Friday, October 8, 2010

How to Help...

My blog friend, who had a sweet baby girl that passed away (Whitney Jill), posted a neat post about how to help a friend who has a baby who passed away.  It seems like most of you must have already seen this post, because you all have supported me so well. Sent me little sweet notes, looked me up on facebook, brought meals, etc.  But I'm going to post this in case you are reading this and you feel at a loss, you're not sure how to move forward.  You have a friend or a family member who lost a baby to miscarriage, stillbirth, or even when they find out about a prenatal diagnosis.

How To Help A Friend Who Has Lost A Baby

1. Bring Meals to them. The last thing your friend will want to have to worry about is food. We had family here, and we have had several people bring meals, which is nice.  Organizing the meals or having one point of contact might be a good way to keep things moving and make sure the  meals are coming on a regular basis.  Having a list of people who will bring meals to their home in the days after the birth/loss will be a tremendous help. Some easy ideas for meals would be a pot roast, lasagna, pasta, baked chicken... anything they can reheat, too. If you don't cook, but you still want to help, giftcards for meals are still a great option.  It is just so nice not to have to cook, but cooking a homemade meal might not be something you can offer. :)

2. Call, email, send messages, write notes... but don't be offended if they don't respond. It can get overwhelming to get lots of notes, and they are so encouraging, but many times the energy is so zapped that she won't be able to respond to each message.  Do say something. And don't give up.  Your friend may not feel like talking to anyone. But she will want and need to know her friends still love and support her. In the days immediately surrounding her loss, she may feel numb and not even be capable of a response. Your notes of love and sympathy will not go unnoticed. Same thing if you are on Facebook... send her a message or post a note on her wall. I read every single comment I received; with each one, I felt more and more comforted. Even if you don't know the person very well... go ahead and send a note. I received notes and messages from people I don't think I've ever spoken to in my life, but I still appreciated it just as much.

3.  Don't stop writing notes....or texting....continue doing this weeks or months after the baby is born.  The mom hasn't forgotten, but lots of others have, or it's not at the top of their minds anymore.  It is so nice to know that others still care, even after family has left town and things have quieted down.  Make yourself a note to write to that person or even just give them a quick note, "I'm still thinking about you...I'm still praying for you."

4. You'll want to offer them advice... don't. I would almost go so far as to say, resist the urge to say something positive, too. Well meaning statements such as "You can have more children" or "God has a plan for you" just don't help.  This applies if you know someone carrying a baby with a fatal birth defect or after the baby is born..  (I should make a list of well-meaning things NEVER to say...) Your friend doesn't want another baby-- she wants the one she just lost. She also doesn't want to hear about God's plan right now. Just like in the book of Job when his friends sat with him in silence for days, often speaks more than any words could. I also think its pefectly okay to acknowledge to your friend, "This sucks." Because it does. Sugar coating it doesn't help anything. You know it sucks. She knows it sucks. So don't worry about putting on a rainbow show.  Since I have processed things for so long, I was able to say that this was God's will for our sweet baby, but when I first got diagnosed, this was not comforting at all. In fact, it made it seem as though I wasn't ALLOWED to feel sad.  Allow you friends to feel sad, be a listener. Ask them how they're doing.  Tell them what verses in the bible you are praying over them.  I loved going back to look at text messages that showed me what verses were being prayed over my baby and my life.  I would go back and read them and feel so loved.

5. Do something practical. If your friends have other children, take them out of the house for an afternoon. Offer to take them overnight while she is at the hospital. Offer to help with the dogs.  Maybe your friend needs her yard mowed. Remember, dads experience loss and grief just like the mom, but often in different ways. The last thing he probably wants to do is mow the yard. Ask if you can help her with housework, laundry... whatever. My mom,dad, mother in law and father in law were here when Briar was born. When we came home from the hospital, they had completely cleaned every inch of our house. It was such a relief to come home to a clean house.  There were new flowers in the pots out front.  Simple things, but they meant a lot.

6. Continue to invite them to things. Even though your friend will probably not feel up for being around lots of people, still invite her. Don't give up even when she continues to turn you down. :)

7. Contribute to a memorial fund. Sometimes, parents will set up a memorial fund in honor of their baby who has passed away. Sometimes, they may not have a memorial fund set up, but there is some kind of organization or fund you can contribute to in honor/memory of their little one. There are organizations that contribute to research in all areas, as well as non-profits who help families wih sick children. A few examples are The Ronald McDonald House, Children's Hospital (possibly where your friend may have seen doctors), Cancer Societies... the list goes on and on. Most of the time, when you make a contribution in honor of someone, they will send a note to the parents, letting them know a contribution was made in memory of their child. Again, this means the WORLD to a parent! We set up the Briar's Brother Adoption Fund (I'm sure you're totally sick of hearing about this?!).  We decided to do this in lieu of choosing March of Dimes alone because we feel as though Briar's life is here in our family to help our family save a life that is in orphan from Ethiopia.  We felt it was important to follow the call to help the poor and the needy.  Although if someone gave money to March of Dimes and told us it was in honor of Briar, we would feel so honored!

