I’ll never forget the 24 hours or so after learning our baby no longer had a heartbeat. I sat at my computer at 4 in the morning and wrote THIS POST as I wept the most gut wrenching, bitter tears in all my life. I didn’t actually expect anyone to read it, and I didn’t plan on talking about it anymore after that moment, but suddenly a few thousand people read that post and the calls and messages starting rolling in.
One of the most common occurrences was heartfelt messages expressing sadness with us, and saying “if there’s anything you need, please let me know.” To be honest, I don’t think I ever responded to those messages. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what I needed. I needed our baby back, that’s all I knew. One person asked if I could use a care package, and I said I guess, I don’t know. Well, then they showed up later that day with the sweetest care package from Sweet Baby Ministries. I’m so glad they saw what I needed, even when I couldn’t.
If you’ve never walked through pregnancy or infant loss, or the loss of someone very close to you, it’s basically impossible to know how to support that person, or especially the pain of what they are feeling. And that’s why I’m writing this. I’m sure there are a million other blogs and articles out there on this topic, but I hope that I can provide something helpful from my own personal experience to those within my small sphere of influence.
1. Don’t Ask If They Need Anything
Someone going through loss is so consumed by their grief and pain that honestly, the only thing they need is to have the person back that they lost. We see your heart, and we know you want to help, and we feel immense gratitude toward you, but it’s just a very difficult question to answer. Instead of asking if they need anything…
2. Just Do Something
Start a meal train. Bring over gift cards. Drop off a supply of chocolate. Ask if they’ll be home and if you can come over and clean the kitchen. Bring over some fun coloring books or puzzles for their kids if they have small children. A few friends mailed cards with sweet, sweet words they’d written. Two different friends had special jewelry made for me. I’ll never forget those spontaneous acts of kindness.
3. Don’t Be Afraid To Sit With Them In Silence
The last thing I wanted was to be alone. But yet I didn’t really have the energy to talk or reach out to anyone. One of the things that stands out the most to me during this time was my sweet friend Madison just telling me she was coming over. She didn’t ask, she just showed up. She got me out of the house and we went and sat at Organic Squeeze and drank smoothies. She never pressured me to talk, even though I did talk some. She just knew that I needed someone to sit with me. That was one of the most meaningful things anyone could have done. Someone you know walking through grief may not have the ability to pick up and go as I did (my son was at school so I definitely was able), but just showing up with their favorite latte, pint of ice cream, or roll of sushi can be so, so meaningful.
4. Stay Away From Cliche Phrases
I was warned by others who had been in my shoes. Well meaning and loving people will come along and say something along the lines of “God has a plan.” Or worse yet, “maybe something would have been physically wrong with your baby and God was sparing you from all of that.” And just like they warned, I definitely received my fair share of those comments. You may be tempted to say something spiritual or deep, but a simple, “I am so sorry for your loss, and I’m so sorry you have to face this,” is enough. And maybe a big, genuine hug to go with it.
5. Don’t Force Them To Talk About Any Of It
Our community group from church was already scheduled to have a social dinner at our house the next day. They freed me from that obligation, but I really, really wanted them to still come. But then I had super crazy anxiety about having to talk about my feelings in front of everyone. THANK GOODNESS I never had to. We simply sat around eating our mexican food buffet, filled our plates with chips and queso, and talked about normal things while the kids ran around like lunatics. It was the normal I needed at the moment, and I’m so thankful they realized that. Later in the evening the guys were playing darts and games in the garage with the kids and I felt comfortable to talk about things. But it was because I was ready and it was on my terms.
I know I said this would be 5 ways to help, but I’m adding in one more.
6. Don’t forget about them a few months from now.
The initial shock of your friend’s loss will wear off. You will never feel it day in and day out as they do. You will carry on with your life, but remember that your friend will not. Yes, grief becomes less consuming and they will find a new normal, but the loss will never go away for them. Don’t be afraid to ask them how they are doing, even if it’s been 6 months, or a year. Don’t be afraid to pop in and say “hey, I saw this thing today that reminded me of you and (whomever they lost).” To know that this person they lost is still remembered by others will make them feel loved like none other.