For A Child Who Has Lost Their Way In Life
Train Up a Child: What Does Proverbs 22:6 Mean?
The proverb reads: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and [or even] when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
At first glance this sounds a wonderful promise to parents—exactly what every God-fearing parent would love to have as a promise from the Creator of marriage and family.
Naturally, Christian parents possess an unquenchable hope that their children will remain with the faith in which they are reared.
Or, if their child departs for a while, the parents cling to the belief that the child will return.
But is Proverbs 22:6 a guarantee from God to parents that their children will stay in the Church? Unfortunately, it isn’t. But don’t many modern commentators, counselors and public speakers explain this verse as a guarantee? Yes, they do. But, regrettably, this is a misunderstanding.
Promises of God include numerous benefits for obeying His way of life. But they do not include a guarantee to parents that children reared faithfully will keep the faith as adults.
Learning styles read into verse
Some modern writers suggest that the phrase “in the way that he should go” includes the understanding of learning styles.
Some children learn better visually, when they are shown illustrations of the lesson. Others learn better in an auditory manner, picking up the lesson by hearing alone. Visualizations would be distracting to these children.
And some children learn with the help of motion or kinesthetically. That is, incorporating some movement into the lesson helps affix it to their understanding.If these children are forced to sit still, only seeing illustrations or hearing a lesson, they may fail to grasp the point at all!
Such an explanation of this verse seems to add weight to the interpretation that the promises of God include a virtual guarantee to godly parents that “my child will stay with the faith all of his or her life!” Of course, understanding a child’s preferred way of learning can be helpful in order to better teach him or her, but this doesn’t really answer the question as to whether this verse is a guarantee that children will retain the spiritual values they are taught when they mature.
In order to understand what Proverbs 22:6 is saying, we need to consider free moral agency, the background or culture of the day in which the proverb was written, as well as the meaning of the words used for “train up” and “a child.” What seems to be right isn’t always the case (see Proverbs 14:12).
Cannot take away free choice
Fundamental to Christian understanding is the knowledge that God has given every person the freedom to choose whether he will submit himself to God’s way of life.
“Submit” is the correct word, for this choice includes recognizing God as one’s sovereign and looking to Him as the authority to define right from wrong. This was symbolized by the tree of life in the Garden of Eden.
It is another way of saying conversion or the Christian way of life—living one’s life in accordance with God’s laws, which define righteousness.
The opposite choice was also symbolized in the Garden by Adam and Eve’s decision to disobey God’s warning and their eating fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. As a result, God forced them Eden. Their choice brought a curse on themselves and their descendants.
Their choice was the opposite of allowing God to be their sovereign. It is the way of deciding for oneself what is right and wrong, what is righteousness and sin. That choice is the natural inclination of every descendant of Adam and Eve! It symbolizes the choice being made by most people on earth today.
No forced righteousness
Doesn’t God want His children to stay with His way of life? Yes, of course He does! But He does not want people to be in His family against their will.
That would be the consequence of taking away the freedom to choose. Such people would be robots instead of individuals with free will.
God wants children who choose to become members of His family, who choose to obey His household rules (His laws) love for Him.If the promises of God included an ironclad guarantee that children reared rightly by godly parents will absolutely remain in the faith as adults, this would strip those children of their freedom to choose.
Free will is given by God to every human being. The way many people understand and speak of this proverb, therefore, contradicts one of the fundamental truths of the plan of God: free will or freedom of choice.
It is a doctrinal error.
One simply cannot twist the verse to mean if one rears children properly, then God guarantees they will choose the right path. Guaranteeing someone will make a choice cannot be done without God taking the freedom to choose the hands of every child reared by believing parents.
The context of Proverbs 22:6
Culturally, the Western world today does not have different classes of people; all are equal. That was not so in the time that this verse was written. One obvious status in ancient Israel was royalty, including princes, who received special treatment. There were also other classes.
Young men (not young women) from the aristocracy would begin their specialized training in their late adolescence. This is when they would learn of future responsibilities they would have. Most young men were not of any special class, and they simply learned the trade of their father.
