Angelversary > How to help bereaved parents?

By Kara L.C. Jones
KotaPress Editor

So sometimes I get inquiries from well-meaning care givers, family, or friends of bereaved families who are living after the death of a child. They will pose questions to me about what to do as time passes. They want to know how to help these families after 4 or 10 or 20 years have passed since the date of the child's death. They say things like, "Shouldn't they be over this by now?" or "Why do we need to do anything special when this should be behind them by now?" Or sometimes they are actually of a more sensitive nature and really do realize that they should do something, but they honestly cannot think of what to do.

This article is my answer to all of you. My son died four years ago this month. While I am a "highly functioning" individual, this month still sucked and I still miss my kid. And the people in my life did *AMAZING* things to offer support to me and my husband. So I'm going to let this article serve as a model for all of you -- and function as a memorial to my son. The following are precious gems that we were given this month in honor of our son's life, death, memory. You, too, could do something just like this to offer comfort to a family you know who is enduring the rest of their lives without one of their children.

Snail mail gifts

Kota CD primped up - a collection of songs that other bereaved parents put together to showcase music that functions as "memorial" or "comfort" in the hard times. We got an extra copy of it in the mail from a family who made fancy labels for the cd, the jewel case, and just wanted to make it specific for Dakota's birthday.

Grief beads - handmade, stunning piece of art, made of the tiniest beads I've ever seen. The delicate nature of the beads is to represent all our tiny children who are dead, but remembered everyday. It is a beautiful piece of art that I can keep in my pocket!

Signed, framed print of an angel by Nancy Noel - this amazing print holds an image of what I dream my son would have looked like at four years old, and yet holds the reality that he is gone. It is a beautiful painting that brings me comfort and acknowledges all we've lost. Check it out at:
Nancy Noel's Angel Studio

A handmade bracelet of letter beads spelling out "Dakota" - this a wonderful little beaded bracelet, sort of like what we might have received if Dakota had lived. It's an amazing gift that lets me carry his name with me!

A hand written note saying our parenthood and our son is remembered - we got several notes from friends and family telling us that they remembered our son and that they were holding us in their thoughts and prayers this month. Most appreciated!

Email gifts

Graphics from a friend for our website - a talented friend sent us these graphics:

Award for our site - we were honored to get this award for our website and loss support work:

We also got many, many e-postcards with wonderful notes and beautiful pictures from lots of other bereaved parents, from family, from friends, from other loss support advocates around the world. We are so grateful for their kind words, thoughts, and prayers. Some of the letters were written to me and my husband, some were written directly to Dakota. I'm going to share the following emails as a sample of what support can look like if you REALLY WANT TO SUPPORT BEREAVED PARENTS! For the sake of privacy, I have left off the names of those who sent these to us.

Example 1:

Dear friends,

In just a few minutes it will be officially Dakota's day. Do what you need to do on this day. And if you don't have the energy to do anything and need someone to do it for you, please email me. If you want to talk or need a shoulder just to rest upon please call me 555-555-5555. I sure wish things were different and you were doing all the things we so wish to be doing. Send you some peaceful thoughts and loads of love.
Love to you both.

Example 2:

Kara and Hawk,
I woke up this morning to the brightest sun we have had in a long time. I thought of Dakota. This is his very special day and I know these days can be both very painful and at the same time , a time of
reflection of the beautiful child that we carried and gave birth to. So I wish you both peace today and a feeling of warmth that only Dakota can give to you. I will be thinking of you today all day and
lighting a candle for Dakota... much love and peace to both of you.

Example 3:

Happy 4th Bithday to Dakota!
On this blessed day...You are being held so softly, yet securely this day with your soul-mates in one another. You are both amazing parents...on this special day, I ask you to celebrate Dakota's gift of that to you. Others may not understand, but we do. Lean into Dakota's love...let it bathe you in comfort and peace this day and the days to come. A candle will bless our table today for all of you.

Example 4:

(((Hawk and Kara))))
I opened my eyes this morning and thought" Today is dakota's day" I started to cry. My heart felt heavy for the two of you. Missing your little boy. I wish I could move this mountain of grief for you.

Example 5:


Hey little man, Happy 4th Birthday. Has it really been that long? Wow. I just got to know your Mom last May, she is an amazing woman. You have given her great strength and power and she continues to use it in such helpful, giving ways. She has allowed herself to "feel" all of her feelings and she has chosen to allow others to enter her feelings and her world.

I met your Mom for the first time at a poetry seminar she was giving at the MISS conference. She gave me the power to release and channel my emotions into writing, into words that provided great solace as I continue to heal. These words did something even more powerful, they gave me a voice. I am able to share with others my deepest love and my deepest pain. You Mom, through you, gave me that. She continues to be a force of nature, I know and feel you every step of the way. She now lives for 2 and she has not let you down. She continues to fight for the lives of yet unborn babies, she continues to open doors for those parents left in the wake of the tragedy of losing their own flesh and blood. She continues to be an inspiration for so many of us here and I know she is and inspiration to you. Through her voice, through her love, through her commitment we know and love you too.

