The loss of a child is an earth-shattering event no parent wants to imagine. But if tragedy does strike, parents, friends and family have a place to go in Central Kentucky to work through the grief.
Hospice of the Bluegrass provides several support groups for people grieving a loss, including groups for parents who recently lost an infant. Mary DePaola, LPCC, MS, is a bereavement counselor with Hospice of the Bluegrass. DePaola leads this group to help parents can know they are not alone in their situation.
“The loss of an infant or child is a unique loss,” DePaola said. “People very much want to find other parents who can relate to the daily grieving. People who know what it’s like to have emotional triggers. People who understand what it is like, day and night.”
Reducing isolation and normalizing the grief are key goals of the support group. It also approaches ideas parents may not have experienced yet. With help of the support group, parents come to realize the depth of the loss.
“It’s a life-long process,” DePaola said. “You will be thinking of the child through the different life cycle events. What would they look like, what they would be like, high school graduation, getting married. Any loss has associated losses. It’s not just the loss of a person, it’s all the dreams and hopes and a loss of a role, of being the care taker.”
Friends and family of those suffering can use Hospice as a resource as well. When a loved one suffers the loss of an infant, many people feel helpless. Grief counselors and general grief support groups teach friends how to be supportive in times of loss. DePaola believes one of the best things supporters can do for grieving parents is listen.
“People need to feel they can talk over and over again about loss and what they are experiencing,” DePaola said. “They need to know they are not being judged.”
Providing practical support is as important as emotional support. DePaola said when people are grieving they are exhausted. So offering to help with childcare or household chores is a great way to be supportive.
“If a holiday or birthday is coming up you can get gifts on their behalf since they might not feel like celebrating,” she said.
The next SIDS/Infant Loss Support Group is scheduled for Wednesday evenings from 6-7:30 p.m. August 1-29. You can register by calling 277-2700.
Grief 101 meets the first Wednesday of each month from 5:30-7 p.m. It is a drop-in class for the newly bereaved.