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How to support a loved one through child loss

Updated: Aug 3, 2022

It goes without saying that losing a child is one of the most devastating things someone can go through and when someone you love is going through that pain you may feel at a loss for what to do to help them. Its horrible feeling helpless when someone you love is suffering


Here are some things that meant so much to me, (note this will obviously depend on the individual person and your relationship with them)

 

1. Talk to them about their loss

I know we are terrified of saying the wrong thing and making things worse. I know before my loss there was a woman in my church who lost a baby. I despearly wanted to talk to her, to say something. For a month I was stressed and in tears because I felt something needed to be said, she lost a child but I didn't want to say the wrong thing. Knowing how much it means to me to have some one talk about my daughter makes me I wish I would have said something. This perspective has also helped me give grace to people who don't talk to me about my loss or in trying to be helpful say something hurtful. If its a loved one or a stranger and you find out that they lost or are losing their baby. An easy way to start is with "I am so sorry", but I encourage you to have this follow up question. • "Would you like to talk about it or would you like some space?"

This lets them know you care and are open to talking about their baby but also letting them know there is no pressure if they would rather not at them moment. If they decline, tell them that is completely okay but if they ever want to talk in the future you will be there.

If they say they would like to talk ask questions like: • What was their name? • Do you have something that reminds you of them" (mine is a purple butterfly for Aveline) But mostly let them talk, let them cry and just be there. Something to note and to avoid saying that triggers a lot of bereaved parents is comparing your loss to theirs. I have had many people say they lost a parent or a friend or a pet. Those are very painful losses and I am not saying this to diminish them but it is not the same. Each loss is unique. Even amongst my other mom friends who understand me and my pain best, we don't say "I know exactly what you are going through," because we don't. Each lost of a child is unique as well. We say something more like "I'm so sorry you are hurting, while I don't know exactly what you are going through I do understand the pain of losing my child and I'm here to listen."


 

2. Ask them what you can do to support them. Many people say with good intention "let me know if you need anything" It is very sweet but also very unhelpful. Why? Because if they are like me they hate bothering anyone on a good day. After a loss like this I had a hard enough time even caring if I got out of bed let alone the engery to come up with a list to "bother" other people with. When you ask to help give them 2 or 3 options. Take the need for them to really think out of it. For example instead of: "If you want food let me know" Try: I am going to bring you dinner this week would Monday or Wednesday work best for you?

Also if you are already going to be doing a task for yourself offer to do theirs as well, it helps them feel less like a bother.


• I am going to do laundry today, do you have anything you would like me wash for you?

• If the one who lost a baby has other children offer: I am going to the park with the kids on Tuesday would you like me to take "Childs name" with us? If you are feeling up for it we would love to have you come too but I want to give you the option for alone time if you need it"

 

3. Phone Calls & Checking in

Outside of our amazingly supportive families checking in on us via phone I had 2 close friends who called me. One called very week like clockwork and the other almost every week. Early on the said they were going to call and check on me if that was okay, and they did. They also said if at any time I didn't feel like talking just to not answer the phone and I could call them back or I could just wait and they would try again enxt week. It gave me support but took away all the pressure of feeling like I had to respond if I didn't want to. Sometimes they would call and I would be a sobbing blubbering mess. One asked "Do you want to talk about it or would you like to be distracted?" Again it took out the thinking. Lol at that moment I cried more and said I didn't know. She then asked me questions and let me talk about my pain and then a little later changed the topic and start telling me about her life and funny stories to cheer me up. It helps so much when people ask if I want to talk about Aveline or about anything else.

Even a year later those amazing friends call me several times a month. Words cannot describe how grateful I am for them. They dragged me out of some dark places.

4. Food: One of the friends who called lived out of state but she and many others sent us restaurant gift cards. Those were amazing because I had no motivation to cook and with all of our medical bills I didn't want to spend more money eating out. I also had a neighbor who I am still convinced is an angel from God. She moved in next door for 2 months to visit her family. She was their 1 month before and one month after our loss. It was really perfect timing. She first said to let us know when's he could bring food over. That first week our parents were there helping so we didn't need it. And later I didn't want to ask. However the next week she said she is making some food to bring her and asked if we had any foods we liked or disliked. I mentioned we were vegetarian and she said she is a great vegetarian cook and had some recipes she wanted to try. This amazing woman brought over 2-3 delicious and very healthy dishes every week until she left most of which I had never had before. It was so helpful not eating junk food which would not help with depression which I can guarantee would have been all we ate if she wasn't there. She also brought over gorgeous fresh flowers a coupe of times a week, saying "everyone should always have fresh flowers" (We also received some flowers from family and friends.) With no family near by this woman I barley know ended up being one of the biggest supports we had. She would offer to talk, give me a hug when I needed it, but mostly just gave us space, lots of food and flowers. She was truly and angel. I have another sweet friend from church who was also a huge support to me. She brought over food, heated it up for us and brought us flowers. Mostly she was there whenever I needed a friend and a hug. One day at church I was having a hard time with the sermon. (They talk about kids a lot in the Bible). I was sitting out in the foyer crying, trying to get the strength to go back in. This friend offered to go for a walk. We went and talked under a tree for the whole service. Her prayers, words of encouragement and just taking the time meant so so much.




In summary: 1. Ask them about their child 2. Check on them regularly 3. Offer to do tasks for them that you are already doing 4. BRING THEM FOOD or gift cards. Don't ask if they want food, just ask which day would be best to bring it. Please note as I mentioned, depending on the indctual person and where they are at in their greiving they might say "no thank you" and that is okay. Follow up with "would you like me to check in with you next week or month?" If they say no, please respect their space and leave them alone. 9/10 will accept your help but not everyone will. Don't take it personally, they have way to much to process in the moment. Just let them know you care and are there for them and you will wait for them to reach out to you.


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