In the days following Emily's death so many people wrote saying that they were thinking and praying for us. We received many cards in the mail and so many e-mails and even messages on Facebook. These meant so much to me. I cried every time I read what someone had written to us, but it was so comforting to know how many people cared about us.
I know that people are still praying for our family and that they really do care, but few people actually tell me this on a regular basis and even less send an encouraging word my way. I do not mean to offend anyone and this is not directed at anyone specific, this is just an observation I have had. I think that people often do not know what to say to me and so they say nothing at all.
I understand those people who do not say anything. I used to be one of those people. If someone I knew had suffered a miscarriage or the loss of a sibling or parent I had a hard time talking to them. I really just did not know what to say, and I did not want to say the wrong thing. So I get it, I understand, but I would actually rather you risk saying the wrong thing than have you avoid me.
I recently found an article that I think is very helpful in addressing what to do and what to say to someone who has suffered the loss of a child. I would like to share it with you. I have done some editing to it, to fit what I am feeling and thinking.
These suggestions and strategies are intended to help you understand what may be helpful to a grieving person.
- Please do not ignore or avoid me. I am grieving a terrible loss and do not want to grieve your absence as well.
- If you do not know what to say or do, tell me. "I do not know what to say or do." I don't either, but your presence and patience are comforting.
- If I start to cry, do not feel like it is your fault for talking to me. I cry a lot and you did not cause my tears. Stay with me while I cry. If we are in public and I can't get hold of my tears, take me someplace quiet where we can sit down and then sit with me.
- If you get uncomfortable, please do not leave. Grief is just uncomfortable.
- If I ask you to help me in some way, please do it if you can. If you can't, please look for someone else who can. It is terribly difficult to ask for help, and if I actually do make a request, I really need it.
- If I do not ask for help, ask me, "Can I help you with anything?" If I say no, ask again. If I say no again, don't believe me. Find a close friend who knows me well and inquire about ways to help: practical stuff, emotional support, or fun distractions like a trip to the coffee shop may be in order.
- Just show up for a visit. I often need a distraction from my grief and would welcome your company.
- If you only have 30 free minutes, I don't mind. I will appreciate whatever company you can offer me.
- Let me talk about Emily and listen as I tell you stories.
- Please do not say, "It is for the best," even if you believe it is. Tell me you are sorry for the death of Emily.
- If I get mad at you or say something hurtful, please forgive me. The last thing I want to do is hurt someone, especially someone who is willing to be with me. I am just hurting so much and it comes out in inappropriate ways sometimes.
- Please accept that I will feel angry, sad, numb, crazy, and many other things. This will make you uncomfortable, but please don't avoid me. I am more uncomfortable than you can imagine right now.
- Please remember significant dates associated with my loss.
- The anniversary of our loss.
- The birthday of Emily
- My due date and remember it. . .for years to come.
- My birthday, holidays, especially Mother's Day and Father's Day.
- Do not avoid speaking of Emily. I really want to talk about her.
- Do not fear you will remind me of my loss, for it is always with me.
- If I do not feel up to discussing Emily or grief, accept my feelings and move on to another topic.
- If you wish to do something beyond offering me your friendship and ear, make a donation to a specific cause. If you are interested in this please ask me. There are several organizations that I feel very strongly about.
- Release a balloon in memory of Emily, and write me a note that you did this.
- Be patient with me. I will not be better all at once. I will seem better, then I will seem worse. I will seem at peace, then I will be suddenly angry. In fact, I may never be the same again. Please don't expect me to be. And please, please do not suggest that I should.
- But most of all, pray for and with me. More than any other gesture, I find comfort in your prayers and presence.
If you would like to do any more reading on how to help a friend or loved one who has suffered a loss of a child you can check out this site (Cora's Story). There is some great information here written by a mother who lost her daughter less than a month after she was born.