Little man, through you, through your life and now through your death we are always together. A hummingbird just buzzed past me this morning and I know you are just checking in. We are never too far away.Have a great 4th Birthday, you have only just begun... We have lit our candle in your memory with the faith that love surrounds us today and everyday.

With love and peace always,
Your forever friends,
from a bereaved mom & her angel

Example 6:

My thoughts are with you today on Dakota's 4th birthday! Many hugs to you both!!!

Example 7:

((((Kara and Hawk)))) sending you both warm thoughts and tender hugs on this difficult, and oh so poignant day. I know Dakota is proud of his mom and dad....look what wonderful work they do! And I know how you ache to hold him in your arms. I hope you are able to do something special in his memory today, and that you are able to share this day as you have shared this journey....side by side, hand in hand, together. Many hugs.

Example 8:

You and Dakota have been on my mind all day. Even when I was dealing with my own stuff, my mind always wandered back to you.

Example 9:

Happy 4th Birthday, Dakota. You are loved.

Poetry gifts

Lastly, both my mother and my step-daughter wrote poetry for Kota for his fourth birthday. My mom's poetry is in this issue under the article titled "Two for Kota from Nanna-Memoo" and I hope you'll click through and read her loving poems written for her grandson there. And then, the following is the poem my step-daughter, Bethany Jones, wrote for her little brother:


by Bethany Jones

A shuffle, a giggle, running feet. You got me. I laugh. I admit defeat. "Tag, you're it!" You scream and run. Once again the games had begun. I'm running to catch you, and all the faster you go. The game, our game, we played but lasted only a few months. But I still remember all those crazy goose hunts. You were the best at hiding away, in the bushes, in your mom's tummy, you liked to stay, forgetting that your giggle always gives you away. But when we started playing I didn't think it would END so fast. Shhhhh. Is that the phone? I pick it up. And I hear a voice. It's quiet. It's sad. Lots of noise in the background. It's dad, I say with cheer! But when he spoke I was filled with fear. The message he had was filled with no joy. I sat back and listened. He spoke in a tone I had never heard. He shuddered with every word. He choked out the words, "Dakota died" and in disbelief all I could say, "Don't joke like that, it's not funny!" I could tell he was holding back tears as he said, "I'm not joking, he's gone." All I could do was go to my room and cry as Dakota's beautiful giggle faded. All I could do is ask why? Why did my baby brother have to die? Why was he chosen to go so soon? He never even got to gaze up at the moon. He never got to see my smiling face. He never even made it past first base. We all wanted him here, more than words can say. But in your memory, Dakota, we'll always play.


Can you see that it is not hard to help bereaved families as time passes? It is simple. It is an honest consideration for the fact that these people will live the rest of their lives without their children. It is an honest acknowledgement of their stunted parenthood. It has nothing to do with your inability to deal with your own mortality or the mortality of your own children. It has everything to do with getting beyond yourself to offer the bereaved parent some honest support. If you make the effort to get past yourself -- it is likely that the bereaved parent will see that and appreciate it and make every effort to get past their grief to acknowledge your life, too. It is called respect. It's called CO-EXISTANCE! It shows that their grief does not cancel out your children and life BUT your children and life do NOT cancel out their children and lives either.

You can try this or you can lose those bereaved parents all together -- because you know what? Bereaved parents have lost so much already that they will not have much difficulty in just cutting off from family, friends, and care givers who will not accept them as they are, where they are, and how they continue to miss their children over time. Your children come first, right? Why shouldn't their love for their children come first, too? Honoring the love and memory of their children will always mean more than putting up with well-meaning family, friends, and care givers who are determined to make them "get over it" or "move on" or "heal" in ways that will leave their children forgotten.

I offer this as one woman's perspective.

I offer this as a way for you to do something effective to keep bereaved parents invovled in life, to help them find ways of offering support back to the world at large, while honoring their parenthood even after the deaths of their children.


Just two cents worth from a mother who is living the rest of her life without her child.

About the Author

Kara has been using poetry and other expressive arts tools on the grief journey since the death of her son in 1999. Her poetic and non-fiction works have been included in publications such as New Works Review, PoetsWest, Real Henna, Shared Heart Foundation's "Meant To Be", LightHearts Publication's "Soul Trek", MISSing Angels Newsletter, American Tanka, Mother Tongue Ink's We'Moon, Honored Babies, Cup of Comfort series, and more. She is a Carnegie Mellon graduate who co-founded KotaPress with her husband Hawk Jones. Her books "Mrs. Duck and the Woman" as well as "Flash of Life" have both been released thru KotaPress. She is currently in an apprenticeship working toward Master level of Reiki. And she founded where she is exploring the ancient art of henna and its uses for ritual and healing.

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