First things first, write down your friend's child's name, birth
date and death date. Mark those important dates on your calendar. We will use
this information later.
Doing or saying something is so very
important during the first few days of your friend's loss. The natural thing for
people to do is shy away because they don't know what to do. This is not the correct
response. When my son died people avoided us because they were afraid of the whole
situation. Honestly, it made me angry because I needed them and I felt like they
were quitting on me.
Of course everyone is different.
Some grieving parents like to be left alone for a while and others need to be surrounded
by people. Since you have no way of knowing how your friend will react let me tell
you what I wanted from my friends.
During those first couple of months I
didn't want to talk to anyone, but I did like to hear that people had called to let us
know they were praying for us and how sorry they were for our loss. The first couple
of days are very crucial. A call to your friend's house would be appropriate.
If you are afraid of saying the wrong thing if you actually speak with your friend then
call when you know they won't be home and leave a message. Do not ask them to return
the call. Just let them know that you care. If you do speak with them on the
phone, do more listening than talking. I have a do and
don't list that might help out.
Do & Don't
If you don't feel comfortable calling, send a card. Make your words brief.
Do & Don't
During those first few days, there will
more than likely be a funeral or memorial service for your friend's child. If you
can attend, you must be there. Your being there will comfort your friend and
let them know that their child was important to you too. I've heard all the excuses.
Some say, "I just don't like funerals" or "It would just be too
painful to go." My response is "no one likes funerals. I
guarantee you it's far more painful for those parents who have to bury their precious
child, but they will be there." Sometimes you just have to do things you don't
like and this would be one of those times. Yet, as I know, sometimes you just cannot
be there for valid reasons. If that is the case, you should send flowers either to
the parent's home or to the funeral home. The parents will get your cards from your
flowers and will be blessed by the fact that, although you couldn't attend in person, you
were there in thought and prayer. I cannot express enough how important this is to
your friend. Now, what if it's a private funeral and only certain people are
invited, then I suggest you still send flowers. It never hurts to let them know you
are thinking of them. While at the funeral, don't keep your distance from the
grieving parents. I remember a friend that attended my son's funeral. She and
her husband were trying to get pregnant at the time and she was standing back. I
walked over to her and said "It's not contagious. You can hug us." I
smiled and was trying to lighten things up. Although your friend may appear strong
and like they have it all together, be sure that they are still in denial and this doesn't
mean they aren't affected by it. I was in such a daze the day we buried Bryan that I
was smiling and couldn't seem to cry at the actual funeral. I think it's a defense
mechanism and we are trying to be strong for everyone else despite the fact that the
reality of it hasn't completely sunk in yet.
Well, what if you've sent flowers or
cards or called or attended the funeral and you still want to do more. Or maybe you
couldn't do any of those and need more ideas, you might consider giving them a book to
help them heal. The best advice I can give is, never give a book to a grieving
parent that you haven't read yourself. Obviously you won't be able to read it and
know how they are going to feel about it, but it might give you some insight. Also,
never give a book that has not first been recommended by a bereaved parent. The
reason for this is, not all books out there written on grief were written by a grieving
parent. I was given tons of reading material. Some weren't so great and others
were exactly what I needed. Find someone who has had a loss similar to that of your
friend's (i.e. same age child, same circumstances, etc) then ask them to recommend a book
that helped them. Naturally, everyone is different so what helped that person might
not help your friend, but the odds are greater that it will than if you just went and
picked something off the shelf with "grief" in the title. Another reason
that I recommend this is because your friend is going to go through an "anger
stage" and unless a book is written properly it will make them angry and frustrated
instead of helping. I have provided a list of books as
well as a brief description of each, in the Suggested
Reading section, that might be of help to you.
is what I call, "The Grief Survival Kit".
I put together a list of things that helped me most during those first few
months. I've sent this gift as well and the response has been
It's hard to know exactly what to do.
No two people react the exact same way. Just be supportive and try to be as
understanding as possible. Let your friend take his/her time healing. Don't
rush them. It's a long process and you will need to be there when your friend needs
you. One of those times will be the child's birth date or death date. I had
you write down that information because it is very important for you to remember those
dates. Those will be the hardest dates during the years to come for your friend
especially that first year. They will bring all that pain back. It will be
like day one all over again and they will need you. If you can't support them in
person then send a card or note to your friend. Let them know that you remembered
their child's birth date or death date and you want them to know you are there if they
need you. Most of all, let them know that their child was important to you too and
that you are thinking of them. Or you can call and let them know you are thinking of
them. It's alright to ask how they are doing but be prepared for an honest answer.
Remember, don't tell them you "understand" how they feel because you