In light of this cultural setting, note the explanation of Proverbs 22:6 by The Soncino Books of the Bible, edited by A. Cohen: “Train up. From the verb is derived the Hebrew word for ‘education’ (chinmuch). in the way he should go. lit. ‘according to his way.
’ The intention is not ‘the way of uprightness and good living,’ but ‘for the way in which he is to spend his life.
’ Whatever occupation he is later to follow it is necessary to prepare him for it in his early years, because then are habits formed which influence his conduct in manhood” (p. 146).
Other commentaries add to this understanding of Proverbs 22:6. Consider Dr. Constable’s Notes on Proverbs (2006 edition):
“Train (Heb. hanak) means to dedicate (cf. Deut. 20:5; 1 Kings 8:63; 2 Chron. 7:5; Dan. 3:2). It has the idea of narrowing and in this verse implies channeling the child’s conduct into the way of wisdom. That guidance might include dedicating him or her to God and preparing the child for future responsibilities and adulthood.
“‘In the way he should go’ is literally ‘according to his way.’ It may mean according to his own personality, temperament, responses, or stage in life. On the other hand it could mean the way in which he ought to go. The Hebrew grammar permits either interpretation.
However the context favors the latter view. ‘Way’ in Proverbs usually means the path a person takes through life, not one’s personality, disposition, or stage in life.
Consequently the verse is saying the parent should train up a child in the way of wisdom to live in the fear of God.
“The second part of this verse has challenged the faith of many a godly parent. Obviously many children who have received good training have repudiated the way of wisdom later in life. The explanation for this seemingly broken promise lies in a correct understanding of what a proverb is.
‘A proverb is a literary device whereby a general truth is brought to bear on a specific situation. Many of the proverbs are not absolute guarantees for they express truths that are necessarily conditioned by prevailing circumstances.
… This may be because of the self-will or deliberate disobedience of an individual who chooses to go his own way—the way of folly instead of the way of wisdom’ [Buzzell, p. 953]. …
Unfortunately, interpreting this verse as a spiritual promise from God has led to much unnecessary guilt, grief and self-condemnation by parents.“This proverb clearly does not state a Scriptural promise. Rather, the revelation of Scripture elsewhere is that God always allows people to make their own decisions. He does not force them to do what is right.”
Unfortunately, interpreting this verse as a spiritual promise from God has led to much unnecessary guilt, grief and self-condemnation by parents. Countless fathers and mothers who, from day one, have tried to “train up a child” in a godly manner have had their child choose to leave the faith when he or she became an adult.
Some of these parents feel guilty, as if they did not do all they should have done. Added to this is the grief parents endure when their children make poor choices (Proverbs 10:1). Note the passion Jesus Himself expresses over the loss of those who chose to reject Him in Matthew 23:37.Parents need to understand that their mature children will make their own decisions about whether to obey God or not.
While parents certainly need to teach and encourage their children to choose God’s way (note Abraham’s example in Genesis 18:19), they also need to realize that their children may have to learn through trial and error and that they may choose a different path than the one in which they grew up.
God’s servants must always be “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), which means understanding and teaching God’s Word accurately. Failing to do so can bring unnecessary heartache, as well as lead one into wrong doctrine.
Those who attempt to put a modern spin on “train up a child” as a guarantee of a child’s future spiritual choice may be well-intentioned, but they are not presenting the Bible’s meaning accurately.
Is there anything in Proverbs 22:6 that is a parenting guide? Yes, indeed there is. Even though written of a different culture, it shows that parents should help their maturing teens make their career choices.
Parents can have good insight into the strengths and weaknesses of their child, as they pertain to a career.
(Not every parent does, but every parent can still encourage his or her child to get an accurate assessment of the child’s potential from those who can provide it.)
Then, parents can encourage and assist the child through the education that the child will need to succeed. The proverb promises that a young adult who is given appropriate education will be properly prepared for his or her career.
Biblical guidelines for parents of young children
Even though Proverbs 22:6 doesn’t guarantee a child’s future choices, it is still important for parents to give their children spiritual education along with career preparation (Deuteronomy 6:6-7, 20-25).
There are biblical guidelines for parents of young children to follow, by which they can raise their children in a godly manner. What is the advantage of doing so? First, it makes a more pleasant home to have children trained in love, respect, obedience, kindness, etc.
