I asked my friend, Mandy, to write an article about how to be a friend to a grieving family. Many things are hazy in my mind about those early days of grief but I do remember her showing up in my kitchen with an armful of lilac and saying, “I feel like I should be doing something for you, but I don’t know what to do.” She went on short walks with me, cooked me food, and she texted and called me regularly even though I wasn’t very good at getting back to her. One night I had the daunting task of cleaning up the wilted and dying flower bouquets sent to me. I called her and she immediately came over with trash bags and helped me with this very depressing task. She took the garbage homes and a box of vases and delivered them to the florist to me. That may seem simple but that task seemed nearly insurmountable to me. Having her help and take charge was a HUGE blessing. Another thing Mandy does is regularly remember my babies. She takes her daughter on walks to Abigail’s grave and most of the presents she buys me for the holidays and my birthday are some way related to my children in Heaven. There is no greater joy to any mama’s heart than to have her children recognized- this doesn’t change even if your children are in Heaven.
The Worst Thing You Can Do Is Nothing
Being a friend of someone who has lost a loved one, especially a child, is a fine line to walk. You want to do something. You don’t know what, but you feel the need to do something. But you don’t want to smother them. The worst thing to do is say “I didn’t know what to do for you” and do nothing. I never did anything earth shattering. I never gave anything expensive. I was just always available if the time arose that I was needed. There is nothing you can say or do to take the pain of losing a child away. But you can do something to make the grieving parent feel loved, cared for and heard. Examples of things you can do are send a card, a quick text, a little care package of everyday essentials (most people who lose a child don’t even want to get out of bed), send them a small arrangement of flowers or offer to go for a walk with them. They don’t want to go in public. They don’t want to answer the question of “how are you doing?”
Unfortunately, I am a friend of a few people who have lost children. It is hard being the friend of the grieving parent as well. I went through the grieving process too, but I was the one who needed to step up and be the strength for my friends. I was and am still willing to help in whatever is needed. I think this is how I was helped through my grieving process. The thing people don’t realize is the grieving process for the people who lose a child never completely goes away. Often people think that as the days and months and years go by, the grief goes away; or if they have other children, the grief goes away. The question is, which child that you have could you live without? None of them! There will always be a void for the child that was lost. Don’t say “it will get better as time goes on” or “this is all in God’s plan for this child”. Both of these may be true, but neither one should ever be said to someone who has lost a child.
The best advice I can give for being a friend of someone who has lost a child is to just be there. I have called their house knowing they would not answer their phone and prayed a short prayer for them over the phone. I have picked flowers for them out of my garden and dropped them outside their door, knowing full well they were at home. Sometimes the grieving want to talk about the child, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they want to be mad at people for not coming or be mad at them for coming too often. Sometimes they want visitors, sometimes they don’t. Everything that goes on in the grieving process is okay; you just need to be there for all of it. As painful as it may seem, they will remember that you were always there.