What can I do to help?

As one who has experienced a loss of a baby, I have on numerous occasions received a phone call or text similar to this:

"My Sister-in-law/boss' wife/friend just lost a baby at 12/18/32 weeks. What can I do to help?"

I HATE that I am seen as an expert on this subject. But am so grateful that they have reached out to me in order to reach out to those that are grieving.

Because that is all you can really do... reach out.

Reach out... in person, by telephone, in text, or with a written formal card. The level of intimacy that you use should mirror the level of intimacy of your friendship. Just because a distant acquaintance suffers a devastating loss doesn't mean you need to sidle up like you are BFF's but it also means you shouldn't ignore them either. All expressions of sympathy are appreciated - even from strangers. Reaching out often feels uncomfortable but when you are on the receiving end even the smallest of gestures lift you.

You must acknowledge the loss - not acknowledging it only makes it a 1000 times worse. I sat by a good friend a week after losing Talmage. She talked of Fielding like he was a singleton and never once addressed the elephant in the room - my other baby that was dead. It was one of the most painful 45 minutes of my life and sadly our friendship was forever altered in a negative way.

A tangible object is thoughtful. Flowers, food, books, music CD's, a blanket, a holiday ornament, written condolences - something they can hold and touch will help the emptiness of their arms.

There is no time frame. If you didn't get to it the first day or first week... it's okay... they are still suffering and will still appreciate the outpouring of love. However, procrastinating can cause you to forget the grieving as you go through the ins-and-outs of your life so I have learned the sooner you act is usually better.

This post has came about because the other day, I received a different type of phone call. 

It was one of Blake's co-workers who has become a close friend. And the moment I heard her ask, "Is this an okay time?" I knew. I knew by the crack in  her voice. I knew because two months earlier she had happily joked, "Look, I can be like you Mormons - a baby every 2 years." when she announced to us her pregnancy. I knew because our normal form of communication is texting but now she was calling... calling me... because I was the one who could relate to a routine ultrasound turning tragic. 

So I took my own advice and reached out. I sent Blake over with a card and hot cookies (I didn't want to overwhelm by showing up also with the kids hollering from the car because they want to go into any house that we ever pull up to). I texted the next day when I knew decisions and procedures would start having to take place. I brought dinner and my favorite book and said sorry no less than 50 times. 

Yea, I may have went a little overboard for our level of friendship but this is my first time on this end of such a loss after having my loss. I was struck by the helplessness that I felt - that there was nothing I could do. At one point during our initial conversation I listened as the words came out of my mouth, "I wish it was me because I know I could get through it - that it totally sucks but that you do survive. I know you can't see it now but you will get through this. I just wish you didn't have to... it hurts... so bad." And I could feel those same initial pangs of heartbreak and I was shocked when I remembered how deep it cuts.

So reach out - even if you feel awkward or intrusive or helpless...

Because, I promise you, they are feeling worse.

1 comment:

HowellAZ said...

There is something in my nature, and perhaps just in human nature in general, that feels inclined to 'go away' from pain and that includes bringing it up to someone else, because talking about something that is painful, is well, painful (at least to a certain degree). But the irony is that I need to 'go to' the pain and address it, talk about it and let the other person know that they have a friend. The person who loses cannot ignore the pain or pretend that their loss never was. This is something I've learned from you and others who have experienced loss...it's okay to talk about the person who is no longer with us and not only that, it's welcomed. Good for you going the extra mile for this sad mother - I'm sure it means more to her than you will ever know.