Supporting Friends Who’ve Lost Children

August 19, 2013

Never Empty Handed - by Clare Elsaesser

By Amy Hackworth. Painting, “Never Empty Handed,” by Clare Elsaesser.

Although I’d always felt sympathetic when I heard of a child who’d passed away, my heart ached a little more fiercely when I heard about such tragedies once I’d become a mother. Before I had a chance to push it away, the thought of losing one of our children made my chest tighten and my stomach drop.

And then one of my dearest friends said goodbye to her almost-two-year-old, and I came a little closer to understanding the grief that comes with losing a child. I learned that the sympathy I’d felt for other parents before watching my friend Molly lose her little Lucy in 2008 had been wholly uninformed. I’d had no idea of the heartbreak, the emptiness, the despair, the reality of grief. And still, I don’t really know what a grieving parent feels, but I have watched from a closer distance now, and my sympathy has matured.

For this small series on supporting our friends when they are hurting (see previous posts here and here), Molly and her husband Vic shared some of the things that helped them most when their little Lucy passed away. The first thing Molly said was that it really is the thought that counts, but it only counts if the person knows you’re thinking of them. Reaching out in almost anyway helped Molly: Facebook notes, texts, cards, emails. Imagine how hard it must be to think that the rest of the world is going on with life while you are truly heartbroken. And then imagine how comforting it must be to know that friends have not forgotten you, but remember your suffering and send their love. A friend of Vic’s from law school whom Molly has never even met sent them a handwritten card every week for a few months, then once a month for two whole years, offering her support in a very real and very consistent way.

Vic shares that when you don’t know what to say, it’s perfectly all right to just say, “I don’t know what to say, but I love you, I’m thinking about you.” And when you can’t lighten the emotional burden, lighten other burdens like laundry, dishes, meals, grocery shopping, and babysitting.

Molly’s quick to warn that this wouldn’t help everyone, but I’ll always remember the story of her friend who knocked on Molly’s door one morning in the first few months after Lucy passed away and got Molly out of bed. “Grab your swim suit,” the friend said, “we’re going boating.” They spent the day on the lake with a small group of friends and the support and summer sun were just what Molly needed. I think I remember and admire this story so much because it’s the kind of thing I’d be too timid to do myself.

In this poignant story from NPR, two parents respond to Newtown and share their experience with grief after losing their 20 and 24-year-old sons in a car accident. The first comment corresponds with something Molly said about giving friends the opportunity to talk about their loved ones, and I’ve heard other friends share this idea, too. Part of the comment reads, “The standard response to hearing of my brother’s death is ‘I’m so sorry,’ followed by an awkward silence. I have found that the response I’d really like to hear (and almost never do) is ‘I’m so sorry…What was he like?’ What a joy it is to get to share about his out of control hair, how he perfected the art of playing a practical joke, and how his teenage exterior never fully disguised his tender heart — to get to focus on how he lived his life, not how he lost it.” What beautiful advice. Molly, too, relishes the chance to talk about Lucy, and loves hearing others’ stories, too. “Tell me a story about Lucy,” is a phrase Molly especially appreciated. “I love to say her name or hear other people say her name,” Molly said. “It’s almost like taking your favorite word out of your vocabulary. You can never fill that void in your heart, but hearing the sound of her name helps.”

Our hearts ache for friends who have lost their children. How have you helped support your grieving friends? And if you’ve been there — oh, we all want to hug you and cry with you. What helped you most in the moment? What’s helping you now?

P.S. — Molly received a book on grief called Tear Soup, and it’s become her guide for grieving and loving those who grieve. She turns to it for its accurate and comforting advice and wisdom for herself and for friends.

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{ 53 comments… read them below or add one }

1 ann August 19, 2013 at 8:41 am

wonderful posting. thanks.

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2 Karen August 19, 2013 at 8:55 am

Thanks so much for this post (and the series). I recently lost my brother four months ago and I can relate to the comments about wanting to talk about him. I find in casual conversation I mention him frequently as in, “My brother used to….” When I do it, for a split second I think I might be making people uncomfortable. It’s the friends who keep the conversation going (rather than letting my comment hang in the air) who I appreciate the most. I really liked your comment about imagining how hard it must be to see everyone carry on with their lives while you are experiencing profound grief. I don’t expect my friends to stop their lives, but I take note of those who, after several months, continue to check-in with me to see how I’m doing. Grieving is not a linear process so it’s nice to have ongoing support.

