I didn't write this myself but I find it poignant and oh, so true. This was a post written on corasstory.org about how to help after someone you love loses their child. Believe me, I know most people out there are clueless as to how to react to me or treat me. They know I am different and I know I am different. This post delves into this a little bit, so I thought it might be helpful to share. It also helps to know how normal my feelings are and to know that I am not alone in my thoughts.
The first few months after the baby or child dies:
• Keep those promises! I heard so many “I’ll call” and “We’ll stay in touch now.” Truth is, I rarely get phone calls. Maybe because I rarely answer phone calls. It’s hard for me. But, I might want to talk one day. I might need you. And, I need to know you’re there. Always. Maybe because I rarely go out or make plans, but who knows maybe I’ll want to one day. So just keep calling. Not stalkerish, but once every other week or so maybe.
• Don’t think that it’s time to stop talking about the baby or child. When someone dies people seem to start to fear talking about that person at some point. You can talk to me about my baby. In fact, it’s all I want to talk about. Everyone grieves differently, so if the family doesn’t want to talk about it, use your intuition or simply ask. But, don’t make the situation awkward by refusing to talk about the elephant in the room.
• Take some time for yourself. Step away when you need to. Keep yourself healthy for your friend. I feel bad when people tell me they cry for me every day. If you’re following the family online, take a break once in a while. You’ll be a better help when you come back.
• Again, vague offers of “tell me how I can help” make me a little nervous. I want help. Need help. Am so GRATEFUL for help. But, I don’t know how you can help. It still takes all my energy to get out of bed. Try to find specific ways and just do. Ask permission to use the child’s name if you plan a fundraiser or want to use pictures. But, take on planning yourself.
• Make sure your offers to help don’t create more work for the family. Don’t place deadlines on them or plan anything that requires a commitment. Sometimes I’m social, sometimes like this week, I feel a huge ball of anxiety form at the thought of seeing anyone.
Stay with the family for years to come…
• The loss of a child isn’t a sickness. I don’t plan on ever “getting better.” One day I will have to stop crawling through the day and start walking. I know I’ll need my friends and family. Keep the notes and phone calls coming.
• Don’t rush the family through the grief process. Don’t tell them healing will start. Everyone grieves on their own time and that’s okay.
• Don’t push “closure” on the family. Child loss is not a disease. I’m not looking for closure. It won’t get better. Life has changed forever. The family will love and laugh again, but will be forever changed.
• Talk about the child or baby. I’ll never want to stop talking about her. If the family seems uncomfortable, simply ask if they’d rather not talk about their child. If they start to talk about the baby, don’t change the subject. Ask questions and listen.