Top Ten Ways You Can Help Someone Who Has Lost Someone

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Today marks our 7th month without Everly. 

Everly Marie Hopkins
2/2014 - 1/26/15
Wanna know a secret?  It's not gotten any easier.  In fact, it's many times harder today than last month, harder last month than the month before and so on. 

This has to be one of the most surprising aspects of grief for us.  We had NO idea that the grief would worsen as time went seemed that it would be the opposite.

So, let me give you the heads up on that, nope, gets harder.  Harder with each month.  We are only 7 months into this so I can't speak past this point, but I can barely imagine what month 12, 24 and so on will feel like.  I hold fast to my faith that He will continue to see me through since He has from the beginning.  He can handle my anger, my questions.  He understands.

And I don't really care to get to those points honestly.  Unfortunately, time has a way of not stopping, doesn't it? 

Life moves on whether we want it to or not.  That brings me to what has been placed on my heart to share on this 7th angelversary today. 

How can you help someone that is grieving the loss of a child? 

Like myself, others may also mistakenly believe that the grief has gotten easier, manageable even, as the days have passed. 

It simply is not the case.

After having many conversations with others who are in this same journey and encouragement by them to share our collective thoughts, I would like to offer them in hopes that they may help as you reach out in love to someone who is grieving.

Our family has been blessed beyond measure by an amazing support system.  We have been enveloped by love from the very beginning.  Some of what I have shared below is direct result of this outpouring of love.  To be honest, we didn't even know what we needed until we received it.  So, this list is meant as a way to help you help others, from the perspective of one who's been there.  Thank you for being the hands and feet of Christ as you reach out to your brothers and sisters in need. 

1.  Fear others will forget the baby or child:  Because our babies haven't lived a full life, met tons of other people, or been involved in activities, we worry that our babies are more easily forgotten.  Passed over after they've passed away, if you will.  Help us to know that isn't the case.

2.  Give them the gift of time:  Really, there's nothing better.  The gift of time is my love language in general and I would say that for many in this empty abyss, it is theirs, too.  Showering your friend or family member with your time and attention is generous in every sense.  We are busy creatures nowadays and setting aside time to call a friend, mail them a card, go sit beside them or get the kids together is a precious, precious gift.  The best things in life aren't always things.

3.  Listening:  This is a hard one for most of us.  Why?  Because we want to help, offer advice, make the other person feel better.  I have a present for you all!  You're completely off the hook on this one.  There's nothing you can say or do that will make the loss better.  Sure, your actions will help the grieving process but so will your ability to sit still and just listen.  These grieving parents need to just talk, cry, speak without being fear of judgement or well-meaning platitudes.  Yup. I said it.  Those clich├ęs that are supposed to make us feel better actually do the opposite.  The best words you can say today, tomorrow or next week:  I'm sorry.  Or better yet...nothing.  Just sit quietly beside them.

4.  Let them know when something reminds you of their baby:  Oh, my, how this one makes my heart SOAR!  SOAR, I tell you!  I love, love, love getting messages, texts or emails letting me know that something just reminded that person of my baby Everly.  Why?  Well, first it tells me that someone else has my sweet pea on their mind and that it made an impression enough that they took the TIME to let me know.  It's a powerful gesture...more so than you might think.  Whether it's a new Sweet Pea restaurant, a butterfly in an odd spot, or a license plate name, they mean the world to us! Guaranteed, your friend will think so, too!  Give it a shot and see if they don't light up when you do!

5.  Join them.  A sense of community and cohesiveness goes a long way to combat the intense isolation grieving parents feel when their child has died.  The life they once knew and probably was safe for them was taken away instantly.  It's intimidating, frightening and lonely.  If they are doing something in their child's memory like knitting caps for the NICU or collecting supplies for homeless children, reach out and get involved, even if it's just a small part.  Doesn't mean it has to become your life event but just showing your solidarity and support will be so appreciated.  It also tells that bereaved parent that keeping their child's memory is alive is important to you, too.  They will be so thankful to you for the feeling of security, partnership and union that your involvement will give them. 

6.  Grace.  Though it's been 4 months, 9 months, 2 years, please offer grace and understanding to these heroic parents.  They have to live in a world that has moved past their baby's death.  Let that concept soak for a minute.  They are watching a movie with the most horrific scene but yet they have to get up and function like it really never happened to the outside world.  Kind of hard to imagine, right?  So, just remember that this movie scene is a reality and that it's one that has no end.  There are going to be moody moments because anger is a part of grief.  There's going to be cancellations because at the last minute they realize, though they had the best intentions, they can't attend your baby shower.  There are going to be difficult days for them and your grace will go a long way in helping them manage this unimaginable life.

7. Blessing them, blesses you.  Service to others is to be done out of a love for another, or in my belief system, out of a love of Christ.  With no expectation or reward.  However, the funny thing about blessing others is the crazy way it in turn blesses you back.  Have you ever given your seat up for an elderly person or rescued an animal who was in need?  Or what about donating to a shelter for Thanksgiving meals or boxes for children at Christmas?  Doesn't it just feel good?  I love how I feel when I leave the hospital after Ala and I do a pet therapy visit.  I feel like we brightened someone's day, left someone a wee bit happier than when we found them.  The same thing can happen when you bless a parent who is grieving, you are blessed in return.  You've given a gift to the person on the face of this planet deserves it the most.  Thank you for that.

8.  Remember hard days.  The calendar is no longer a friend to a bereaved parent.  It now only marks the time since the last time they last held their precious baby or child.  Throw in a bunch of memory-making dates like Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays, beginning of school days, and the like and that's a recipe for misery.  It's a fact that grieving parents have to learn to survive in a world that moves forward.  But reach out to them on those difficult days just to let them know you are thinking of them.  That's all it takes.  Really.  One text.  One call.  One email.  Thinking of you today.  As much as they will move on for the sake of other children or family, those days will never again be the same or complete.  They just can't.  Mark your calendar to send them a quick note.

9. Speak their child's name.  Yup.  This one again.  Speaking their child's name is and will always be on the list for ways to help someone who has lost a baby or child.  Wanna know another secret?  Your mentioning their baby's name out of the blue when they seem to be okay and talking about something else will NEVER be the wrong thing to do.  They will be eternally grateful for you bringing up their child.  Here's the inside scoop:  thoughts of their child aren't far from their mind, they just can't be so you bringing it up won't make them sad, but not mentioning it will. 

10.  It's never too late.  If your friend lost their baby a year ago and you haven't reached out because you didn't know what to say, do it now.  It's never too late.  Bereaved parents change a whole heck of a lot after losing a child and grace and forgiveness are given pretty freely if they weren't already.  They will understand. Look, grief is messy, complicated and uncomfortable but you add in the loss of a child and it becomes really messy, really complicated and really uncomfortable.  It is for them, too.  Walk alongside them through this tortuous path.  It's never too late. 

Ye ought to...comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.   Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him.  2 Corinthians 2:7-8

If you've made it this far, you're a great friend!  From all the bereaved parents I've been privileged to meet on my own journey, we thank you for reading through our collective thoughts and ideas for how to help.  I would love to hear from you if you have a comment or something you'd like to share. 

As always, for regular updates, pictures and information, click here as I post there often.  This site is my platform for writing my thoughts, feelings, what's going on with us, and just a place to unwind in general.

In honor of Everly's 7 month angelversary, everyone is encouraged to wear a Team Everly, Sweet Pea, Shout Love t-shirts or pink/green colors.  Thanks everyone!

Everly Marie Hopkins
2/20/14 - 1/26/15

Many blessings to all,