I wish it didn't happen, but every now and then I get the heartbreaking message from a friend or family member that goes something like this, "I have a [friend, cousin, co-worker, etc.] who just lost their baby. What should I do? What was helpful for you?" I think it is so hard to know what to do for someone, because the one thing that you know they want --to have their loved one back -- is beyond impossible. So what should you do? If you have come here looking for an answer to a similar question, I have three suggestions for you.
One: Do Something
Just do ANYTHING. Your friend or family member needs to know you care and doing or saying nothing is probably the worst thing you can do! Perhaps people don't want to do or say something because either they don't wan to "bring it up" or perhaps they may not know what to do or say.
As for "bringing it up" the quote found on my side bar is a pretty good rebuttal for that:
"If you know someone who has lost a child or anybody who's important to them, and you're afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died, they didn't forget they died. You're not reminding them. What you're reminding them of is that you remembered that they lived, and that's a great, great gift." -Elizabeth EdwardsAs for not knowing what to do, hopefully you can get some ideas below!
Two: Do What Seems Right For You
Do what you feel comfortable with. You may not be in a place to be able to make a financial donation or buy a gift, but you could probably afford a note card. Or maybe you don't know what to write in a note, so you could perform a service. Below is a list of a variety ideas and things that were done for us, hopefully something will resonate with you that you feel comfortable doing or that feels like a right fit for the person you are reaching out to at this time.
Give a Gift
Some things to consider giving: a figurine (Willow Tree or other), a personalized necklace or jewelry, an ornament, a gift card (for food or something fun like a movie or favorite store), a journal, lotion, a CD or iTunes gift card, a book, a gift basket of food. My husband loved receiving pizza.
Make a Donation
Funeral and burial expenses or medical bills can be so alarming and add up quickly. We were so blessed by our parents. My step-dad donated the burial plot and covered the transfer fees or taxes (who knew those even existed!) necessary us to use it and Trevor's parents covered the other burial costs and headstone. Not everyone may be in a situation where their family can help them out so much.
I was given some cash and actually put it toward new clothes because I couldn't stand the sight of or bare to wear my maternity clothes anymore.
Send flowers as soon as you hear the bad news, or on the day of the funeral, or on "anniversaries" of the death or birth, or whenever. I personally love receiving flowers in honor of my son.
Write a Note
Even if you don't know what to say you can always say I love you and I'm thinking of you. I was continuously overwhelmed by the love expressed in cards from dear family members, close friends and friends I wasn't even close with any more, and even complete strangers who perhaps knew our parents or were somehow distantly connected to us.
Make a Phone Call
Even if the person doesn't feel like talking it's their choice to answer or not. But they can check a voicemail when they feel up to it --again at a minimum, you can just remind the person you love them and are thinking of them. I particularly remember phone calls from consistent sisters-in-law and cousins. I don't even know if I answered them all or returned them, but they called and called again to remind me of their love.
Create a Tribute
I was blessed with talented friends and family members. My sister-in-law and her sister recorded the hymn Be Still My Soul for me. Another friend actually choreographed an entire dance performed by a couple of the top students at her studio. Another friend invited me to dance with her in her choreography for an online dance project she was participating in. Perhaps you have a different art medium you could use to create a tribute --poetry, painting or drawing, graphic design.
One of the first things we came home to was someone who mowed our lawn. Offer to watch older children or help with taking them to and from their activities. Do yard work, house work, or (if you're close enough) personal paperwork like mail and bills. Wash a car or take their dogs for a walk. Surely with a little thought you could think of things that could done for an individual.
Make a Meal
We were blessed with food on the day of the funeral and many other days before and after family had come and gone. If a new mom need's meals brought to her I'd say a grieving mom needs it even more. Some days it is impossible to get yourself out of bed, let alone, plan a menu, go grocery shopping, cook the food and feed yourself and your family. Often when you're grieving eating is the last thing you want to do, but it's so important to do so that your physical and emotional health doesn't suffer more than it has to.
Be a Friend
Extend an offer to go do something together: lunch, pedi's, or just chat or cry together. If they say no, ask if they might be interested in the future and see if it'd be okay to ask again. I'm a home-body so I didn't have a huge need to "get out," but others might. Or someone's needs or desires might change day to day.
Maybe consider just having their kids (if they have other children) come over for a play-date so they can spend some time alone.
We were so blessed to have church members set up tables, chairs, linens and decorations, and provide food for a meal after the funeral. I didn't eat much and spent most of my time talking with dear friends and family members who were there to support us. And I surely didn't help with clean up, but others took care of all of this for me.
I also had a friend perform a beautiful musical number during the funeral services. And others who conducted the music and played the piano for the hymns sung at the funeral.
Remember the Spouse
Often times we think of the mother as hurting the most when a child is lost --especially if it occurred during pregnancy. But don't forget that the dad is grieving to. Bring him a favorite food, include him in the card you send, ask about how he's doing too. Reach out to the whole family, not just the mom.
Three: It's Never Too Late
*****Some Additional Resources
This website created by a mother with a beautiful approach to helping others as she heals from her son's death also offers some great advice and suggestions.
This is one mom's "Do's and Don'ts" for helping after a stillbirth.
Have you found any other good resources or advice? Please share.