Thursday, December 4, 2008

How to Help Someone Who Has Lost A Child

This list was posted on SHARE by SuzanneMarie, Mom to Christopher on earth, and Hope, Lily, and Jonathan in Heaven. With her permission I post it here. I think she did a great job explaining what it is like to live with the grief of losing a child.


If someone you know has lost a loved one, you probably have no idea what to do. Our society does not prepare us to deal with grief, our own or someone else's. These suggestions and strategies are intended to help you understand what may be helpful to a grieving person. As Christian brothers and sisters, we have a responsibility to one another, and when one of us grieves, the rest need to act.

Please do not ignore or avoid us. We are grieving a terrible loss and do not want to grieve your absence as well.

If you do not know what to say or do, tell us. I do not know what to say or do. We don't either, but your presence and patience are comforting.

If we start to cry, do not feel like it is your fault for talking to us. We cry a lot and you did not cause our tears. Stay with us while we cry. If we are in public and can't get hold of our tears, take us someplace quiet where we can sit down and then sit with us.

If you get uncomfortable, please do not leave. Grief is just uncomfortable.

If we ask you to help us in some way, please do it if you can. If you can't, please look for someone else who can. It is terribly difficult to ask for help, and if we actually do make a request, we really need it.

If we do not ask for help, ask us, "Can I help you with anything?" If we say no, ask again. If we say no again, don't believe us. Find a close friend who knows us well and inquire about ways to help. . .practical stuff, emotional support, or fun distraction like a trip to the coffee shop may be in order.

Daily responsibilities are nightmare right now, just another stress we can't handle. Show up at our house with a bag of groceries, a vacuum cleaner, tickets to take our children to the fair, or nothing at all. Just show up. While you visit, pop a load of laundry in the washer.

If you only have 30 free minutes, we don't mind. We will appreciate whatever company you can offer us.

Let us talk about our loved one and listen as we tell you stories.

If someone we love has died, do not say, "It is for the best," even if you believe it is. Tell us you are sorry for the death of our child/spouse/parent/sibling/best friend.

If we get mad at you or say something hurtful, please forgive us. The last thing we want to do is hurt someone, especially someone who is willing to be with us. We are just hurting so much and it comes out in inappropriate ways sometimes.

Please accept that we will feel angry, sad, numb, crazy, and many other things. This will make you uncomfortable, but please don't avoid us. We are more uncomfortable than you can imagine right now.

Please send us a card when you learn of our loss.

Send us flowers.

Remember our children (if we have any living with us). When you visit, bring them a small toy, cool rock, or magazine you think they'd like. And if we forget to express our gratitude for your kindness to our child(ren), it is not intentional rudeness. We are truly grateful for your gesture.

If we have miscarried early in pregnancy (before 20 weeks is considered a miscarriage, after 20 weeks the baby is considered stillborn), our response will likely fit into a range: we may be saddened at the loss of the pregnancy but accept it as a part of having children, or we may grieve the loss as the death of our child. You can figure out how we feel with a question like, "How are you?" If we begin to sob and say "I miss my baby, " then you know where we're at.

Wherever we are on the scale of grief with miscarriage, send us a card. If we are in the more accepting part of the range, an "I'm thinking of you" card is good. If we are grieving the death of our baby, a sympathy card is appropriate.

Please remember significant dates associated with our loss.
* The anniversary of our loss.
* The birthday of our loved one. (In the case of infant death or miscarriage, these events may be the same date.)
* In the case of miscarriage or stillbirth, ask our due date and remember it. . .for years to come.
* Our birthday, holidays, especially Mother's Day and Father's Day if we grieve our child or parent.
* If we have no living children, it is even more important to remember Mothers and Fathers Days.

Do not avoid speaking of our loved one. We really want to talk about him or her.

Do not fear you will remind us of our loss, for it is always with us.

If we do not feel up to discussing our loved one or grief, accept our feelings and move on to another topic.

If you wish to do something beyond offering us your friendship and ear, make a donation to a specific cause. For example, if our child or parent died of a certain disease, a donation to a research foundation that studies that disease will have very special significance.

Release a balloon in memory of our loved one, and write us a note that you did this.

If nothing comes to mind and you wish to do something, donate a book to the public library in memory of our loved on. We will be happy to know that the library patrons are reading of our special person and remembering them with us.

Be patient with us. We will not be better all at once. We will seem better then we will seem worse. We will seem at peace then we will be suddenly angry. In fact, we may never be the same again. Please don't expect us to be. And please please do not suggest that we should.

But most of all, pray for and with us. More than any other gesture, we will find comfort in your prayers and presence.

Remember that for every person on the planet and every situation imaginable, there is a different response and grief journey.

This is about the loss of Hope. She died sometime in May of 2004 in her momma's womb, for no known reason. For those of you who have never experienced the loss of a baby, or a child, or any of your loved ones, this will help you walk along side someone who has and is now in a dark place. You can't go there. In fact, you will prefer to walk away and forget about it. But your friend must live with this always. Buck up and offer yourself to one who has lost everything.

1 comment:

amy said...

It has been 17 years since I have lost my husband. My son was only one year old. My husband's death was tragic and unexpected.
In the last4 years I have gone through a very troubling divorce. I went to see a psychiatrist whom I believe has supported me in regaining hope and a true purpose in life.
Just two weeks ago, I learned he had lost his son. His death was unexpected. I have send the family a card with my condolences. This is an unusual situation. How do I offer support in the healthiest way possible?