Thursday, November 8, 2012

Grieving a child...supporting friends in grief.

A wife who loses a husband is called a widow. A husband who loses a wife is called a widower. A child who loses his parents is called an orphan. But...there is no word for a parent who loses a child, that's how awful the loss is! - Neugeboren 1976, 154

 This year several families we know have lost a child. It occurred to me, I don't have a clue what I could do that would be truly helpful. It leaves me feeling helpless. Living a life that is daily awash in disability and the challenges that come along with that, I recognize that my lack of participation with the person in their grief, even if it is because I don't want to say the wrong thing, is likely to add to the feeling of isolation many people feel. When I asked a neighbor friend who recently lost her son  if there was anything she found, or would have found, helpful,  I was blessed with a response I feel compelled to share:
 Here's a few things that come to my mind when thinking about what different people have done to help us over the past 17 months. Make a choice to be there for them in whatever way you can. Make them meals. The last thing they will want to do or can do is make a meal much less eat it. But, if it's there, they will eat when they can. Our neighbors on Meadow Lane made us meals for weeks. It was a godsend. Without them, my girls probably would not have had much to eat as I was not able to do much of anything in those first few weeks.
 Offer to watch any young kids they may have while they make arrangements. There were days when I really wanted my girls home here with me and others when I knew they needed to go out. It was nice to know they were in a safe place when they weren't home with me. Offer to watch their house if you are not going to the services. I so appreciated you doing that for us. It was one less thing to worry about:)
Call them, email them and send them cards every now and then. While they might not be in a place where they can respond emotionally, they will truly appreciate your efforts even if it's just to let them know you are thinking of them.
Let them talk about their experience and their daughter/son and more importantly listen to what they have to say even if they've already told you the same thing 100 times. They need to talk about their child and they need to say and hear her name. Don't be afraid to mention
their child's name. It might bring tears to their eyes but it won't make them any sadder. They are already as sad as they can be.
Tell them about what you remember about her. Have your children write to them and share the experiences they had with their child. Have them do the same for the siblings. They will treasure those memories in the months and years to come.
Tell them you are sorry. Know that you truly can't imagine what they are going through because you can't. Make a donation in their daughter's name if they ask for them. It's a nice way to keep their memory alive. Something that is so important to do. The next few days, weeks and years are going to be sheer he-- for them. Keep in touch long after no one else does. It will mean the world to them.
A friend of mine gave me several books on the loss of a child. When she gave them to me she was clear to say she would return them if I was not in a place where I could read them yet. But, they were a godsend to me. Reading that what I was going through physically and emotionally was normal brought a small amount of comfort to me.
We received many beautiful flowers arrangements. I appreciated each and everyone of them but it was hard for me knowing that they were going to die on me too. We also received a number of edible arrangements. We were grateful they came. Unlike the flowers, they were eventually gone too but simply because we ate them, not because they died too.
I know there were many people who told me they wanted to call or stop by but they didn't want to bother us or intrude. Honestly, I was grateful for those calls and those visits. I needed to see and hear from people. I needed the distraction. They will too. Most importantly know that they will never be the same. No matter how much faith they have or don't have, the death of their child will change each and everyone of them forever.
I am so grateful to Kelli for sharing her heart so openly and specifically with me! I feel like she let me peek into a very private place that I only wondered about from the outside. Kelli, I believe this will bless others. Thank you for permitting me to share it.

Additionally, there is some great information for how to help friends grieving a lost child HERE

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