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3 Amy Hackworth August 19, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Karen, I’m so sorry about your brother, and so glad you have friends who listen as you talk about him. Thanks for sharing your perspective here, and from what I have learned of grief, your words are so true. It is not linear.

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4 charlene jones August 19, 2013 at 10:49 am

There is an awesome national foundation to help mothers, families, and friends of parents who have lost a child. It was started by a bereaved mother, and has helped countless families with their grief. Look it up on-line; it has been very helpful to our family. MISS Foundation founded by Joanne Cacciatore

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5 Mary August 27, 2013 at 6:05 pm

MISS is in my <3 J.C.s teachings have changed me.

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6 Sunny Day August 19, 2013 at 11:04 am

There are some really tough things to do for help – as emptying the child’s room when the parents are ready and help them create another room (occupy the space somehow) – because the empty room is a dreadful thing. Respecting the time it takes for the parents to give away their child’s things (it may take decades, in some cases).

Try to invite the parents to holidays celebrations and eventually even change your own traditions to fit in their grief. There was this thanksgiving that we decided to celebrate all those we love that have passed away to help a griefing couple. We also thanked for our friends and family that are with us in the end, but we did a special: “Let’s remember what we love most of our dear departed ones and be grateful for the time we had with them” and they told us that it was very important.

After 3 years, this couple decided not to gather family and friends for the church service on their child’s death day, but to their child’s birthday. They decided to celebrate their child’s life than his death. Of course, they still go to church on the death anniversary. And friends and family decided to ligthen up a candle at this day too. But it changes the focus from grief to gratitude to the time that was granted to us…

Sending happy mother and father day’s cards and celebrating the qualities they had as parents….

Take the parents for a walk… not necessarily to talk, but to exercise (this will help fight the depression) and if they want to just break down and cry, be there for them….

That’s what we’ve done…

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7 Amy Hackworth August 19, 2013 at 1:04 pm

How kind to change your Thanksgiving tradition to accommodate your friends. That’s a beautiful gift. Sounds like you have been a wonderful friend during someone’s heartache.

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8 Sunny Day August 20, 2013 at 4:14 am

Thank you! I hope we have!

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9 sarah k August 19, 2013 at 12:06 pm

Thank you so very much for addressing this topic, which is so socially terrifying that most people never bring it up at all. In February, at our routine 20-week ultrasound, we learned that the baby we had desperately longed for after two consecutive miscarriages was incurably sick. In April he was stillborn. The last six months have been the darkest and hardest of my life. I am grateful to have living children who keep me busy, but while they bring me joy, they also remind me of what we should have experienced with our baby–the sibling they never got to enjoy. It is a grief that affects every corner of our life, every day. Everywhere we go, there are babies and happy pregnant women, and I put on a cheerful face and make it through, mostly, but I’m heartbroken inside.

I wrote a couple of blog posts recently on what is helpful and unhelpful for friends to say. My #1 piece of advice: it is particularly hard to be asked “How are you?”, because I never know how much the person asking really wants to know, and I worry that they may be hoping I will say “Fine!” so that they can feel better because I am somehow “over it”. It is such a relief to me when someone says, “What has been hard lately?” or “What have you been spending your time on lately?” or “What are you missing about your baby today?” “What” questions are much easier than “How” questions.

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10 Karen August 19, 2013 at 12:51 pm

“What” questions rather than “how.” Very good advice.

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11 Amy Hackworth August 19, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Oh, Sarah K, I’m so sorry. My heart aches for you. I really appreciate your advice to ask “what” questions instead of “how.” That’s not something I would ever have thought of. Love and blessings to you.

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12 Amy Hackworth August 19, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Also, your posts are very beautiful.

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13 Sally from Little Hiccups August 19, 2013 at 7:53 pm

Sarah, I’m so sorry to hear about your loss.
As I read your comment it stirred up so much emotion in me. I could have written your exact comment. I too discovered at 20 weeks that my tiny baby was incurably sick. By 24 weeks I had lost her. She only weighed 11ounces and was too tiny to survive. Today I should be 33 weeks pregnant and preparing for the arrival of a new little sister for my two young daughters.
I agree that being asked “How are you?” is hard. I find myself saying “I’m fine”, but I’m really not. I don’t know what I want people to say or do, but knowing that they care and are thinking of me helps. Sometimes just a hug is best but for me this hasn’t been possible as my friends and family are all on the other side of the world.
I agree with Amy; you’re posts are beautiful. I just wish that there hadn’t been a reason for you to write them. xx

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14 Sarah August 19, 2013 at 8:10 pm

Sarah and Sally,

I am so sorry about your babies. My daughter was stillborn at 36 weeks. I am now two years out from my loss, and I just wanted to let you know that you will gradually start to feel hope and happiness again. Your children will always be with you though.

