Thursday, June 03, 2010

Helping Families Who Have Lost

I wrote this days ago.  I posted it briefly, then got to thinking...then removed it back to "drafts."  I was afraid that it would sound self-serving.  Well, events of the last few days have caused me to reconsider having removed it.  Let me explain...
   Yesterday, I learned that a sweet friend lost her baby.  J was 18 weeks along and found, via routine ultrasound, her baby has died.  She is, today, in the hospital being induced.
  I also learned yesterday that a mother for whom I'd been praying, died.  (This prayer request came from our church's email loop.)  She leaves 4 children and a husband.  Such grief.
   I have learned since Will's death, of 2 additional families who lost babies about the same time as we did.
So. Much. Pain.
   So, if you find yourself thinking that the following post could be an attempt to garner anything for myself, please know that that is *not* the reason I am posting.  I am posting this because I hope it can help us all help each other.  I had no idea that any of this could be useful so soon...

I hesitate to post this, as each family is so unique, and different things help different families...but...I feel the Lord has provided us this opportunity to explore grief and infant loss, for a reason.  I am writing this to help myself remember (in order to help others in the future) as much as to share with you dear friends.
        Call, if you want. Most of us have caller i.d. these days.  If a grieving family is not up for a chat when you call, they may not answer, or may ask to call you back later.  Just understand, we have good moments and bad moments.  Or, perhaps better stated, at least in the first days, we have bad moments and worse moments.

       Feel badly if you just can't bring yourself to call.  Most of us understand that it is awkward to approach grieving families--no one has magic words to make it all better.  Try sending a letter, card or flowers.  You can do this quickly--as soon as the loss happens, or later, when other support may have waned.  A benefit to acting quickly is that in the first few days, the family probably feels like there is no way out of the darkness.  Any encouragement you can send quickly, can help them feel supported.  Maybe the best thing to do would be to make contact early, via flowers or a card or phone call, then later, visit or call to give them a chance to talk.  Sometimes, in the early days after a loss, all we can do is cry.  If you can stand it, call early and let them cry.  If it's true, just say, "I don't know what to say, but I'm so sorry."  A sweet friend called me the day after Will died and said just that.  Your willingness to put yourself into that awkward situation, just to show you care, can really mean a lot.

    Ask about their baby.  We mamas and papas and sisters and brothers *love* to talk about our babies. 

     Feel badly if they do not want to talk about the baby *at that moment.*  You did *not* "remind" them of their loss.  I promise you, the grief is ever present, especially in the first few days.  You can't "remind" them of it, because they probably can think of nothing else.  Don't take it personally if they can't talk right then.  Just say, "If you ever want to talk about him(her), I would love to hear all about him."  Most of us eventually want to share every little detail about the child we lost.  I know for me, I'm just now beginning to be able to share much about Charity.  Something about losing Will has just loosened my tongue regarding my babies in Heaven.

     Ask to see pictures, if there are any available.  What parent doesn't love to show pictures of their baby?   :-)   Be aware, you may not see images of a cherubic, plump, pink, soft little newborn.  In our case, Charity *was* that baby; Will was not.  The condition of the baby's body depends a lot on the circumstances surrounding his death.   Understand that, to the family, that baby is beautiful!  If you are curious about the baby's condition, ask respectfully. 

     Feel badly if you just can't bring yourself to view the pictures.  We grieving parents, of all people, know how upsetting the whole thing is. Try to  find other ways to encourage the family.

    Offer to bring a meal, if you are able.  After a loss like this, the family may feel so lost, it's hard to organize themselves enough to pull a meal together.  Not to mention, Mom has just delivered a baby, and needs rest.  Regardless of whether she suffered a miscarriage or a still birth or newborn loss, she must tend to her body.  Mama needs the best of care in these days.  Beef is very helpful in replenishing Mama's iron stores.  Leafy greens and other vegetables and fruit are also important.  Still, if your budget only allows for a pot of beans and pan of cornbread, they will appreciate it.  Ask if the family would like you to stay for a short visit, or if it is a bad time.  Personally, after losing Will, I am craving company and phone calls.   Also, I love having other families' children around.  For some moms who have lost, it is too painful a reminder.  You can ask ahead of time, "Would you enjoy having the children come, too, or would that be too much?" 

    Feel badly if you cannot provide a meal, due to finances or other reasons.  There are many, many ways to encourage and support the family.  Perhaps you could just make a pan of brownies or a loaf of bread?  Even slice and bake cookies will be appreciated.  If you can't afford flowers, send a note.  Work with what the Lord has provided you.  He knows what you need in order to support the family.  Pray and ask Him what you can do.

   Avoid well-intentioned cliches, which may actually be hurtful.  Saying, "It was for the best," is never a good idea.  Perhaps the baby had severe defects that caused his death.  Most of us would have gladly dealt with a special needs child, rather than losing the baby altogether.  Don't say, "You can have another."  You don't know that.  Will is our 4th loss since our last live birth.  Only the Lord knows if He will again bless us with a child we get to raise.  Besides, you can never, never replace one child with another.  We love them *each* and we want every one of them.  If a spouse dies, we generally know better than to say, "You can marry someone else."  Just allow the family to grieve that one, precious child, without any predictions about the future.

   Beat yourself up if you have said one of those things.  Most of us know how awkward it is for people to know what to say.  Just keep loving the family, and try other ways to show your concern.

Well, I know this is long, but incomplete.  I don't know if it will help anyone in helping someone else, but I wanted to get my thoughts down as a future reminder to ME.  :-)  If you have further thoughts, please leave them in the comments.
   You dear friends and family have been champions at loving our family during this awful time.  It is from *you* I got these ideas for helping.  May God bless you all.


Lisa-Anne said...

DO leave "I love you's" all over the blogs and facebook pages? :)

I've been overwhelmed these last two weeks with what's happened with Will, my sister's brain surgery, and one of Blaze's little playmates who is just clinging to life... You're right, there is so much sadness and so much pain going around right now, and I think what you've written is not only beautiful, but very, very helpful.

I love you... and I will now stop feeling badly that my throat squeezes shut with grief every time I want to pick up the phone and call you (or that you were off on a date night the one time I did!) :)
All the Hall children are some part my children, too, (thanks for sharing your blessings! :) ) and I'm so glad and thankful for each and every one of them, and look forward to meeting the rest of the family in Heaven. (I'm sure they know all their aunties and uncles who love them already. :) )
I really, really love you! You're the bravest, most amazing woman I've ever known. *hugs*

Mama Lamba said...

Oh, LA. I *love* your "I love yous" :-) You'll never know how many times I have felt low, and discovered a sweet note by you and other friends that got me through that one bad moment. Because that's the only way through this--surviving one moment at a time.
Love you so much. Thank you for your notes and prayers and love.

Alipurr said...

hugs again, amy