As my husband and I approach our daughter's 2nd anniversary I want to share some resource material for those of you in the orbit of grief. Those of you circling the atmosphere of someone you love who has lost a child; grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends.
Whether you are a parent, sibling or friend it can be hard to navigate the fragility and complexity of loss. Knowing how to support the people that you love while also coping with your personal feelings of grief is hard.
I wanted to take a moment and curate a list of a few things you can do to support someone you love in these moments of profound loss.
Take the pressure off
When someone you love has lost a child, it is only natural for friends, family and people close to them to reach out. you want them to know that you are thinking of them and while the gesture is greatly appreciated, wanted and needed it can be overwhelming.
When I lost my father and our daughter passed so soon after, our phones and messages were full to the brim. So many people cared and it felt good to hear from them, but the thought of responding to those messages was too much. To engage in conversation, even when I wanted to, was too difficult. Even though I knew that they wouldn't have blamed me for not getting back to them, I still felt anxious about leaving them on read.
One person did something that changed the game for me; They started their message off by saying "Please don't feel obligated to respond, I understand. I just want you to know..."
That is all it took to relieve me of that pressure and leave me with the warmth and comfort of their support. I am still so grateful for that to this day. Now, anytime I am reaching out to someone when I know they are being bombarded by messages, I always let them know that there is no expectation to hear back. It a simple and powerful combination of words that will go a long way.
Say their name
If they've given their child a name; call them by it.
When you speak to them and when you give your condolences, always speak of their child by name. It validates that little life and lets your loved ones know that no matter how long they carried that child, no matter how long they were with them earth-side; that life matters.
My family still makes a point to say Lily's name and acknowledge her during times that she is missed. Like during holidays and other family gatherings. We need to know that our children are still remembered and that they still matter.
Try to avoid these common words of "comfort"
There are a few standard things that people say at times like these that, while well-meaning can be hurtful. Check out this list of the 5 things that are typically said in times of miscarriage and child loss and learn why these heartfelt words of comfort can cause a lot of pain.
There will be times where they feel like they can reach out but they just don't know how or can't seem to find the will to do it. I know that I struggled with asking for company or conversation, and I am normally pretty good at communicating my needs. It was just difficult.
So check in from time to time, always leading with no obligation to reply. A quick "hey just want you to know I am thinking of you. No need to reply, but if you need anything or want a visitor, I am here."
This part is critical...if you have extended the gesture of a visit and they say to come anytime without committing to a particular day, make sure you schedule one with them. If they've given you the green light it's because they want to see you. They don't want to impose a time and they aren't going to follow up with you if you don't show. It was a big step to say they want you with them, so be a pal and take over from there.
Make them something to eat
Grief can be all-consuming, and while that grief feasts on their will to do just about anything, they don't have the want or energy to consume much of anything at all. Make them a meal and leave it at their doorstep. Reminding them to eat and taking the work out of it is a huge help.
Remember significant dates
Remember birthdays, due dates and death dates. Set them in your calendar and make sure you reach out on those days. Those days are hard and they always will be. It is important to remind them that you've not forgotten.
Let them take the lead
It is natural to want to hear their story, but try to hold back and let them take the lead. Try to refrain from asking the tough questions, you can have that relayed to you by someone close to the family so not to have the parents relive the details aloud. The words are hard to say, so let them decide when and if they are ready.
Do something in honour of their child
There are a lot of little things that you can do to commemorate that little life. You can plant something in their honour, name a star after them, have a piece of jewelry made with their name, the options are endless. When We lost Lily, my best friend went on our registry and purchased one of the stuffies that we had on there. It is currently one of her little sister's favourite toys.
In child loss, there are some things you can do above and beyond honouring that life. You can purchase them a kit to take hand and footprints before their service (the funeral home will do this for you, no question). A friend that I made recently had lost her son, and her mother had taken one of his onesies and stuffed it, stitching it closed at each end to help her daughter sleep through the night. I thought that was so special.
Send them a support box through Lily's Purpose
Lily's Purpose is an initiative that I started in honour of our daughter to offer grief support boxes to families who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth and child loss. They a
re offered at no charge and provide resources for grief management, a reading list, some self-c
are items and other items to aid them at this difficult time.
For more information, check out the official Lily's Purpose page on my blog.