Has it really been 24 years? My grief road has certainly been a long valley. A winding road that leads to new things even after 24 years.
June 9, 1992, she entered this world after a very rough 9 1/2 months. A turbulent pregnancy turned into a beautiful baby. All those weeks in the hospital, followed by weeks on bed rest at home, only allowed to leave on Fridays to go to the doctor. I did everything in my power to keep her inside, growing and thriving until it was safe for her to be born. Then, when it was safe for her to live outside of me and she could come into this world…she didn’t. She decided not to be born. When we reached the two weeks overdue mark, I ended up having a C-section. All things looked OK…until they were not. Less than 6 hours after she was born she was whisked off to another hospital. And four days later…she was gone.
She died in my arms. Four days after she was born, she was dead. Four days later we buried her.
Twenty-four years later I have learned many things about grieving, losing a child and processing all that goes along with that. Here are some things I have learned that might help you the next time you meet someone that has lost a child or someone close to them.
- Do tell them you are praying for them – if you are. While “I’m praying for you” may seem like small words, prayers are powerful and it was comforting to me knowing that others were praying for me because I was not able to pray when Amy died.
- Do take a meal. Food is necessary for healing and when I was grieving and recovering I couldn’t cook. Friends and my husbands co-workers brought so much food that we had meals in the freezer for weeks. It was truly a gift. The meal doesn’t have to be elaborate, just food that the family can eat and not have to think about it.
- Do be specific in your offer to help. Instead of “let me know if there is anything I can do to help you.” Say, “Would it be OK if I come and get you kiddos tomorrow for a play date so you can have some rest?” or “Would it be OK if I did a few loads of laundry for you?” Or clean the bathroom or the kitchen or mow the grass…whatever. But be specific in your offering. Many people will not call and ask someone to do something, but when grieving and someone offers something specific, the grieving person just might say yes.
- Do say the name of the person. Especially if it is a child. Twenty-four years later I still like to hear Amy’s name and there aren’t many people around me that say it anymore. The parent never forgets their child. Amy lived 4 days outside my body, but she lives forever in my heart.
- Do send a sympathy card. I still have all the cards sent to my family when Amy died. I will often send a card 3-4 weeks after the death. That is when I found that the cards stopped coming and everyone seemed to have forgotten my loss, but it was still fresh in my mind. A few years ago my neighbor’s teenage son died unexpectedly. I sent a sympathy card a few weeks after the death and on the 2nd anniversary of his death I sent another card, letting them know that I remembered and was still praying for them. A few weeks later the mother stopped to thank me. She told me that it seems everyone had forgotten. I knew what she was talking about. Sending cards is something I do for all kinds of occasions and for no occasion, but it is an easy way to let someone know you care. Personally, I love the sympathy cards from DaySpring.
- If the loss is a child, especially an infant or small child, do NOT – repeat NOT – tell the parents they can have another child. A child that has died is not replaceable like a lost earring or a favorite ink pen. They are living, breathing human beings that are part of our lives – when they are gone, so is a piece of our heart. Please don’t tell us we can have another one, because not only is it rude, it is hurtful.
I don’t profess to be a professional counselor that understands the ins and outs of the grieving process. I am only a mother that has lost a child in the second trimester of a pregnancy, then two years later buried my 3rd child. With one living child and almost 24 years beyond the day when I sat in the cemetery under the hot sun and the blue sky while listening to a priest friend utter a few words he hoped would be comforting…I can offer my perspective. I pray that it is helpful to someone.
If you would like to read more about Amy and my personal journey, click here.
Have you lost a child or know someone who has? Can I pray for you or them?
Please let me know in the comments.