, in contrast to homes in which children do whatever they please at all times!
But more than that, parents rearing their children in a godly manner give those children a wonderful window on what it would mean for them to choose God’s way of life—when the time comes for them to make a choice. Children in a home managed by godly parents will have the opportunity to see God’s way of life in action year after year.When they reach maturity they will then have a better understanding of the consequences or rewards that will come from their choices. We regularly address positive methods of child rearing in our articles and blogs to help Christian parents meet the ever-increasing demands in this present world.
See our “Positive Tips for Practical Parenting” section.
Psychological Effects of Growing Up Without a Father
Fatherless children are at risk. | Source
The psychological effects of our childhood experiences can have an outsized impact on who we become later in life. Earlier today, I read an article that provoked what one might describe as a panic attack.
As I read this very disturbing article about the psychological ramifications of growing up fatherless, it all just sunk in for me—that I was damaged. My state of mind was completely altered when I finished reading about the scientific studies on fatherless sons.
Unfortunately, I have personally experienced many of the psychological consequences mentioned in the article. Most alarming for me was this statement: «Growing up without a father could permanently alter the structure of the brain.
» Notice the word «permanently.» Maybe I've had my head in the sand (or the clouds.
) I already knew that children from single-parent families tend to have more difficulties in life, but hearing it framed with these words? I was devastated.
This is what I learned about the ly psychological effects of growing up without a father.
Growing up without a father could permanently alter the structure of the brain.
— Ben Spencer, The Daily Mail
- More ly to be Aggressive
- More ly to Be Depressed
- More ly to Have Low Self-Esteem
- More ly to Do Poorly in Schools
- More ly to Be Incarcerated and to Commit Suicide
- More ly to Use Drugs
Psychological studies show that children growing up without fathers are more ly to be aggressive and quick to anger. I've always had a copious amount of anger—not just loud anger, but quiet anger, as well.
For me personally, quiet anger is more insidious and volatile. Silent anger doesn't have a proper release valve, it just builds up a growing monster, maturing right along with you.
I've spent nearly all my life containing myself because I know it isn't particularly productive or acceptable to be outwardly angry.
Anger makes you think and act with stupidity, and that's just a bad way to release energy. Additionally, I have a greater chance of passing on my aggression to my children. Now I am forced to consider this if I ever decide to have a family.
Do I really want to have children that are aggressive and prone to anger? Would I be doing the planet a favor by just letting it end with me? We all want to think or believe that we are in full control of our actions and goals—but are we really?
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, one in three children is without a father in the home in America.
Depression is more ly to be experienced in young fatherless teens. | Source
Teens growing up without a father are more susceptible to emotional distress. This is a hard subject for me to discuss because it forces me to recall very dark times in my life. I get bouts of depression that just seem to permeate every aspect of my life. My natural introversion magnifies the sense that I am alone in the world, and that no one can possibly understand what I am feeling.Thankfully, I have always managed to pull through these bouts of depression. I attribute this to the ongoing support of my friends and their unrelenting efforts to help me restore balance in my life.
I also remember high school teachers and college professors who went their way to urge me to apply myself and do better. In many ways, life is a team sport.
Don't be afraid to lean on your teammates for emotional support and reassurance.
The psychological effects of growing up without a father can lead to self-esteem issues. Over the course of my life, I've had very few conversations with my father. I always believed there must be a reason why my father wasn't ever there for me.
I was introverted, and I never really opened myself up to others. I could never be myself with my friends or anyone in my social circle; I always carried the feeling that I was damaged or unwanted. Yet, I was lucky.
I made healthy friendships that exposed me to a lot of positivity and optimism.
For a teen looking forward to college, I was also fortunate that I never had trouble dating.
The women I've dated and had steady relationships with have taught me a lot about how to be a gentleman, and how to treat a woman with the utmost respect. Today, I feel good about myself; I'm content with not being perfect.
Concurrent psychological effects have a way of compounding one another; the key is to be more self aware and battle your demons head-on.
Fatherless students are more ly to drop high school. | SourceGrowing up without a father can affect your education. During high school, I did just enough to get by and get into a decent college.
