Comfort and Joy

I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will
give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.
Jeremiah 31:13

Monday, January 9, 2012

How to love someone who has a lost a child..

My precious friend Ashley just experienced the tragic loss of her cousin and the other day we were talking about how to show her aunt how much she loved her and it got me thinking about how we can help others who have lost a child. If it hadn't been for my experience with Forrest than I would never have done these things. I was that person that either tried to say the "right" thing or didn't say anything at all. Not anymore. I always ask about peoples loved ones because I know how much it means to me. I hope this list can help others know how to love their friends during a difficult time. I wrote it with the intentions that it was for someone who lost a child but I think a lot of it could work for anyone who has a lost a loved one.  I know not everyone grieves the same so this list may not be for everyone but these are some things I have observed over the last 4 years.  Feel free to add something to the comment section if you think it would help others.

Pray for him or her. There is nothing more important than praying for them. Pray for their marriage, pray for their other children, pray for peace, pray for hope, just pray for them.

Write notes, often. Each time I received a handwritten note it meant so much to me. It showed me they still cared, they were taken time to show me they cared, and it brightened my day. David and I would race each other to the mailbox to see what came that day. It was such a joy to receive heartfelt notes from others.

Send emails, FB messages, text messages, call them. Pursue them even though they may not reciprocate for a while. This will show them they are important to you and you are not giving up on them.

Give them time to be silent for a while. I feel like these next two things are going to sound like they are contradicting each other but it takes time to emerge again and for a while all they can do is get out of bed (if they are doing that). Check in on them but don’t pressure them to do anything more than just breathe. Some days its hard to do even that.

Continue to ask them to do things even if they tell you no 15 times in a row. Don’t give up on them. After you have given them some time to be silent then start asking them to do things again. They will feel like they are drowning and knowing that people are still pursuing them will help them to eventually emerge from the dark waters they are in. They will want to eventually join the world so just knowing there are things to go to will help them get back to life.

Organize meals. Meals were brought to us every day at the hospital. Every single night a warm, delicious meal was brought to us. On weekends we even had lunch and dinner brought to us because hospital food is expensive and honestly not the tastiest. This was a huge blessing. I have heard of others having a cooler on the back porch and meals being dropped in it so the family didn’t have to talk to people if they didn’t want to. Meals are something you can’t imagine doing when you are grieving so terribly.

Stock the fridge with easy food to prepare for snacks, breakfast, etc. I had no desire to go to the grocery store and see people so it was so nice when people would do it for me.

Resist the urge to say anything positive. For example, “If he had lived, he would have had a lot of disabilities and that would have been so hard so its probably better that he is in Heaven” or "Well, at least they are in a better place" This is not something you want to hear. You know your loved one is in a better place but honestly; you want them here with you. Be honest. Say things like, “This sucks” “I am so sorry” or even “I don’t’ know what to say but I hurt with you”. Anything is better than trying to say the right thing because honestly there is nothing right to say.

Don’t feel like you have to say something spiritual whenever you see or talk to them. For example, “Lean on the Lord” or quote scripture to them. At least for me I wasn’t just leaning on the Lord, I was falling on him. I knew all the scripture people would write me and I appreciated it but as I said above, just be honest and don’t feel like you have to be spiritual with them.

Don’t ignore what happened and not say something at all. Even 4 years later I love to talk about him. He was my son and such a huge part of me. I love when people bring him up and tell me about the impact he made. I think people are afraid that if they bring it up it will make us sad but we think about him/her all the time and it’s nice to hear others talk about him too. I don’t want people to forget my son.

If they have other children than offer to help with them. Take the sibling out for the day and give them a day that is about them only. The sibling is hurting too so it’s nice to give them something special just for them. It also gives the parents time for themselves where they can openly express their feelings without worrying what the siblings will think.

Offer to help them with housework, yard work, fix the car, any kind of work! One of the best things was when others cleaned my house. I didn’t have the energy to do it but I love having a clean house (who doesn’t) so it was such a blessing. We had many who helped clean our house and do yard work during Forrest’s hospitalization and afterwards. If you live far away than you could even hire a cleaning service to clean the house.

Remember special anniversaries. The child’s birthday and their coming home day. There is nothing more special than knowing others remember him and haven’t forgotten. Sweet friends of mine have done lots of things on his anniversary. Bought a bush that blooms every year in the Fall (around his birthday), sent cupcakes when we lived out of town, sent lots of cards, gave me a massage, etc. Even just a note saying you remember and are praying for them is so appreciated. I am so touched by those that reach out to me on his anniversary days.

Just last week David and I received a letter in the mail with a picture of Forrest's name written in the sand at a beach in Australia. A lady there lost her own child and now writes the names of children who have died too young in the sand. My precious friend Jaime had her write Forrest's name.  This was such a special gift to receive in the mail out of the blue. We love it! Thank you Jaime!


CCB said...

Brittany, I am friends with Jenny Wilford & have been reading your blog for awhile. I just want you to know that this post is powerful. I posted it to my FB page because I believe so many do not know WHAT to do. Thank you for taking the time to write this for those who want to be there but just aren't sure how. I admire so your resolve to live your life so fully with the pain the absence of your son must present daily. You are such a blessing to your family and those you reach thru your blog and life in general. Thanks for sharing your journey. :) -Catherine

The Rohman Family said...

Such a great post. You know, the part of that just took my breath away is that it has been 4 years. Seems like it wasn't so long that I was checking those CaringBridge updates all the time, in prayer for Forrest. I'm sure the time feels different to you, but I can't believe it's been 4 years.

Laura Sessions said...

Love this...thanks for sharing friend!

The Hensons said...

wow. what a powerful post. thanks for taking the time to write it. you are a blessing, and i enjoy following y'all on your blog (though i rarely comment). hope that new england winter isn't being too hard on you southern people!

can you give me more info on the australian sand writer? i have a friend that i would love to give that gift to. so special!

Casey Cockrum said...

so stinking thankful for you....

ashleywheatley said...

So thankful for you friend. This is beautiful. I may
Share on my blog or FB, this can really help others!
Love you and I'll be praying for your travels

Emilee Odette Garrett said...

This is so great. What a huge help for those of us who desire to help those suffering/in need. It's part of human nature (or just my nature???) to want to "do" something to help when someone is grieving. Thank you for coming up with this list - what a great resource.

Molly Witherington said...

such a helpful post for those of us that are clueless. thanks, brittany. by the way, the "word verification" below for me is skilzz. you got skilzz, girl;)

kristie.guthrie said...

Alicia Harrison is my cousin and I have learned so much about how to interact with her by reading your blog and a few others. This is so helpful. When I saw her at Thanksgiving I talked to her a long time about Evie and she thanked me for talking about her. It really is so hard to know what's appropriate and appreciated by grieving parents. Thanks for posting this.
Kristie Guthrie