Here's What You Can Do
I recently had a dear friend of mine reach out to me because a woman in her life had just lost her baby boy. My friend was caught between genuine, heartfelt concern for her friend and helplessness. She easily confessed she had never been in our situation and didn’t know how to help, but she wanted to. This is the natural place to find ourselves when we learn of others misfortune. We want to help, reach out, and aid the grieving process, but we have no idea how to. We don’t want to offend, or make the situation worse by saying or doing the wrong things. But we love one another, and that is a beautiful thing.
I usually write this blog focused towards my fellow mothers who have experienced loss and stillbirth, but this post will be for those of us who see others in pain and want to extend a helping hand out of love. So here’s what you can do.
Immediately when we told our family the horrifying news, many of them wanted to come to our side. They were willing to buy expensive, last minute plane tickets, or drive for hours and hours, just to be with us in our pain. My husband and I turned many of them down… at first. We told them to stay home, don’t fill the gas tank, and don’t book the ticket. We needed some space. We had just been hit with the most horrific, life altering news of our lives, and we just knew we couldn’t handle even our most precious loved ones yet. Eventually, we all got together. We all cried together. We all visited. What meant the most to my husband and I was, our friends and family were brave enough to ask us if they could come be with us. We wanted to see people, we just didn’t know when. We wanted people to recognize our pain. But without them asking us, we wouldn’t have been able to either turn them down or say yes to the invitation. To that person in your life who has lost their child, don’t stop asking to spend time with them. Don’t be offended when they turn you down. But please don’t stop asking us. Because we need you.
My sister-in-law is an incredible hostess. She has the ability to draw people together in both heart alignment and in love. When we lost our boy, she began a “Go Fund Me” account for our family. If you have had children, you know how expensive they are. The doctor bills pile up. Every ultrasound, check-up, and epidural brings love and dollar signs. But the last thing a mother wants to do is pay for a baby she never got to take home. It feels so unjust. So many people in our lives, friends and family, and people who I will probably never meet, gave money to help us pay for our loss. And it didn’t make the loss hurt less, but it did lift the financial burden. And that is priceless to a mother. It makes us feel as if you cared for our baby who none of us got to meet. It makes us feel as if you believe they were worth something. It joins us in eternal gratefulness. Money doesn’t always fix problems, but it sure can make us feel loved and cared for.
Shortly after my loss, I told my family I was having a hard time with the idea of burying my child. Although I knew he was already gone, I had so much trouble with the finality of burying him because it meant I had to physically let go of him forever. When we picked up our son’s ashes from the funeral home, I held the little box next to my heart and took a nap with him. I just wanted him close to me. The very same sister-in-law, who began our financial support, took it upon herself to sew a stuffed animal for me. She made it weigh the exact weight of my son, so that I could have something physical to hold. She sewed and embroidered a beautiful orange and grey fox so that I would never have to forget the weight of my child, or feel the emptiness of my arms. Not every mother who has lost a baby may want a stuffed animal for remembrance, but it is one of the things that has helped me.
My best friend is a gift giver. She sent me a plush robe and bath bombs. She knows me well enough to know I love baths. They relieve my stress and clear my mind of clutter. So she sent a gift that enabled me to be sad a little easier and to cry little more comfortably.
A friend of mine, through church, began a meal train for us. Friends and family signed up to bring us a meal every other day. I was so grateful for exquisite food to just show up on our doorstep. I was in a fog, a daze. I couldn’t cook. I could barely get up in the morning. Plus, I truly believe feeding those in need is the heart of Jesus. If you can put a lasagna in the freezer of a family who has experienced loss, please do it. It’s so simple and yet it means so much.
While in the hospital, after the birth of our son, my husband and I decided we needed to get away for awhile. We needed space. We knew we weren’t able to face reality just yet. A family, whom my husband and I consider very good friends of ours, lent us their travel trailer for a month. They enabled us to go on a three and a half week road trip across the country. We didn’t run into anyone we knew. We didn’t have to explain ourselves or our situation to anyone. Our friends gave us an opportunity to try and catch our breath in a time when we forgot how to breathe. We had other friends offer to let us stay in their beach homes, and others offer us their river house for a weekend getaway. We didn’t take everyone up on their offers, but we felt like people really loved us and were terribly sorry for our loss. They knew the value of space and retreat in loss and offered it freely. My husband and I realize that the time we spent getting away, allowed us to have difficult conversations, open up, cry, be angry, and simply be together. We couldn’t have been more grateful.
Numerous friends and family text me YouTube links to music, encouraging messages, and bible verses. They told me they were praying for me. They sent incredible flower arrangements that brought life and color into our home. Friends invited us to dinner and they opened up their homes to us. People offered to babysit our son Jaxon for free to give my husband and I a date night out. Girlfriends came over and shared bottles of wine and whole boxes of tissues with me. And it all helped. Every single bit of it.
If you know someone who has experienced loss, miscarriage, or stillbirth, here’s what you can do. Love on them any way you you are able. Food, a text, a trailer, gift, wine, time spent, prayer, a beach house, money, or even a stuffed animal, everything matters to a mom who has lost.
I would like to finish this post by saying thank you. Thank you to all my friends, family, friends of friends, and people who I don’t even know personally, who loved on my family. I am eternally grateful. I will never forget your kindness. Please be confident that every bite of food, dollar, moment spent, glass of wine, bath bomb, song, and prayer has blessed us and brought us comfort.