I'm embarrassed to say that so far I've dropped two colleges due to lack of effort and motivation.
I've never felt good about this—I've robbed my mother of the pride and happiness of seeing her eldest son walk across a stage with a college degree.
I can't go back and make things right, but I hope one day I will be able to achieve some success that will give my mother some assurance of my worth as a son. The negative psychological effects of being raised in a one-parent household can hold you back in life, but you still have a choice—sink or swim. It's entirely up to you.
Children growing up in households where the father is absent account for 71% of all high school dropouts.
Even when factors such as income, race, and parent involvement were held constant, fatherless children—especially boys—are twice as ly to wind up in prison later in life. That is an alarming statistic.
They are more prone to aggression, more ly to drop high school, and are more susceptible to negative influences.
Given those tendencies, it's not hard to see how that can lead to higher levels of incarceration down the line.In addition, one of the most unnerving statistics is that nearly 65% of youth suicides are associated with fatherless homes. From my own experience I know that children who grow up fatherless are at a much greater risk for depression and, unfortunately, suicide.
Fatherless children are more ly to turn to drugs. When I was younger, I battled several addictions. My mother was justifiably busy holding down a job that supported the entire household.
I would never portray my mother under a negative light; she loves her children, and she did the best she could. My two older sisters were preoccupied with their college studies.
I was pretty much left to my own devices as a teenager.
I always had a circle of friends who were much older than me; whatever they did, I did. They got tattoos, I got tattoos. Suffice it to say, the things they chose to do to pass the time, I ultimately partook in, as well.
You might be interested to know, however, that today I'm as sober as a priest. I was able to pull myself that tailspin, and realizing this fact gives me hope that I can overcome other hurdles in my life, too. At this point, knowing that I have that inner strength means everything to me.
It means I can, in good faith, declare that there's hope for me.
According to Dr.
Mark Borg Jr, PhD, psychoanalyst and author of «How We Use Dysfunctional Relationships to Hide From Intimacy», when children typically grow up fatherless there is an attempt by the child to compensate for whatever they feel, think, and believes is missing from the primary caregiver's life. As a result, it is not uncommon for children to develop care-taking routines in an attempt to care for the caretaker (i.e., overcompensate).This developing of behavioral patterns is meant to help the primary caregiver do a better job of providing parental care to them.
Girls are more ly to ally with the caregiver by developing routines designed to make that person feel capable of providing care.
Fatherless boys will allow themselves to be the family scapegoat by bearing the responsibility for issues that are going wrong with the family system in general.Both boys and girls are often compelled to take care of parents who they perceive as being unhappy, and boys and girls both, regardless of the circumstances that led to their fatherlessness, experience single caregivers as being in need of help.
Girls are are twice as ly to experience obesity and four times more ly to get pregnant as a teenager when their father isn’t present.
The fatherless label is often simplified. Lots of variables and scenarios come into play when statistics are compiled. A feeling of helplessness can overwhelm us if we automatically react to every stat that we see.
It is our duty to protect our own overall well-being from outdated or misleading studies by doing our due diligence. It is important to keep in mind that there are plenty of factors a statistic may not account for before we succumb to a victim mentality.
With that being said there are many misconceptions associated with the issue of fatherless households:
1. Children in Fatherless Homes Have Fared Poorly Over the Past Three Decades
A collaborative report from different federal agencies have found that many indicators of a child’s well-being have increased while others have decreased. Youth are less ly to smoke, die, or be victimized while they have made fewer strides with variables that predict economic prosperity.
2. Research on Single Mother Households Proves That Fatherlessness Harms Children
Children’s perceptions of the relationship they have with both parents has a more direct influence on they psychological well-being than having then does physical presence (or absence) of their father.
3. Children Fare Worse in Fatherless Homes
On average, the differences in well-being between children from intact family homes and those from divorced homes tend to be small on average. The stress levels and psychological states of the parents are more powerful influences than income and if two parents are in the home.
