Five months before our first miscarriage, our little family moved eight hours drive north for ministry. Our families, except my brother, had already moved away from us and then we moved away from our friends who were like family. No one really knew about our first miscarriage….. Then came Emmanuelle. And we were still living hours and hours away from our real support networks.
My mum got on a plane and stayed… My dad was a few days behind. And my in-laws would’ve been too if they were in the country. But it’s not appropriate for everyone to come invade space.
Perhaps the biggest act of support I remember was from four couples within the same immediate family. I was speechless and they made me cry. I was overwhelmed that I could feel so much of their love when they were so far away.
They placed an online grocery order- for ice cream and treats, snacks and a new DVD for our biggest boy, and ingredients for a few of our favourite meals, and staples like milk, bread and toilet paper.
Just randomly delivered to our door by a man, and it didn’t matter if I answered in two day old pyjamas. There was no invasion of space, no awkward conversations to be had- but boy o boy did we feel the love!
I feel like sometimes people fluff around in these kind of posts so today, well, I’m going to be a bit more straight forward. Obviously all of these depend on your level of relationship with the family, so please use your own discretion.
How can you support someone who has just lost a child?
They won’t feel like it or want it, but parents need it.
A grocery order is great- no awkward “do I have to invite them in?” “What’s the right thing for me to say?”
BONUS- if you know them and what they like you’re guaranteed success.
Frozen meals- text to organise delivery time, deliver in a throw away container that can be frozen and write what’s inside it on the lid. Quick knock and be on and off the doorstep in under five minutes. Don’t expect to go inside and please- if the child has a name, mention it. When you don’t it’s deafening.
A new DVD gift, child friendly of course. Frozen nuggets or potato gems that just need to be thrown in the oven- simplicity. Because the siblings may be the only ones who actually eat, and the easier to prepare the better. A colouring in or ball is great- something for them to do without their parents.
Say, “on Wednesday I’ll pick johnny up at 930 and take him to the park and out for lunch if that’s ok with you?” While the parents love their children, they need individual space also. Short bursts of love and holding it together is all that can really be managed to begin with.
3) Practical love
After about a week, invite yourself over because you want to clean/cook. Come with a chocolate milk or peanut m’n’m’s, and clean the bathroom, vacuum the floor, tidy the kitchen. Or if you can’t, or circumstances don’t allow for that, say- “I’ve paid for two hours of cleaning with this company, when is a good time for them to come?”
Don’t wait for us to ask for the practical help (Again this depends on your level of relationship). I already felt so much failure, I wasn’t going to then admit that I was falling behind at cleaning my bathroom also.
Write the date in your phone calendar and set an alarm for a few days before and day of: one month, six month, a year… Send a card to arrive that week- I have one friend who times this so well and I’m so thankful.
The fear is that the child will be forgotten. We want you to remember but if we have to remind you ourselves it doesn’t matter when you say something, because you didn’t remember.
Remember the babies birthday, remember at Christmas and other holidays, especially the first ones, that for us someone is missing.
Gifts such as an engraved necklace, pandora charm, picture book etc are lovely gestures when done in the right way.
4) TALK (perhaps most importantly)
– Use the child’s name, it doesn’t hurt us more, rather it is powerful that you continue to speak their name. It helps us.
– don’t say you understand– even if you’ve had similiar circumstance, it’s similiar not exact.
– be the first to make contact.. Don’t wait for the parent to reach out “when they’re ready.” Text or call or something. Even if we don’t respond, we read/heard it and that’s what we needed.
– phrases like “this sucks” are appropriate to use. Because sometimes it just does. (Sorry mum)
– ” it’s ok, you can have another child.” – you don’t know that.
– “There’s a reason for everything, they’re in a better place.” Just. don’t. even.
– good phrases : “I wish I knew the right thing to say, just know I’m here.” “My favourite memory is….”
– honestly, just say something, acknowledge our pain, our loss (no matter how young the baby). For a period of time, be prepared to be the one making the effort in the friendship- by chasing, inviting places and listening.
Mostly- no one can be perfect in how they support a parent experiencing grief. The parent doesn’t even know the perfect way of support, and what worked for me will be different to others. But just try and do something, we’ll never be angry at you for trying. Everything about us and our life has changed, so expect our friendships to change aswell for a while. Please be patient with us.
Support- simply- just do something, it’s way better than nothing.
(This is also a great article- where the photo is from)
** In October, for Pregnancy and Infancy Loss Awareness Month, I’m participating in #iwanttotalkaboutit #YellowRosesCQ project with daily writing prompts.