Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What Should I Say? What Should I Do?

People often ask me what they can do to help someone who has lost a baby. I thought it would be a good thing to post about. Here are some of my ideas:

Ideas for what to say/do when someone has lost a baby:
Some ideas compiled from Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

-Say something! When we lost our Parker there were so many people who didn't dare say anything to us because they didn't know what to say. Friends would avoid us if they saw us at the store. You don't need to preach to us or say something profound. Usually what means the most is, "We're thinking of you" or "You're in our prayers" or "We love you". And if you really can't think of anything to say, just hug us and hold us. We'll feel your love.

-Don't avoid them. I know it's hard to know the right words to say, but just being there for them so they can cry on your shoulder means more than you'll ever know.

-Please don't say that you know how we feel because you don't; unless you too, have also experienced the death of a child. And if you have, please share your story with them and be patient while they share theirs.

-It's great that people say, "Let me know if you need anything," but let's be honest here: most people are not going to call you, even if they really need something. You need to take the initiative and just DO something. When our son died, one friend called me and said, "I'm bringing you a soda and a candy bar. What's your favorite kind?" Other friends rented some movies for us to watch and brought us some homemade popcorn. These two things meant the WORLD to me. Take the initiative and just do something for them.

-If you are running errands, call to see if they need anything from the store.

-Let them know that the death of their baby affected you, also. Validate their child's life. Let them know you are sad.

-Let them share their story with you. Over and over again if necessary. Sometimes, they need to keep going over the details until they seem real.

-Send them a card. Let them know you are thinking of them and care about them.

-Give them something with their child's name on it. An ornament, a magnet, a figurine. Seeing or hearing your child's name means the world to any parent, but especially parents who have lost their child.

-If they have other children, please remember them. The siblings will be grieving also. Offer to take them on an outing, because it takes some time for the parents to face the reality that "life goes on."

-Please arrange meals for the family. Not only did they just have a baby, but they are also grieving. Cooking will be the last thing they want to worry about.

-Remember the baby on his/her birthday. Mark the birth date of the baby on your calendar so you can send a note or call. It makes me smile when people call and say, "I was thinking of Parker today". It means so much to me when people remember his special day. Just to hear the name of my baby or to see it in print gives me comfort.

-Offer to come over to throw a load of laundry in the wash, or other light-duty house work.

-Give a gift basket just for mom. Bubble bath, shower gel, stress relieving soaks, candles, etc. You could also give lounge clothing and a box of chocolates or other sweets.

-Plan a pamper night for the mom. A good friend of mine said, "We're giving you a make-over!" And they cut my hair, colored it, and made me feel like a queen again.

-If you think about giving them a call or stopping over for a visit, don't think about it - just do it. I can't tell you how many people I've had come up to me and say, "I wanted to call you or stop by, but...."

-Don't tell them their child is in a better place. How could anywhere be better than in mother's arms? Although this comment is well-intended, it can still hurt more than you know.

-Acknowledge their pain. Also acknowledge their strength. Many people would try to minimize my experience by saying, "At least you didn't get to know him, that would have been worse." Or they'd say things like, "He never took a breath? Oh, then he wasn't alive" or "At least you can have more children." Any mother can tell you that you love your child like crazy before they are even born. And any mother who has felt a child move inside her can attest to the fact that her child is/was, in fact, alive. And no matter how many children you have, you can never replace the one you lost. I appreciated those who acknowledged how hard my loss was for me and also complimented me on how strong I must have been to get through it.

-Give them helpful books. If they are religious, buy them a book that pertains to their beliefs and that will offer them comfort. Find quotes from their prophets and church leaders that will help them through.

-Write the baby a note. I know it seems weird, but at my son's funeral we had people write letters to our son and then we kept them. I love being able to read back on them now. It also helps solidify that my child was real and that others loved him, too.

-Just be there for them. Let them cry when they need to cry. Hold them when they need a hug. Don't run from them when they shed their tears. It is a difficult thing to ask, but it lets them know you care.


I'm sure there are many, MANY more helpful things you could do to help someone who has experienced loss. These were just a few ideas. Hopefully they will help you help others.

Please feel free to leave comments and offer more ideas/suggestions for things you've done or for things that have comforted you.