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 danger...an 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 well....it 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. "