October 26, 2011

What To Do When Someone You Love Has Lost A Child

By Kaci Goodrich Uipi

This is a post I've been wanting to write for a long time. Since I am quickly approaching the 1 year-mark, I feel like I know just enough about this subject.

Yes, we are all unique individuals, and we might prefer different things, but most of these tips I find to be universal among the grieving mothers. (Or--"BLMs" as I finally found out we are called!)

1. Give a gift. Give SOMETHING. Flowers or a card at the very least. This lets her know that you at least know about the loss and are thinking about her. I LOVED all of the sympathy cards I received. I displayed them like trophies. I didn't get enough! If you CAN--give money! Yes, we really appreciate money because funeral costs are expensive! (Remember--no one plans to bury their baby. Parents--yes. But your child--not exactly.)

2. Try to visit as much as possible AFTER the funeral. Call ahead and ask if you can stop by, especially if it's BEFORE the funeral services. Why? Because the days leading up to the funeral are BUSY! I had clothes to shop for, a plot to pick out, arrangements that had to be made for out-of-towners and so on. I really didn't have time to "visit" with people. I really appreciated a friend who called me each day leading up to the funeral and said, "What can I do for you today?" During that time, it was so much more helpful than sitting on my couch for 2 hours. I appreciated people wanting to stop by, but I really wish they came AFTER the funeral. That's when things really sunk in, and that's when I actually had the time.

3. We need to be PAMPERED. Yes. Anything. We've just experienced something traumatic and it's VERY EXHAUSTING! A friend gave me and Salesi a gift card to a nice restaurant. It was perfect--especially because we had been living in a hospital for 3 weeks. If you don't want to spend money, then offer to watch her other kids so she can take a nap. Come over and give her a massage, or clean her toilet. The best advice I got from an experienced griever during this time was: "Be good to yourself. Go shopping and buy a new outfit! Go out to eat!"

3. Do NOT tell her HOW to grieve. Everyone grieves differently. Unless she is physically hurting herself or others, don't tell her how to do it. When she is mad--let her be mad. When she is sad--let her be sad. When she is bitter--let her be bitter. When she wants to cry--let her cry. When she doesn't want to cry--don't make her cry. She needs to experience all of the different emotions that come with grief--but on HER time, not yours. Also, don't tell her what she can and can't handle doing. I didn't like people telling me to "stay busy". In the beginning, I didn't want to "stay busy"! I wanted to lie around, cry, and stare at pictures of Joshua all day long. (And recently, some people assumed I couldn't do certain tasks because of the anniversary of Joshua's birthday approaching.) Sometimes distractions are good; Other times we want to be alone--but let us decide.

4. Do NOT use cliches. Sorry. As good as they sound, we just don't want to hear them. For every cliche you say, we will think of a good comeback. We might not say it out loud, but we are thinking it. For example, don't ever say things like, "You will see your son again... He was too pure for this Earth!" Having a strong testimony of God's eternal plan does NOT take away the pain of losing a child! We would all go mad if we didn't think we should be upset over our loss just because we know we will see our loved one again. Avoid ALL cliches, especially, "I understand how you feel". Instead, simply say, "I'm so sorry". And that's all you have to say!

5. Be sensitive. Everyone is different. She might want visitors; Or she might not. She might want to talk all about it including lots of details; Or she might not. Whatever you do--be sensitive. Don't be pushy! If you have a gift, then call ahead, and if she doesn't answer then assume she would prefer you to leave it at her doorstep. If she has lost an infant don't come over to her house with your new baby. (If your friend lost her job, you wouldn't want to offend her by talking about the great new job you just got.) Don't expect her to show up at your baby shower, or any type of social events. (But still invite her to let her decide.) Be sensitive to her feelings and never assume if and when she has "moved on".

6. Be there! Tell her that you are there if she ever wants to talk about it. (And then actually BE THERE, by continually checking up on her with phone calls, emails etc.) If you are there, she will talk about it when the time is right. Remember--grieving the loss of a child is a process. When the funeral is over, and cards stop coming, and dinners stop coming, THEN she will need somebody. So, if you want to be that somebody, then BE THERE.

4 comments:

  1. This was a good list. The only thing I have to add (for those who are familiar with the concept) is to listen to the spirit.
    Personally, I wanted to be left alone. I wanted my family and that was it. I wanted my husband. I didn't want ward members coming around and few of my friends.
    Money was sooooo helpful. Love and prayers were felt.
    And I agree. I hate cliche's.

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  2. Thank you Kaci for sharing these things. I think about you often and am grateful for what you have taught me through your blog.

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  3. Very true. For me it was weeks after the actual death and funeral that things got REALLY hard. I have so appreciated the people who still think about me and show it by telling me or dropping things by.

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  4. OMG this is great, exactly, exactly, exactly!! Everyone needs to read this, maybe I should make a copy and give it to my...MOM :)

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