I’ve dreaded these moments, but I know they will happen again and again. It will continue because it’s this life, and there is pain and suffering here, but it doesn’t neccasarily make it any easier. Another person I know has lost a child. Another family is dealing with the grief and pain that I know so well and I am so incredibly sad for them.
I’ve been pondering how family and close ones to someone grieving their child can support them. It’s a very difficult topic to think about because everyone grieves so differently, and what was really helpful for me, might not be something that would help another.
I get it, it’s so scary not knowing what to do. Someone who is grieving is in such a vulnerable and tender state. It’s no wonder you don’t know what to do. I know you care. I know you want to show your love. I know you want to take away their pain, even if it’s just one tiny dot of the pain. But it’s scary because you don’t want to say or do the wrong thing.
I remember before Aria died that I was so awkward around death and grief. I have not dealt with grief too often in my life, and I wanted to support the ones I knew who were grieving, but I was so unsure what to do. I felt that I wanted to help, but I wasn’t sure how. I thought often about that person and wished there was something I could do, but I didn’t know how I could help so I did nothing.
Now, after I have experienced death and grief so close, it’s still a mystery in some ways. It’s a mystery because everyone responds to death so differently. Each person will react and feel things differently that makes it difficult to say that anything is black and white. I do think there are things that someone who is in a supporting role can learn to help their friend out. Trying to understand grief is a big step in helping them out.
It’s good to remember that especially right away, but even for a long time after, a grieving persons brain is so fried. It’s hard to make decisions and if you ask a lot of questions you might not get a lot of response. Their brain is under so much stress trying to compute how something that should not happen has happened to them. It’s good to remember that when you are trying to help. Ask them, but some things you might just have to do and hope it helped. It really is just a learning things for all people involved.
If you can take anything away from this, I hope you can find empathy, compassion, and understanding.
Sitting with your loved one in their pain, in my opinion, is one of the biggest shows of love you can offer. To show them you are not scared of their pain, their tears, their suffering. Not controlling the conversation, not talking all about yourself. I get that you need to talk too, and I really believe that your loved one wants to listen, but when they need to talk in this period of intense grieving, let them talk.
It can be so uncomfortable. But seriously, it can be one of the biggest gifts you can give your friend. And yourself. It takes the stress away from you that you need to talk every moment. Silence gives you both time to think, to process, and it lets them know you care, because you are still there. That you are comfortable to sit with them even if you don’t talk.
There were many things I said out loud that others told me, “Oh don’t say that” or “don’t think like that”. But they were thoughts I knew I had to get outside of my mind and my body, otherwise they would fester and become bigger in mind. Don’t be scared of everything they would say. Just SIT with them in their pain.
Making them cry IS NOT a bad thing!
Can I say that again? When you say something and they start crying, that is NOT a bad thing.
It’s okay to talk about their child, to ask questions about their child, remember their child, what they miss, and if they cry. IT’S OKAY!
Help with daily life
Everyone reacts differently, but I had a lot of help with household things and that was something Justin and I were so grateful for. Someone made a meal train, so suppers were covered for the most part for the first couples months(since I had a baby 4 weeks after Aria died). Others helped me clean my house before my baby was born.
So many friends and family helped with babysitting, so I could excercise, go to therapy, take time to grieve, meet up with friends, and spend time with Justin. It was so amazing all the help we recieved. So those are the kidns of things you can do. Even if they feel small or easy for you, if everyone pitches in around the person who is grieving, it makes it easier for them to accept the help, and easeir for the people helping that they are not the only ones helping.
-babysitting for therapy time, time to grieve, excercise, time withe friends, time alone, dates
-babysitting for them to get away as a couple for the weekend.
Child loss is very hard on a marriage. There are pretty large statistics that marriages fall apart afterwards. But with love and support they can work through it. One huge way you can support their family and their future, is helping them be able to have the time together as a couple to process their grief, spend time together, get away for the weekend, and try to maintain a semblance of a relationship. This is so so important.
Things to avoid saying
I don’t really like to say do/don’ts a ton. I don’t want you to be scared to say nothing, because you are so afraid of saying the wrong thing. Because I promise your silence is noticed. If nothing else, say I’m thinking of you, you are in my prayers, or text them when you are reminded of them or their angel child.
But here are some things to not say.
-Comparing child loss to any other kind of loss. Someone grieving their child will not be comforted by you telling them you know how they feel because your do died. (I am at a point in my grief now that I do not think that your pain is not painful or worthy of being voiced. I really think your pain is worthy of grieving and being sad about-but share with someone else for now)
-Don’t ask when they are going to get over it. They will never get over it. At some point we can pray that they will learn to live with their grief. That they will learn that it’s okay to be sad, and it’s okay to be happy. But right now let them grieve. For however long they need. Do not expect them to move on in a month or even a year. It’s a lifelong process and each person paves their own way.
Ideas for things you can give
-money is probably the most helpful thing to give. You don’t expect to have funeral costs for you child. And money could be used for many things like the headstone, jewelry in remembrance, vacation with the family for time together, time off of work if they are not ready to go back, hospital bills if there are any.
-we received fruit trees and flowering trees in memory of Aria, and those trees were so very special.
-Tear Soup- a book that explains grief through making soup. It helps others understand a little bit, and a helpful book to read to the other children in the family.
If you can take anything away from this, I hope you can find empathy, compassion, and understanding. Let your grieving friend work through their emotions and their grief. If they want to talk to you listen, but mostly there is nothing you can do to change their path or their way of grieving. You can love them so much by just being there even if they are pulling away, even if they are struggling, even when it seems like their grief is going to consume their life forever. You cannot change their path, and ultimately it is up to them.
So take that thought away that you can change something. Just love them, and be there. That is the most important thing.