I am well aware that not everyone is blessed by an outpouring of love and support in the wake of child loss. In fact, depending on the circumstances, some families are practically shunned.
It breaks my heart every time I hear of such an experience.
Because if there is one thing I’ve learned in this Valley, it’s this: when a heart is shattered my ONLY job is to show up and do whatever is helpful-even if that means sitting silently and holding a hand.
When I asked other bereaved parents to share the things people did that blessed them in the wake of losing a child, I didn’t expect so many stories of extravagant love–of acts surpassing anything I could have thought of or imagined.
“After my daughter passed, which was minutes before Mother’s Day 2012, outside the hospital room-
When Dominic died, I didn’t get a manual on what to do. I didn’t get an orientation into how to be a grieving parent. So when some people asked how they could help me and my family, I really didn’t know.
A comment repeated often by bereaved parents is, “Please don’t use the phrase, ‘let me know if there is anything I can do’, people mean well, but this is unhelpful.”
Another mom put it this way, ” There are too many meanings to this phrase. It can mean anywhere from, ‘I really want to help’ to ‘I don’t know what to say so I’ll say this but I don’t really want you to ask’. Also it’s so hard to make any decisions–trying to figure out what you might want or be able to do is overwhelming. Instead, offer specific things you can do and make plans to do them.”
For those that want to help, here is a list of 31 ways you can provide practical and timely help to grieving parents.
And yet those first hours and days are some of the most vivid in my memory. Who showed up, what they did, what they said (or graciously and wisely DIDN’T say), how fragile and lost I felt as precious friends guided me through so. many. decisions.
I will never, ever forget the kindnesses shown to our family during that time. I will never, ever stop thanking God for the brave souls that entered into our world of pain and simply refused to be shooed or frightened away.
The death of any loved one opens a door and forces you to pass through.
You cannot procrastinate, cannot refuse, cannot ignore or pretend it away.
Suddenly, you find yourself where you absolutely do not want to be.
And there is no going back.
Many bereaved parents describe the first hours, the first days after losing a child as a fog–we feel both horrified (I can’t believe this is happening!) and numb (Is this real? Am I dreaming?).
It’s been awhile since I’ve shared this series of posts.
They were birthed in the safe space of a closed Facebook group of bereaved parents.
It was nearly two years into this journey before I even knew such groups existed but once I joined, a whole new world of acceptance, understanding and compassion opened wide before me.
And it didn’t take long to recognize that while every single journey and loss story was unique, there were some common experiences, similar challenges and shared needs.
That’s how this series came to be.
For some of my readers it will cover old ground, for some it will be fresh. For any of us walking the Valley of the Shadow of Death I pray it’s helpful and shareable (in a non-threatening way)on your own social media for family and friends.
Our journeys begin in different ways.
Just as every birth story is unique, so, too, is every parent’s story of loss.
It may be a phone call or an officer at the front door. It may be a lingering illness or a sudden one. Our children may have lived days or decades.
Their death may be anticipated, but it is never expected.
My friend, Jill Sullivan, invited me to share on the While We’re Waiting Podcast.
I am oh, so thankful for her friendship, for the ministry of While We’re Waiting and for the opportunity to speak about my grief journey, the blog and to share some tips for surviving the holidays after child loss.