What you can do: Helping grieving or hurting mommies. Part 1

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When my first son was born with life-threatening medical complications, our lives soon became a tailspin of hospital stays, surgeries, medical equipment, therapy sessions, insurance phone calls, and a host of medical terminology that I could barely pronounce. I realize that a majority of you reading this post have probably not experienced caring for a gravely or continually ill child. However, I do believe that a majority of you know of someone who has been or is currently in this role. Perhaps you are wondering what you can do or say to help. I would love to share what has been helpful for our family. Of course, please consider that every family and every situation is unique and these are my opinions.

Be There

It sounds obvious doesn’t it? Please don’t feel like you are helping by staying away. When our son was born, I had several good friends who did not contact our family. Later, once our son was doing better, a few of them admitted avoiding the situation because they didn’t know how to respond. I realize that it is hard to be there for a friend when you don’t know how to comfort them. It’s human nature to avoid potentially uncomfortable situations. If you don’t know what to say or do for your friend, just be present to listen or sit with them during the hard times even if the silence may be a little bit uncomfortable. We have become so accustomed to a world full of noise (TV, mp3 players, annoying children’s toys that don’t seem to have an off switch), that many of us are uncomfortable with silence and not knowing the “right” thing to say. However, often a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on, or a friend to hug can be more comforting to a grieving parent than all the “right” words. Your friend will appreciate you just being there ready to listen or give them a hand.If you are worried about getting in the way, just be honest with your friend. Have an agreement that they can feel free to let you know at any point if they need some time without company.

Keep It Simple

Many well-meaning people said unintentional, yet hurtful things to our family during our son’s intense health battle. At the same token, many people said kind words, to which I clung during our dark times.

Here are few rules to keep in mind:

  • Don’t feel like you need to have all the answers for your friend because you don’t and you won’t.
  • Don’t feel like you need to share something super inspiring or the perfect Bible verse to cure all their hurt and despair.
  • Don’t be quick to judge.  Be sensitive. No one on the outside can completely understand the hard decisions that are made within each unique situation of a family with an ill child.

My advice, when you don’t know what to say to a hurting friend/parent, is to keep it simple. Below are a few ideas of how to show you care while keeping it simple:

  • “I’ll do anything I can to help you get through this.”
  • “You’re my friend, I love you, and I’m going to be here for you during this hard time.”
  • “I’m sorry this is happening to you and your family, it’s not fair.”
  • “I want you to know I think and pray for your family daily.”

Instead of feeling pressure to have that perfect statement, just remind them that you are their friend and you care.  By saying something simple and reassuring to your friend you can be sure you won’t be insensitive and you won’t have to avoid your friend because you don’t know what to say.

Stay tuned next month for more practical ideas on how to help hurting parents.

What has been helpful for you as a grieving parent? Or what have you done that has helped a grieving parent?

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Amber is a central Iowa native. Amber has been married to her best friend Tommy since 2007. Amber feels she has the best job in the world, being a stay at home mom to her two boys, Miles (August 2009) and Graham (May 2012). On any given day you may find Amber in her pajamas past noon, ignoring a couch piled high with clean laundry and a sticky kitchen floor desperate for a scrubbing. Much of Amber’s joy and fulfillment comes from serving her family. Amber is passionate about advocating for her son Miles and other children with special needs. Amber is currently learning and enjoying what it means to raise a healthy infant with her son Graham. Besides loving on her family, Amber enjoys ethnic foods, nerdy strategy and card games, lazy days, and good books.

6 COMMENTS

  1. As someone currently grieving the loss of our baby, I would love to add a few things. 
    ~Call, text, email, stop by, just to let them know you are thinking of them and ask if there is anything practical you can do for them-run an errand, pick up the house, keep the kids for a while to give them a break, just sit and visit, etc.  Even though it has been 6 months already for us, I still need help some days just to keep it all together and every little kind gesture helps.
    ~Keep the baby’s memory alive.  We have a wonderful support system that continues to rally around us and do sweet little things to honor our baby girl.  Cards, gifts, memorial donations, gifts to the NICU or Mercy’s Perinatal Hospice program in the family’s name are wonderful ways to do something tangible and memorable. 
    ~Acknowlege the baby as a part of the family.  We can’t speak for all grieving families but it is always nice to hear other people still speak her name without feeling ashamed or shy about it.  It helps us remember that she was very real and loved very much. 
     
    I have blogged about our experience and have offered other suggestions on there as well if anyone would like to check that out:  http://www.OurHeavenlyHomestead.com 
     
    God bless,
    Maria

    • @mariacampbell Maria, I didn’t know you have a blog, and I certainly didn’t know you lost a child. I’m so sorry. It’s sad the way we can be in the midst of people who are deeply hurting and not even know it. Thanks for contributing to the conversation here. I hopped over and peeked around your blog a bit. I Iook forward to visiting again. 🙂 May God bless you and continue to comfort your heart.

    • @mariacampbell Maria, thanks so much for sharing!  I totally agree with your input. In fact, you beat me to the punch on a few ideas that I will be talking more about later in the series. 😉
       
      Maria, thank you so much for sharing about your sweet angel. The loss of your sweet innocent baby fills my eyes with tears. It is so true that even 6 months or a year (or ten years!) down the road we still need a friendly word or a helping hand. Pain is a hard thing to bear alone and grief doesn’t subside quickly. To this day I am still caught off-guard with memories of overwhelming pain when I think about my son’s first year of life. 
       
      I will certainly check out your blog. Thanks for the link.
       
      I pray that God blesses your family.
      Amber

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