 7. Remember the anniversary of their baby's death.  This is spoken from the friend I stole this from, but I can imagine it will be this way.  I know the one month anniversary is coming...and that will be special to me.  I know that my half birthday is on March 13th, so I know this will be Briar's 6 month day as is also when we found out we were pregnant last year, so March could be a tough month for us...  "I cannot tell you how much it means to me when my mom or sister or someone remembers an anniversary... 1 month, 6  months, whatever.  Mark it on your calendar, so that when the one year anniversary comes, you can send them a card or give them a call to let them know you still remember their baby.  "
8. Don't be afraid to cry with your friend.  It can be so comforting  to just sit with a friend in her loss.  Sharing tears with your friend can be really special too.  There were seasons when I was pregnant where I could not hold a natural conversation with hardly anyone, because they would start crying just talking to me!  But that's ok!  It truly showed me how much they care for us.  I have received numerous emails from 'friends'  whom I've never met in person, but who have told me that they have shed many tears for us.  That touched me so much!  So don't be afraid of the tears.  They are God's way of helping to heal our hearts.  To be honest, so many of my tears were cried during this pregnancy, that my tears are not as abundant now.  I really appreciate knowing that others feel them too.
9. Speak their child's name.   We all know names are especially powerful.  Most parents spend months thinking of the perfect name for their little one.  Names give us our identity and can continue a family legacy.  So when you speak of your friend's child by name, it acknowledges their existence.  There is an Egyptian proverb that says, "To speak the name of the dead is to make them live again."  Names are powerful.    So don't be afraid to speak to your friend about her child, mentioning him or her by name.  :-)  Also, compliment them on the name if you like it.  It means so much when someone will say, "By the way, I LOVE the name Briar"...and I think, "Really? I'm so glad!!"...
10. Pray for them!  And let them know you are praying for them.  A lot of times, people will say as an addendum to a conversations, "I'll pray for you."  Some people genuinely mean it, others just say it because it seems like the right thing to say.  Whatever you do, if you tell them you are praying for them, do it!  I had several friends who would write out their prayers and send them to me.  Its meant so much!  As I mentioned before, it is also really nice to hear what verses are being prayed over you.  In the past, I never prayed specific verses over friends.  This experience has helped me to know that praying specific verses is a great idea, a great way to speak love to your friends.
11.  Don't complain about your baby to them!  Don't get me wrong, you're still allowed to complain to us, just try to remember who you are talking to when you complain.   Most people who have lost babies were so thankful to be pregnant, and were so looking forward to having that child on earth.  Although being a parent is tough, please don't ever say that we should be "thankful that we still have sleep" or "happy that we have time on our own".  As you complain about feedings, late nights, crying, etc.....we can't help but think that we would LOVE TO be up all night, hear the crying, etc......ANYTHING to avoid losing a child...  I know that's hard to understand, and we know parenting will be a very very hard task (some of us have other children already), but it will not be comforting to us to tell us that your baby is actually not that fun anyway :)  That being said, you can tell us your stories about your babies, but just don't tell us why we should be thankful for our sleep, money, etc.  I hope that doesn't sound mean, because I'm not mad to hear the complaints, I just think it's worth remembering if you have a friend that lost a baby.
I am sure there are more things to add... in fact, if you have something to add, please do!  I'd love to hear of something you did for a friend, or something they did for you.  We'll just kind of keep adding to this list.  I hope this helps someone out there!  If you read this far, Bravo!  And thanks for listening to the tips.  I would say that many of these would apply to many different types of grief, although some are specifically baby related.  

Have a fabulous weekend!!



  1. this is a perfect list! It's so true and I love that you shared it!

    PS - still thinking of you often and praying for you! :)

  2. Hi Brooke. Thanks so much for posting this list. I think I read it somewhere else as well. It's great to be reminded.

    Okay, so this is strange... or God or something... but I'm friends with Melissa, of "It's gonna take a lotta love"... I've been reading your blog over the last few weeks and praying for your family. I love your pictures! I asked my facebook friends to pray for Melissa and Sammy this week and I got a message from Liz Barlow (who I know from being on staff w/ CCC together) about how Melissa should meet you. Crazy small world. Blessings to you guys! I know it's been so good for Melissa to have you on this journey with her. Thanks for sharing with folks.

  3. Can't agree more with this list! There are so many people who never say anything because they "don't know what to say." While that's totally understandable,something for them to remember is that we,as the parents of a child that has passed away, don't know what to say most of the time either! When people would tell us "I don't even know what to say,I just wanted to be there for you all," it meant so much more than no communication at all.
    I hope you all are having a relaxing and much needed break together.
    Always in our prayers!

  4. Thanks for sharing this list, Brooke! I soaked it up, and will share it with the others at Sound Choices Perinatal Hospice. Some good reminders and insight! I pray that your time away is a sweet time of renewal and healing.