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Validation: Affirm the Feelings Grieving Parents May Have During the Holidays with S.A.V.E.


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Grieving a baby loss can make holidays challenging for carrying-to-term families. SAVE — Support, Acknowledge, Validate, and Embrace — is a simple model you can use to help.

Depending on where in the carrying-to-term or grief process a parent is, grieving parents may struggle to accept that the heightened sense of grief they may be feeling at the holidays is an acceptable or valid emotional response. Worrying that emotions are not okay only increases the difficulty grieving parents face along their carrying-to-term journey.

Support is the first caring concept in the SAVE model. 
SAVE stands for Support, Acknowledge, Validate, and Embrace.

You can help by simply validating whatever emotional responses grieving parents in your life express. Validation is simply the recognition or affirmation that a parent’s feelings and experiences are valid, worthwhile, and accepted.

Grief has No Timetable

When a parent feels that they have been grieving for an appropriate amount of time, or that they have been coping well, or as though they have many reasons to be thankful, they may feel they should no longer be grieving. They may feel as though they no longer have the right to talk about their grief, express their emotions, or ask for the support they need.

Friends and family who wish to help grieving parents can anticipate this. Let the grieving parents in your life know that whatever they feel is okay. Let them know that you understand that grief is a journey and that the holidays can be a challenging time along that journey. 

There’s No One Way to Feel

Keep in mind that a person can feel extremely thankful for the things they have, joyful about the family and friends around them, AND feel extreme grief over a loss. It’s normal to feel multiple emotions at once. One powerful emotion does not invalidate another. 

During the holidays, we are expected to feel joyful — but that doesn’t mean we will always feel joyful. Grieving parents must be allowed to express the full range of emotions they may be feeling, including their need to express grief. Let them know that you understand both joyful and grieving feelings are authentic and normal. 

When you affirm the difficulties the holiday season may pose to parents coping with neonatal death or grieving a baby loss, you give them valuable support in the form of validating their emotions. Affirming a grieving parent’s right to still experience grief or still need some extra help can make a big difference.

Accept and Affirm Emotions

This holiday season, when a parent expresses their grief or other emotions, validate them. Even if you do not fully comprehend their grief — or even if it might not be how you think you would navigate this experience — validate their feelings as worthy and deserving of expression. 

Validation, like acknowledgment, is important for grieving parents because it is another form of permission. When you recognize emotions as natural, normal, and real, you are giving your loved one permission to feel or grieve in whatever way is authentic for them. There is great healing power in simply feeling accepted and affirmed by others.

Both Show and Tell

Let the grieving parents in your life know that their grief process is normal and worthwhile. Affirm that complex feelings are understandable given the magnitude of what they are facing or have faced. Recognize that when grieving parents show you how they are really feeling, this is an act of trust that deserves affirmation.

Aside from verbal affirmation, you can also validate a grieving parent’s concrete needs. If a grieving parent asks for help, validate it by offering to meet their need — whether it is a meal, the gift of your time and listening ear, or simply your permission to be however they need to be this year. Whatever form it takes, validation is one of the most powerful gifts you can give.

Offering validation is a great way to care for families coping with neonatal death or remembering a baby this holiday season. Validate is the third concept in the SAVE model. Learn ways you can Support, Acknowledge, Validate, and Embrace grieving parents in our continuing 5-part series.