Potential role models can be identified in many areas in life. | Source
There are many constructive ways to deal with the pain of growing up in a fatherless household. The measures are not always easy, but anyone committed to their own well-being can conquer the odds up against them. Dr. Mark Borg Jr.
also had this to say on coping, «[i]t is important to express feelings rather than act them out. Self-sufficiency in relationships is a way of acting out old, unprocessed feelings about growing up fatherless or, growing up in a family where it felt the care was not adequate.The problem is that it is so unsafe to grow up with inadequate care (whether fatherless or not) that most people push this their awareness and it does get acted out behaviorally (rather than processed consciously).
The way to deal with this (adverse affect) is to—one relationship at a time—find and or create safe relationships to allow oneself to express the emotions and needs unmet in childhood.»
Other effective measures of dealing with fatherlessness include:
- Counseling and support groups are effective means for learning about ourselves and our own needs. These mediums assist us in interpreting the past in order to help us to perceive our future as brighter.
- Identifying role models and mentoring programs in the community that display moral ethics and ambition to influence children that grew up in fatherless households in a positive way.
- Acknowledging your anger and hurt feelings. It is never a good idea to rage quietly while putting up a front to the world. Be honest with yourself. Communicate your feelings from the heart rather than just expressing them. The key is to allow yourself the chance for growth.
- Forgiving anyone who has caused us harm takes a lot of grit. Doing it for closure can provide a much needed release and can potentially heal old wounds.
Through his absence, my father taught me that life isn't fair. There are no guarantees that we will attain anything, achieve anything, or be loved by anyone.
No matter what predispositions we are born with, or what psychological effects may be associated with our childhood experiences, we are the ultimate forgers of our destiny.
I have to believe I can overcome the disadvantages of growing up without a father. I have to believe that I can still determine my future.
- National Fatherhood Initiative, «The Father Absence Crisis in America,» 2013.
- Dr. Gabriella Gobbi, «Father Absence in the Monogamous California Mouse Impairs Social Behavior and Modifies Dopamine and Glutamate Synapses in the Medial Prefrontal Cortex,» Oxford Journals, 2013.
- Sanchez, Claudio. (2017, June 18) “Poverty, Dropouts, Pregnancy, Suicide: What the Numbers Say About Fatherless Kids.” Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2017/06/18/533062607/poverty-dropouts-pregnancy-suicide-what-the-numbers-say-about-fatherless-kids
- Spencer, Ben., «Growing up without a father can permanently alter the BRAIN: Fatherless children are more ly to grow up angry and turn to drugs,» Daily Mail, 2013.
- Sutherland, Anna., «Yes, Father Absence Causes the Problems It’s Associated With,» Institute for Family Studies, 2014.
- Wilson, T., (2002). “Myths and Facts About Fatherlessness.” Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/79c4/ab7cc226d0db49fa4eb4e61181d12f4a9237.pdf
- (2017, July 20). Dealing With Anger From Having an Absent Father. Retrieved from https://firstthings.org/anger-absent-father
9 Things to Remember if You Love a Person Who Has Lost their Parents
Last Updated on June 13, 2019
Think you have a boring life?
The definition of boring is dull or not interesting. Maybe you’ve been doing the same thing and living the same life for too long, or maybe your daily routine is limiting your growth and happiness.
Whatever your reason is, the following list of 20 things can definitely make any day more interesting.
Some of them are silly, while some are more meaningful, so hopefully just reading the list makes your life less boring and sparks your creativity.
Let’s dive in the list to quit your boring life and start living an interesting (and meaning) one!
1. Channel Your 7-Year-Old Self
What would he or she want to do right now? Color? Paint? Run around outside? Play dress up? Eat with your hands? Play that instrument hiding in the back of your closet that you haven’t touched in years?
Just because you’re a grown up doesn’t mean any of this stuff will be less enjoyable than you remember it. Give yourself permission to play.
2. Go Play with Kids
Speaking of little kids, if you have your own or access to any (in a non-creepy way, they’re your niece or your best friend’s kid, you get the idea) go play with them!
They didn’t create an entire show called Kids Say The Darndest Things because kids aren’t hilarious. They also keep things so simple, and we can really stand to be reminded of this and stop allowing ourselves to get bogged down in boring details.
3. Order a Hot Dog
While you’re eating it, Google: “What’s in a hot dog?” You decide whether or not you want to finish it.
4. For the Ladies: Wear Your Sexiest Lingerie Under Your Work Clothes
Your “little secret” will leave you feeling anything but boring all day!
5. Play Cell Phone Roulette
You’ll need at least one buddy for this. Scroll through the contacts in your phone, stop on a random one and call the person.
You could spark an incredible catch up session or be incredibly awkward. Neither are boring.
6. Fill out a Pack of Thank-You Cards
Give them to random people who probably don’t get thanked too often for doing what they do ever day.
Ideas: police officers, librarians, servers, baristas, cab drivers, sanitation workers, teachers, people behind any check out counter, receptionists, your friends, the guy at the falafel stand, etc.
7. Sign up for a Class in Something You’ve “Always Wanted to Do”, or Something That Makes You Really Uncomfortable
Ideas: pole dancing, salsa lessons, improv, pottery, cooking, knitting (yup, there are classes for this, too!), karate, boxing, something techy the workshops they run in Apple stores, get Rosetta Stone and learn that language you’ve always wanted to speak, etc.
What’s good about joining an interest class is that you will also meet new people!
8. Interview Your Grandparents About Their Lives
You can bet they’ve had some crazy experiences you probably never knew about.
9. Get up on Stage at an Open Mic Night
Whether you’re funny or not, get up on stage and just talk funny. And if you’re not, memorize a few of your favorite jokes and tell those!
10. Do Something for Someone Else That You Wish Someone Would Do for You
We all have a few ideas on this list. I promise you will feel amazing after and anything but bored.
11. Start a DIY Project in Your Home
It doesn’t have to be super complicated. If you need ideas, there’re plenty on Pinterest. Or you can also check out these 30 Awesome DIY Projects that You’ve Never Heard of.
12. Plan a Weekend Trip or an All-Out Vacation
This will give you something to look forward to.
Even if you don’t have the time or money to go on a vacation, plan for a staycation, which is same fun and relaxing!
Scroll down to continue reading article
13. People Watch
Find a bench in a crowded area (centers of transportation airports, bus stops and train stations are great for this!) and just observe.
People are infinitely interesting.
14. Eat Something You’ve Never Eaten Before
Bonus points if it’s a random fruit or veggie.
You can get your friends together for a night on the town or just pull up a video on and bust a move from your own living room.
If you’re feeling extra brave, you can even dance in public and get other people involved.
16. Go to and Search “Funny Pets” or “Funny Babies”
This is also a great quickie ab workout as you will be laughing hysterically.
17. Pick up a Book and Start Reading
Check out the NY Times Best Sellers lists and grab a new book you can get lost in.
18. Step Away from the Computer and Go Get Some Time with People You Care About in Real Life
stalking doesn’t count as real social interaction. You can even share this post with your friends and vote on which one you’d to do together!
19. Check out a Museum You’ve Never Been to Before
OK, depending on your interests, this one might actually be boring. If you love learning, art or different cultures though, this one is for you!
20. Write a List of Things You Desire and Truly Want
This is a great way to help you figure out the real reason why you’re feeling bored about your life. Maybe you haven’t really done things that you truly enjoy? Maybe what you’ve wanted to do all the time has been left behind?
Think about the list of things you really want to do, and ask yourself why you aren’t doing these things (yet). Then start taking your first step to make what you want happen.
Now go make your life interesting and live your dream life!
More About Living a Fulfilling Life
Featured photo credit: Kev Costello via unsplash.com
Supporting a Parent Who Has Lost a Child
Advice on offering help and support to a parent whose child has died
Last updated: 25 August 2016
If you have a friend or relative who has lost a child, they will be going through one of the most difficult experiences in life. Their world has been completely changed forever, and finding a way to help them through grief may feel almost impossible.
It is impossible to imagine the pain and confusion of losing a child unless you have experienced it yourself. Even then, everyone’s grief is unique so you cannot assume that a bereaved parent will feel certain things or behave in a certain way. Try to accept that you cannot know what they are going through, but you can try to be supportive and understanding.
