “Are you still in mourning? It’s been a long time”.

When providing support, consider all the family members and all types of families. The death of a child always has an impact on a couple’s relationship, regardless of the type of family in question. A biological parent may not have been living with the child in the same household, or a life partner may not necessarily be the parent of the deceased child. A child’s death does, however, have a great impact on all those around the child.

A child’s grief

  • Even very young children react to the loss of a sibling and grieve in their own way.
  • Don’t assume that a child isn’t grieving simply because he or she doesn’t cry or talk about the issue.
  • Give the child permission to talk about grief and death.
  • Advise the family to seek support.
  • Upon receiving the family’s approval, you can give the parents’ contact information to the office of Käpy, an association formed to support families who have experienced the loss of a child.  The association will then contact the family and provide them with information about the available forms of support.
  • Both professionals and families can request supportive literature from the Child Death Families Finland Käpy ry.