How can we help others support us better? Jane Park, our Bereaved Parent Support Coordinator, suggests one way is through sharing with them how we like to receive love.
Do you know what your Love Language is?
We all have different ways in which we feel loved and it’s great to find out what your Love Language is so that those who love you, whether your partner, family or friends, can show you love in the way you appreciate it most.
If you’ve not thought about this before, why not have a look at the quiz.
How does this change when we are bereaved? Those of us who have lost a child know that it shakes the very foundations of who we are and that our emotions are often all over the place for such a long time. Taking all this into consideration, does our love language still have any relevance?
I believe it can. Knowing our love language can help those around us to know how best to support us, bring us comfort and how to show love to us in a way that can really make a difference. I’ve been thinking about how people can use the five love languages to show love to people who have been bereaved. Below are just a few ideas – I’m sure there are many more.
1. Love Language: Acts of Service
For these people, actions speak louder than words. Bereaved parents might appreciate support in the following ways:
- Providing meals (not just lasagne!)
- Cleaning, ironing or completing household chores
- Taking any other children in our family to school or out for the day
- Buying Christmas presents for other people, so we don’t have to think about it
- Anything which allows us time to focus on those things which are really important for us to do, such as looking after our surviving children.
2. Love language: Receiving Gifts
People with this love language feel loved when they are given thoughtful gifts. Bereaved parents might appreciate some of the following:
- Cards including memories of our child (these add to our now limited bank of memories)
- Anything that is linked to the one that we’ve lost
- Flowers (at random times as well as special times)
- Cards at anniversaries and birthdays for years to come, not just in the early days
- Cards which show real thought. Those saying ‘Happy Christmas’ often aren’t helpful, so it may be better to send a blank card or one which says, ‘Thinking of you at Christmas.’
3. Love language: Quality Time
If you have this primary love language, then you likely value spending time with someone and feeling seen and heard. A bereaved person may really appreciate some of the following ways of showing support:
- Just being around when we’re feeling low (not necessarily doing anything, just being there)
- Listening, listening and listening some more
- Allowing us to talk excessively about the one we’ve lost
- Accepting that we’re not ready to socialise (for longer than you might expect) but that going for a walk or a coffee might be just what we need.
4. Love language: Words of Affirmation
With this as your love language, you place high value on the words people say to you and feel loved through them. This is often hard for a bereaved person as so many people find it hard to say the right thing. Here are some ideas which might help:
- Accept you won’t always get it right
- Do say something, even if you don’t know what to say
- Please don’t tell us ‘You’re strong’ as it makes us feel that we have to pretend to be
- Tell us that you’re here for us, for the long-term
- Don’t try to put it right
- Affirm that what we’re feeling is OK and normal.
5. Love language: Physical Touch
For people with this love language, physical touch speaks louder than words. A bereaved parent might appreciate support in these ways:
- Giving us a hug without saying anything at all
- Holding our hand can say, ‘I’m here for you, and I’m not going away.’
- A hand on our shoulder can say, ‘I’m thinking of you.’
- Understanding that intimacy can be difficult and we may not feel ready for it just yet
I wonder if any of these have resonated with you? If so, why not be courageous and have the conversation with your partner, family or friends and let them know how you would most feel love at this time. You could even print out this article and give it to them.
I have found that many people want to show us love when we’re hurting, but so often get it wrong. Maybe knowing our love language and how we receive love would be a good place to start?
Perhaps it’s also time for us to ask others who are grieving what their love language is, so that we can learn to show them love in better ways too.
More information about Love Languages can be found in Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages.