Don’t try to be a counselor…simply be a friend.
Point them toward hope. You may be wondering, “If I can’t answer the why, what can I tell them?” This is where hope comes in.
I Corinthians 15 talks about death. I think it makes an interesting comparison when it talks about the “sting” of death. You see, death stings, doesn’t it? The sting can come unexpectedly. The sting is painful. The sting can make you numb. The sting hurts. You never get over the sting. I think you need to be honest and tell parents this. They will never get over the death of their child. They will get through it, but they will never get over it. It will sting them for the rest of their lives. There may be times when the sting subsides a little, but it will always be there. And later there will be triggers that cause the sting to hurt as much as when they were first stung. The trigger may be a song they hear, a birthday that reminds them there will be no party for their child, an empty bed, a toy that sits undisturbed. Time does not heal all wounds.
You can’t take the sting away. But what you can do is point them to what I Corinthians 15 goes on to say.
“Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:
Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
What you can point them to is the hope we have of eternal life. They will get to see their child again. Death is not the end. This can give them comfort and give them something to hang onto even in the midst of the sting of death.
Look for practical ways you can come alongside them.
• Help them with funeral arrangements.
– special songs they would like used?
– special memories they want shared?
– special scriptures they would like read?
• Provide meals.
• Run errands for them.
• Help watch their other children.
• Get them connected to grief counseling.
• You obviously can’t do all this by yourself. Ask other people to assist you in this.
Don’t forget about them after the funeral. Don’t disappear. After two weeks, people tend to move on and stop checking on the grieving family. Be there for them. Give them some space if they want it, but remember that the world can be a lonely place for someone who has lost a child. Continue to walk with them. It’s a journey they will be on for the rest of their lives.