Yesterday I did something no one should ever have to do. I went to baby Micah‘s funeral service. It was at the same time heartbreaking and beautiful. So many people came to support Matt and Alyssa and say goodbye to Micah – a baby boy we only knew through Alyssa’s words, but one that has changed many lives forever – mine included. I can’t imagine what Matt and Alyssa were feeling yesterday, and I wanted to do anything I could to help. But the thing is – there’s not much I can do. I know I personally have to deal with grief in my own time and way, and I’m sure they do as well. I hope none of you are ever faced with this situation – whether it’s yourself or friends, but I thought I’d offer some tips I’ve gathered – how to help a family while grieving the loss of their child.
- Be there for them, but keep it simple and genuine. If you don’t know what to say, it’s perfectly acceptable to say, “I’m so sorry, I don’t know what to say.” Let them know you’re there if they need you. Offer your ear, a hug, some kind words.
- Bring a meal. This can be any meal, and doesn’t have to be homemade. If you’re strapped on time, a restaurant gift card is a great idea.
- If they have other children, offer to babysit. Parents need time together as a couple after a loss to be able to be there for each other without distraction.
- Take care of household chores for them. Hire a cleaning service. It’s snowing? Shovel their driveway and walk. If they’ve received gifts, offer to help with thank you notes.
- Offer distraction, if they need it. Take them out for coffee. Have a playdate with their kids and yours (if they have others). Go see a movie. Bring over a bottle of wine and a movie. Just help them get back to as much normalcy as possible.
- While distraction is helpful, make sure they know their child is not forgotten. Refer to the child by name. Consider a meaningful gift that’s a reminder of the child.
- Listen if they want to talk. Let them be silent if they don’t.
- Don’t minimize the loss or point out what you may see as “the good side.” If they have other children, that’s great – but it doesn’t make this loss any easier.
- If religion or other beliefs are helping them through this, support them. Even if you don’t agree, let them be comforted by what they believe. If you’re religious and so inclined, pray for them.
- Consider a tribute of some sort – a donation to a charity, a plant, etc. For example, when my grandmother passed away, we planted a tree in my parents’ front yard. A similar gesture could be comforting for a parent to have a piece of their child in their daily life.
- If it’s appropriate, consider starting a donation site for them. Many parents dealing with the loss of a child have unexpected medical and funeral costs, and giving a monetary donation is a great way for friends and family to help, especially if they live far and can’t be there in person.
- Give them time. If they want you to go away – do it. They may need space rather than constant comfort.
- Just be there. They’ll tell you what they need, whether in words or a hug. Don’t let them feel alone. They’ll never forget, and I don’t think they’ll ever truly be “over it,” and that’s ok – I wouldn’t expect them to. But they can move forward.
Ugh. I can’t imagine. My heart breaks for parents that lose children. 🙁
It is truly horrible.
Sorry you had to go through this. Losing a child is unimaginable. I can’t even begin to know how they feel. 🙁
I know. I hope I can help, even if it’s in a small way.
So tough and unimaginable. That’s great advice though and I’m sure it will help many.
I hope so!