Family and Friends
Losing a child is an obviously difficult time for parents, but it is also challenging for family and friends. You want to be there to show your love and support, but you often never know what exactly to do or say. Nothing ever seems quite right or enough. The truth is that there is a lot you can do and it is often the smallest things that mean the most. Below you will find several suggestions on how you can best help your loved ones as they begin to heal after the death of their child.
- Remember that everyone grieves and copes differently. The death of a child is unlike any other loss. It isn’t something that we will ever “get over” as this is a lifelong journey. Each day gets better, and eventually there will be more happy times than sad. However, just know and understand we will always have our moments and that’s okay, too—we need them!
- When a father loses a child, his own grief and feelings are often overlooked. Everyone tends to focus on the mother forgetting that the father lost a child, too. We view men as being strong and unbreakable no matter what the situation, and we often lean on them for support. However, there are times when they are barely standing on their own two feet and nobody seems to notice. Everyone grieves differently, and it’s important to know that men grieve, too. They may not share their emotions, or even know how to express them. We need to honor their grief and be there to support them as well.
- When talking to other parents going through loss, most of us agree that we love talking about our child. We may get teary-eyed or even cry, but it often warms our heart to talk about him or her. If you don’t talk about our baby, we perceive it as you’ve forgotten. The more we talk about our child, the more we feel we are keeping his or her memory alive. If you bring our baby up and we don’t want to talk about it, we will tell you. It is better for you to acknowledge our child rather than not at all.
- We always hear people tell us, “I wanted to say something but I didn’t know what to say. I could never find the right words.” Truthfully speaking there are no right words to be said. The best thing to say is to ask us how we are doing, and truly mean it. Not the usual, “Hey, how are ya?” Rather, “How are you doing,” or “how have you been,” mean so much to us. It lets us know that you are thinking about us.
- Please do not try to console us by saying that we’ll have more children. We may want more children, but we also want the one we lost. We will never replace that child with others. How do you know we will have more children? Maybe we struggled to get pregnant or had to use fertility treatments. Maybe we don’t have the finances to try again. Also, for one reason or another, or maybe no reason at all, our baby died, so how can you say for sure that we will have more? We know that you have the best intentions, but be careful with your words. You may do more harm than good.
- Please don't be offended if we want to spend some time together alone, especially at the hospital. We know that you want to be there for us and show your love and support, but this may be the only time we have to spend with our own child. This time is too short and extremely precious, and we may want to have some time alone with our child before having to say goodbye. We love you just as much as you love us, but we might need to focus on our own family while we still have the opportunity. Please continue to show us your love and support in the days, months, and years to come.
- In the first few weeks we get overwhelmed with phone calls, cards, emails, visitors, food, etc. However, after two to three weeks it quickly fades, and that’s when we need you most. Everything is so busy in the beginning with making all sorts of decisions and preparations that we never imagined we’d be making that most often our grieving doesn’t start to set in until after it all settles down. Try contacting us after those first few weeks and periodically checking up on us, or maybe invite us out to dinner or over to your house. Knowing that you’re still thinking of us down the road means so much and again lets us know that you haven’t forgotten.
- Losing a child is difficult for a parent every day, but there are some days during the year that are especially hard. Holidays, including Mother's and Father's Day, are challenging because we miss our child and the memories we will never get to make with them. Honoring our child somehow, for example with a special ornament, by lighting a candle, or even just saying a prayer in our presence, is another way to let us know that you haven't forgotten him or her. It validates our child's life and in return validates us as parents. Even though we may not have a child on earth to take care of, we are still parents. Mother's and Father's Day are hard enough to endure without our child, but we feel alone and isolated when others forget to acknowledge us as mothers and fathers, too.
- Try to call us or send us messages on the appropriate day of the month that our baby was born. We are always thinking of our child, but those days are especially hard. They are a constant reminder of the hopes, dreams, and milestones we missed with our child.
- We don’t always have difficulties with pregnant women and babies. More than likely, we will continue to struggle with children who are the same age our child would have been. Watching other children take their first steps, get on the bus to go to their first day of school, get their driver’s license, graduate from high school and college, get married, and have children of their own remind us of the milestones in one’s life we never got to experience with our own child.