Stillbirth brings a unique sort of grief because other people don’t have memories to share. I have found it really meaningful when people mention my daughter on her birthday and around Christmas, just to say that they’re thinking of me and that they feel sad, too. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are also good times for acknowledgment. Some good questions to ask: How did you choose your baby’s name? and What things have you done to honor and remember your baby?

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15 Pamela Balabuszko-Reay August 19, 2013 at 10:07 pm

Dear Sarah and Sally,
I too am a Mother of a baby who passed away. We went in for our ultrasound at 21 weeks and discovered that our son was missing organs and would die soon. We induced delivery so that we could experience his birth and death in the most loving way possible. Our Alexander died in my arms 3 days later within a minute of his birth. Alexander made me a Mother. I knew what it meant to protect and love my child fiercely. I was there for him when he passed away. His Dad and I were talking to him. We had a blessing for him and I held him for two hours. We have beautiful pictures of him taken by the nurses. We had tried for years to have a child by then and had been through so much already. It was heartbreaking in ways I could never begin to comprehend. My husband and I grieved differently and at different times. Thank God for the care we received after he died. They shared with us that we would be on two different paths- but walking near each other. It helped us so much to understand how the other might be coping. There were people in our life who did not understand us having a funeral for our son. For months after we lost him I would walk in the cemetery. It was the only place I could be alone- and not seeing Moms pushing their babies in strollers. I literally could not understand how the world did not stop. How could people be shopping? Having fun? Laughing? I needed to be alone. Except I desperately needed to know that others cared about me. I wanted to talk about my son. About the beautiful place we buried him. About his tiny feet. About our dreams for him and for us. The people who got it checked in, asked and listened. Every year around the time of his birthday I would become so very sad. It wasn’t until 5 years after his death that I was able to put a book together with cards and his pictures. Alexander would be 13 in September. It is something that we have learned to live with. We are so much more compassionate because of him. He taught us to dream big. To face things bravely. To BE there for people in the moment they need to be held. He taught us that we must become parents again. We adopted our two children Isabella and Isaac. They are 11 and 7 now. Bella loves to draw our family portrait and include Alexander. She always says- no Mom. Alexander is your first-born. Not me. We have a Christmas ornament and a tiny stocking for Alexander to remember him. His symbol in our family is a star. I always have stars around in memory of him. Our son Isaac’s middle name is Aleksei after Alexander. He is forever folded into our life as a family. I sometimes can’t believe that it all ever happened. It was so painful that it doesn’t seem possible to have lived through it. But we have. We are forever changed.

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16 Rachel Peters August 19, 2013 at 1:19 pm

My big brother died when I was 18. It was a devastating loss for our family, and I still remember the few bright spots in the days that followed.

My favorite teacher came by the house and offered some coaching, “Go ahead and cry, grieve, and experience the sadness of these days fully. Then, decide that you aren’t going to die, too. Figure out how you are going to live more fully, and do it.” In that moment of grief, I needed someone to tell me what to do.

I also loved when people told me stories I didn’t know about him. Parents who told me how incredible he was at teaching their kids to swim, friends who said he would drop by and visit them at work, co-workers who were the recipients of his jokes. All of those stories helped me get to know him, even after he was gone.

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17 Jen August 19, 2013 at 1:22 pm

What about parents who lose an adult child? What help can we give to those parents?

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18 Melissa T. August 19, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Well Amy,
I can’t think of anyone better suited to writing about being kind and sensitive in a time of need. You write as though you have researched these topics, but I know that caring for others comes so naturally to you. I feel amazingly blessed that you are my friend.
Also Molly,
You are so wonderful, too. Your strength and honesty inspire and comfort people as they read your blog and hear your story.
Such amazing ladies!

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19 Nikki August 19, 2013 at 1:32 pm

Thank you so much for posting this. A good friend lost her 1st child at 3 months old earlier this year, and it has been devastating. I don’t have any children of my own yet, so I can only imagine the pain that she is feeling. The more time that passes, it seems even harder to know what to say. Thank you for this advice!

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20 Allison August 19, 2013 at 1:48 pm

So glad you are talking about this. Such a hard subject. We have friends who lost their son in an accident when he was 14 – their only child. Hearing stories about him helped them immensely! She received a blank journal as a gift and used it at times to write about her feelings (including her anger) about things she remembered about her son and didn’t want to forget, about kind things people did for her etc. It was a simple gift that seemed to help a lot.