Something as traumatic as the death of a child will have a profound impact on a parent, which may affect how they behave. Here are a few things to bear in mind if you are trying to support them:
- They may seem cold or distant. If your bereaved friend isn’t showing any emotion, is avoiding speaking or seems detached, this could be shock. This doesn’t mean they are grieving in the wrong way. When emotional pain is too much to bear, this is the mind’s way of protecting itself. Don’t pressure them to confront their grief before they are ready.
- They may be unable to perform daily tasks. Trauma and grief can leave the bereaved feeling physically incapable of doing basic chores such as cooking, cleaning, or even getting up in the morning. Don’t judge them for not being proactive – instead offer to help with household work.
- Grief does not have a time limit. A parent who has lost a child will grieve for the rest of their life. Although that child is gone, they will always be their child. Do not expect your friend to ‘get over it’. Even 20 years from now they may need support with grief.
- They need to grieve in the best way for them. Everyone grieves differently. Unless they are in danger of hurting themselves or those around them, let them cope with grief as they see fit.
- You cannot fix grief. Know that there is nothing you can do or say to stop them hurting, so don’t try to cheer them up or convince them that it’s not so bad. Often the bereaved just need someone to be there, rather than offer advice or solutions.
- Losing a child at any age is painful. It does not matter how old a child is, whether they were stillborn, a newborn, in school, or a fully grown adult, that parent still knows them as their baby. Do not assume that a loss is easier or harder because of a child’s age.
- Children cannot be replaced. Unfortunately, bereaved parents can hear a lot of hurtful comments after the death of a child, usually ignorance rather than intentionally being cruel. Saying things “You can always have more children” or “Well at least you have two other children” suggests that their child is replaceable, or that they should not be grieving. Try to avoid making comments this.
Ways to help
Sometimes it is difficult to know how to best support a grieving friend, especially if they are coping with something as traumatic as the death of a child. Here are a few ways you may be able to help and be a good friend to them in the weeks, months and years after the death:
- Don’t ignore them. It can be daunting talking to someone who has lost a child, but staying silent or avoiding them can be really hurtful. It can make them feel even more isolated.
- Don’t avoid the issue. Don’t be afraid to talk about their child, especially the first time you see them after the death. Acknowledge that something awful has happened to them by saying “I’m so sorry” or something similar. Ignoring their loss won’t undo it – it will just make them feel as though they should be ashamed of grieving.
- Support them in practical ways. Everyday chores may feel pointless and empty to the bereaved. Doing things grocery shopping, driving them to appointments, cooking or cleaning can be helpful and give them space to deal with their grief.
- Be patient and listen. It may be a while before they talk to you about their feelings, if they ever do. Feel free to ask them how they are doing, but don’t pressure them into sharing. If they do share, just listen. You don’t need to give advice or opinions unless they ask.
- Invite them to events. Social occasions can be a welcome distraction, depending on how the bereaved is feeling on that day. Start small – perhaps dinner at your house with a few friends. Give them an ‘escape route’ by letting them know it’s okay to cancel at any time or excuse themselves from dinner early. Most importantly, you might want to avoid events with children, especially if they are of a similar age to the child who died, as this could be painful.
- Don’t be discouraged if they reject invitations or your help. Just because your friend turns down help today doesn’t mean they won’t want it tomorrow. Keep inviting them to things and keep making small gestures of support without pressuring them to say yes. One day it might be just what they need.
- Don’t disappear after a few weeks. A lot of people are eager to help in the days and weeks after a bereavement, but offers of help often get fewer and fewer a month or so after the funeral. However, the months and even years after the death can be as hard, if not harder, than the initial bereavement. Try to keep in touch and continue offering support when you can.
Grieving for the child
It may be that you too are grieving after the death of the child. If you are a grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin or family friend, you could also be experiencing symptoms of grief such as shock, sadness, anger and anxiety. Even if you didn’t know them very well, the death of a young child can be very upsetting.
While you support the grieving parents, it is also important to let yourself grieve. Acknowledge what you are feeling and find some way of it expressing it. You might want to talk to a close friend or relative – as long as it is not the grieving parent.
For more information on how bereavement affects parents, you can read our page on coping with the loss of a child, or contact a bereavement support organisation for expert help and advice.