Tuesday, January 22, 2013

10 Things Not to Say to a Grieving Parent

Last week I posted a list of 10 things a person could do to help in a time of great loss. This week I am going to highlight a few things people should not say. I do understand that in a time of loss people feel like they are at a loss for words and want to make the person going through the grief feel better, but sometimes words can do more harm than good. A good rule of thumb to remember is that when you don't know what to say, it is probably best to remain silent. No words are better than potentially hurtful words.

1. "They are better off where they are."
True, but it does not ease the pain of knowing you no longer have your child in your arms.

2. "God wanted another flower in his garden."
My child is not some tulip sitting in a plot of dirt up in heaven. This phrase which is meant to comfort has no meaning whatsoever.

3. "It will be ok."
Yes, someday it will be ok, but not now. Don't try to comfort fresh grief with this phrase. It is like putting a Band-Aid® on an amputation.

4. "You're young, you can have more kids."
Not necessarily. Parents who just lost a child don't want imaginary future children, they want their baby, their precious baby who is no longer here. Also, it is not kind to give them false hope.

5. "Maybe you should have built up the immune system."
This is probably one of the most hurtful, for it insinuates that losing the child was somehow the parents fault, that if they had given them this and avoided that the child would still be here.

6. "I know how you feel."
This one is tricky. If you have lost a child, then yes, you can sympathize. If, however, you have not suffered any losses then you can not possibly understand how a grieving parent feels. Losing a child is a different kind of grief than losing a parent, sibling, friend, or relative. If you have gone through one of those losses, then you certainly can sympathize and help them through the stages of grief. Just be sensitive to the fact that there is a difference. The grief of losing another loved one is not less than losing a child, just different. Also, be prepared for the parent to lash out and say you can't possibly understand because you have not gone through what they are going through. Don't get angry or your feelings hurt, just understand that raw grief says things that a healed person might not say. See item number three on last weeks list, "don't be shocked."

7. "It's time to move on."
Never, and I repeat, never dictate to a parent when they should move on. Let them move at their own pace.

8. "Well, I guess God just wanted him/her more."
In our heart of hearts, we know that God loves our children even more than we do, but we love our children very much and when we are forced to give them up it is hard to see that.

9. "It's too bad you will never see them '_______'"
Yes, we know it's too bad. We don't need you to tell us how bad it is. Someday, when we are ready, we want to talk about the things our child could have or would have done, but not now. Not at the funeral.

10. "You have other children."
If the parents do have other children, those children will become even more dear to them, but they will never, I repeat, never take away the pain of someone missing, someone who won't be in any more family photos, who won't sit at the dinner table. Never try to replace the child with one of the siblings. They won't take his or her place, and we don't want them too.

Friday, January 18, 2013


There are many "firsts" in life. You know, the "first time" you do/say/experience something. Some are good and some are not.

My life is filled with many firsts.

My first time driving (thanks, Dad!).

My first job.

My first crush.

My first love.

Now, I share many firsts with my first love. Together, we make it through the hard times as well as the good times.

Our first baby girl, now in heaven.

Our first Christmas.

Our first son.

Our first experience with empty arms and an empty crib.

Our first time holding Henry.

Henry's first bath.

Henry's first Christmas.

And now, for the first time, Henry is sick. It's the first time I have cared for a sick baby since Avery was so ill. It's scary. But I know how to get through it.

One step at a time.

I can only think about the next step. Two steps ahead is too much.

I only have the strength to go one step at a time.

But God is good. He gives strength as needed.

He never fails.

He won't let me down.

I know, because I have taken that first step.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

10 Ways to Help Those Who Grieve

When a family has gone through a loss, whether it be the loss of a child, pet, parent, friend, co-worker or relative, people want to know how they can help. Here are a few practical ways you can get involved.

1. Give Them Space
Often, when one is left raw and hurting from loss, they need space to re-group and heal before entering back in to society. Knowing when to back off is a good skill to develop.

2. Be Understanding
Those who are grieving will have mood swings, being hermit-like one day and needing company the next. Be patient with the person and do not show any frustration with their seemingly unpredictable needs. Be flexible and go with the flow.

3. Don't Be Shocked
Oftentimes, a hurting person will say things they don't mean. If your friend or loved one drops a cuss word or two, don't panic. They are trying to process their thoughts and may only know how to express themselves through the crudest of language.

4. Clean Something
Mop the floors. Clean out the refrigerator. Fold the laundry. Do something practical. They may not ever notice what you did, but it will help. Trust me. Also, don't pepper them with questions on where things are or how they like things done. Use common sense. If the person asks you to do something or use something different, comply without an argument.

5. Talk/Listen
Those who have faced loss want to talk about their loved one. Ask them what dad's favorite TV show was, their plans they had for their baby, where Spot liked to go on a walk. There is nothing worse than the feeling that no one cares about their loved one. Keep the memory alive and help find healing in meaningful conversation.

6. Send a Text
When our son passed away, a very dear friend took it upon herself to text me a verse from the Bible every morning. They were the first thing I read upon waking. I don't know how I would have gotten through the first month without those texts. If you or your friend/loved one is not religious, text them positive thoughts or kind words. They will be a healing balm.

7. Send Snail Mail
In a day where so much communication is done electronically, snail mail is a treat. Send those cards and notes as often as you can. Getting something in the mail may be their only bright spot in the day.

8. Bring Food
Food is very helpful in the days following a loss. Often, families are flooded with food at the very beginning, but within a few weeks they are back to trying to cook for themselves. Ask them about meals. If they have plenty of food, wait a few weeks or even a month before bringing a meal. Be sensitive about any food allergies or diet restrictions. Restaurant gift cards are also a nice idea. They don't have to cook (neither do you!) and they are able to get out of the house for a little while.

9. Take them Out
If your friend or loved one is starting to tread the dangerous waters of deep depression, becomes suicidal or refuses to see or talk to anyone for days on end, take them out. Get them out of the house, even if it's only for a ride to the other side of town and back. They may be upset with you at first, but they will thank you later.

10. Cry
Cry with those who have lost. Let them know that you, too are sad, that you hurt when they hurt, that you hurt because they hurt.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Perfect? No.

I am not a perfect mother.

I make mistakes.

I get mad.

I stomp around the house.

I am crabby (sometimes).

But still people put me on a pedestal.

They think that since I have "made the ultimate sacrifice" in letting my babies go, I am somehow above other mothers, that I have attained perfection.

This is not true.

Just because I have lost does not make me a perfect mother.

It makes me a different kind of mother.

It makes me a mother who knows that just because a child has a perfect check-up each year does not mean everything is going to be fine.

It makes me a mother who, even while I am upset, knows that someday I might wish I could get another night of interrupted sleep.

It makes me a mother who is scared of a 101-degree fever.

It makes me a mother who has to learn to trust, all over again.

Has losing our sweet babies changed the way we parent? Yes. Has it made us better parents? In some ways, yes. It is not a journey we would have chosen for ourselves, but it is a journey we must take. So please, don't put grieving parents on a pedestal. Don't hold us up as ideal parents because we have lost. Trust me, it is another burden we don't need to bear. We have enough already.