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21 Lisette Wolter-McKinley August 19, 2013 at 1:57 pm

After our son passed away a good friend asked me “how is your heart?” instead of “how are you doing?” This question allowed me to express my feelings more openly and know she really wanted to hear how I was.

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22 Amy Hackworth August 19, 2013 at 11:17 pm

Lisette, I’m so sorry. Thanks for sharing that beautiful question. It’s true–only a person who really wants to hear the answer will ask that sort of question.

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23 Barb August 19, 2013 at 2:20 pm

My dear friend just lost a family member unexpectedly and this post is giving me the courage to try to help instead of being paralyzed by saying or doing the wrong thing. Just doing something is going to be better than nothing!

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24 Robin August 19, 2013 at 2:31 pm

When a friend of mine lost her twin toddler nieces to murder/suicide, I was beside myself. Never having met the girls or their mom, and being on the other side of the country, I still felt compelled to reach out. But how? I emailed with my friend a lot, and I tried as best I could to support her. She added me to a Facebook group, memorializing the girls. I began to make a concerted effort there to let their mom know that I (a virtual stranger) was thinking about her family and the girls. My friend related to me that the girls’ mom really appreciated the posts to the group and the participation in the “events” (“angel-versary”, the girls’ birthdays) on the page. It is simple enough to post something there that reminds me of her spirited, sweet, beautiful girls, and I’m happy to let the family know that I think of them so often. What would be their 5th birthday was just last week. I kept my sadness and anger at their loss to myself, but I was able to let them know that I was still thinking about the girls. It’s all I can think to do.

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25 Lindsay August 19, 2013 at 2:33 pm

A childhood friend lost her 16 month daughter a few years ago and addressed this in a blog post, which I have found helpful to refer to when faced with other friends in similar situations. http://adailyscoop.blogspot.com/2008/07/how-to-treat-friend-who-has-suffered_7959.html

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26 Emily Foley August 19, 2013 at 2:46 pm

I’ll never forget the day I asked my pregnant friend who had lost her baby to SIDS 6 months earlier if she felt nervous about SIDS with her next baby. I was trying to get her to talk about it, honestly to help, but it came out horribly insensitive and the look on her face is something I’ll never forget. I feel sick to my stomach when I think about it. I immediately apologized and tried to explain that I just was trying to be a listening ear, and she of course accepted my apology but I think it was traumatic for both of us. Now I send a card so I can think the words through before they come out of my mouth. Thanks for the tips. Molly is my cousin’s sister-in-law so I follow their story a bit from afar, with a broken heart.

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27 Kristen August 19, 2013 at 3:23 pm

On a somewhat related note, I read an article in The New York Times about how the Japanese address miscarried and/or aborted or stillborn fetuses, see http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/21/magazine/mourning-my-miscarriage.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm. In Japanese culture, en emlightened being, Jizo, watches over miscarried and aborted fetuses. There are shrines to Jizo all over Japan. People/women can go and make an offering, formal or informal at the shrines. Many people dress the stone babies that appear at the various shrines. Google “Jizo images” to see pictures of the shrines. I find it quite remarkable. Somewhat like visiting a cemetery but for children.

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28 Jenny August 19, 2013 at 4:29 pm

You can’t imagine what perfect timing your post had today. We lost a dear family friend this past weekend and our pain is so great it’s hard to even comprehend how his parents are putting one foot in front of the other. Thank you for this post.

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29 Amy Hackworth August 19, 2013 at 11:19 pm

Thanks, Jenny. Best to you as you address your own grief and figure out how to love his parents.

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30 julie August 19, 2013 at 4:34 pm

It’s been 16 1/2 years since we lost Casey to a car accident, and I still appreciate so much when someone wants to talk about him. He was an incredible young man (just short of 18) and I have a lifetime of memories to share. They fill my heart.

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31 Amy Hackworth August 19, 2013 at 11:20 pm

Julie, thanks for sharing this. I love the name Casey, and I love reading that your heart is full.

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32 Emilee August 19, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Your post is beautiful and brought tears to my eyes as I read them. We lost our happy and healthy 4 month old daughter to SIDS exactly 8 months ago. There are no words big enough to describe the hurt, only that it is relentless. We chose to work with a non-profit that was close to us and create, with donations from friends and family, a library in her name. This library provides books for families with their first born and encourages reading and learning for little ones. For us, we found great comfort knowing that her legacy would live on and help others.
We are not saints or do-gooders, we are just parents that needed to make her short life count in a big way. We know she would be proud. We found that helping others in turn helped us heal and give us a focus in our darkest days.
Thank you for bringing light to this. We are a small club that no one wants to be members of and trust me, we need all the love and support we can get.

