How To Help A Grieving Parent
I've had a lot on my mind lately. It's been so interesting because I have recently had so many people reach out to me asking me how they can help a dear friend who has just lost a child. First, let me say that it breaks my heart into pieces for each of the families I learn of. Second, I'm honored that people would even think to ask me how they can help. Third, there really are good, no amazing people out there who just want to help but feel so helpless. (I'm sure many of our family and friends have felt this same way for us. They want to help, but just truly don't know what to do.)
Now I know that everyone grieves in different ways, and every loss is a different case. So I ask you to just really think, ponder and pray about what you can do for those you know who are struggling through this crazy, long and sometimes dark path of child loss.
Here are the suggestions I have found I have been giving as of late, in no particular order:
- Just be there. Let them know you are there if they ever want to talk. They might not, and if they are like me won't want to for awhile. But randomly things would and do come up for me in the middle of conversations and I would open up just a little from time to time. So just wait patiently, expecting nothing, but be prepared to just listen when those moment happen.
- Send cards in the mail. A few dear friends were so kind to send little notes of "Just Thinking of You" cards randomly. Each one lifted my heart, made me cry and made me feel so loved and remembered. Send them when you feel inspired, and even months and years later. Each one truly touched my heart, and I have seriously kept each and every single one! I have a special box they go in.
- Send little messages on Facebook, email or text. Again each one means the world to me, and again I have kept every single one. But don't expect a response, they responded in their hearts immediately. Just know that they received it, and they were touched by your thoughtfulness. (But don't be too overbearing with these messages either. Give them some breathing room too.)
- Call once in awhile. Just a little check in. They may not answer, but that's okay. They may be having a rough day. Just leave a message. And should they answer, all you need to say is "I was thinking of you today." That's really all that needs to be said. If they do want to talk, just listen, even if it's silent for a bit. And it's okay if they are crying on the other end. Crying is a daily thing in their new journey of grief.
- Give them a book. We have had so many books given to us that have truly been so healing. In fact we call them our "Healing Books." Here is our reading list (click here).
- Drop a big package, or have one delivered of tissues with a note "Just want you to know we love you and are thinking of you." There will never be too many tissues on hand at their house to catch those falling tears. (I personally give hand embroidered handkerchiefs now to those I meet or hear about. I carry a special one my grandmother gave me before she passed everywhere with me. It's my way of saying I know you are going to cry, I know this road is hard but you are loved and thought of in those moments.)
- Have a necklace or bracelet made for them with their child's name or initials on it. Anything they can wear, even shirts for them or their living children with their child's name is a treasure for sure! I rarely go a day without wearing a special piece given to me by dear ones reminding me of Miles.
- Make dinner, or if you live far away have pizza or something delivered. People don't really know this but I didn't really cook much of anything for over a year after Miles passed. Cooking and grocery shopping were absolute torture!!!! We cook and shop for our children and their needs in mind. So doing this was just a constant stab to the heart. Some dear friends even made us two weeks worth of meals in a bag, that were life savers for us. Oh and another angel mom stocked my fridge when I had Clara, that was such a blessing!
- Give the gift of soft and uplifting music. Losing a child is such a life changing event. The last thing Mark and I wanted was to fill our home and hearts with things that were loud that felt so cruel and unimportant. In fact Mark just barely listened to the radio for the first time this past month. We mostly try and have uplifting and classical music in the home.
-The most important thing of any is remember their child. Speak their child's name. Help them remember those everyday moments you witnessed and cherished with their child too. These are more precious than gold and silver to a grieving parent. When you speak their name and remember moments with them, they are going to cry, but that's okay. It's the fact that you loved their child and remember them that is bringing tears to their eyes. Remember their child's birthdays and milestones they would be having too. The hardest part about losing a child is watching everyone elses lives move on and move forward while you are frozen and even stuck in two worlds now. One that you held that beautiful child and people knew their face, their smile, their laugh; a world that now feels like the best dream ever. While the other is the world cruelly moving forward, changing and growing without your child physically there that people don't see or know your child anymore.
For Mark and I we have experienced two sides of reactions of others. Those who don't know what to say and or do, and so they avoid us like an awful plague. This is more hurtful than anything! And then there are those who don't know what to say, and maybe say the wrong thing. But that's okay, because neither Mark nor I can imagine how it must be to want to help so much, but not know what to do. So we don't hold anger or judgement towards things maybe misunderstood. We both personally feel that it's better to say "I love you and I have no words to express my true sadness and ache for you" rather than say nothing at all.
Again, I know every person grieves differently. So some of these things may not be helpful. But I hope and pray that maybe there is one thing on this list that may help you help another grieving parent. More than anything just show them tender and true love. They need all the love they can feel in their lives for a long time, not just weeks or month after. Be thoughtful and considerate as you think about how you can help another. And can I just say from those of us who have been lifted by your kind acts of love, THANK YOU! Each and every message, card, text, gift, flower sent and hug given has truly been appreciated!!!