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33 Amy Hackworth August 19, 2013 at 11:23 pm

Oh, Emilee, I’m so sorry. My heart hurts to read about your baby. What a lovely non-profit to work with, what a lovely gift to give to other families.

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34 Kristina August 19, 2013 at 8:25 pm

A wonderful blogging friend of mine shared your post with me this evening. A little over 8 months ago, our 12-year-old oldest son, died in a tragic accident in our home. Your words are beautiful and your friend’s advice right on the money. There is no grief like losing a child…it defies the natural order of life and causes a tsunami of emotions unlike any ever imagined. A nightmare…suddenly, we became “that family” who represents that nothing in life is guaranteed. Nothing. When people ask me what they can do, I ask them to please, please give their children one extra hug just because. Cherish each moment. What I don’t say, but wish I could is please, oh, please do not complain to me when parenting gets hard. It IS hard, but at least you get to experience those immeasurable moments, that joyful adventure, that roller coaster of life with your child. I have two other children and survive every day for them, but what I wouldn’t give to have my boy back. And please, remember that every moment is another “first” so please acknowledge birthdays, holidays, first days of school…even firsts as silly as going to our child’s favorite restaurant for the first time. I suppose I haven’t really answered your question, but please know that your readers are very lucky. Your friends are blessed to call you friend. Thank you for this very meaningful and important message.

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35 Amy Hackworth August 19, 2013 at 11:25 pm

Oh, Kristina, I will remember your advice. We’d just tucked our boys into bed for the night when I read your comment and my husband went right down the hall to give them that extra hug. This was so powerful: “There is no grief like losing a child…it defies the natural order of life and causes a tsunami of emotions unlike any ever imagined. A nightmare…suddenly, we became “that family” who represents that nothing in life is guaranteed. Nothing.”

Love to you.

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36 Annette August 19, 2013 at 9:34 pm

After our daughter Libby died, one of the kindest things a friend and colleague said was, “I don’t know what to say.” Because it was okay. We didn’t, either.

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37 Mika August 20, 2013 at 12:37 am

This is exactly how I feel after my son’s death. I love when people just say “I wish I knew what to say or how to make it better, but I have no idea…” because I have no idea, either.

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38 Brieanne August 19, 2013 at 11:43 pm

I lost a very close friend in college a few years ago, and I found people were so afraid to say the wrong thing that they said nothing, and that was the worst. I needed to talk and grieve and be noticed, but instead I sort of floated under the radar. The only person who head-on acknowledged it (without me having a complete breakdown in front of them first) was a dear friend who had lost a sister a few years before. She gave a card with loving and encouraging words, and then told me she was there to talk or not talk, whatever I needed. She also instituted weekly frozen yogurt runs as a study break for the rest of the quarter.

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39 Mika August 20, 2013 at 12:35 am

My son Christian died at birth a few months ago, and it’s been hard to interact with people when so often they seem to ignore his death. I know it’s awkward – I’ve been on the other side, too, and felt it was somehow best to not address the subject. I have a friend who asks me specific questions, like “What is it like hearing that others are expecting?” or “Have you felt like you’re a different mother to your older children now?” I love talking to her, because her questions are thought-provoking – and I know she has put thought into them as well. I don’t like the uncertain “How are you doing…?” moments, partly because it’s hard to really know how I’m doing and partly because the question comes off as insincere.

My favorite thing is when people ask about Christian by name. Even if all they say is “I’m so sorry about Christian; I wish I knew how to make things better,” I appreciate the concern and the acknowledgment.

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40 Erin August 23, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Yes — this is how I feel. My daughter Diana died at birth six months ago, and it felt like it was an invisible loss…so many people said nothing at all. I’m so grateful for people who ask about her, and for the tiny number of people who use her name, even only one time. Mika, I”m so sorry that Christian died, and I wish he was home with you now.

It’s tough to read this entry and the comment thread, but I’m glad that I did.

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41 Tamara August 20, 2013 at 10:28 am

I had two brothers die during my teen years. Granted I was a very quiet and private person, but not a friend or teacher or school counselor acknowledged their deaths. Simply acknowledging the death of a loved one even if you feel awkward and don’t know what to say, would be better than silence.

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42 Norah August 20, 2013 at 12:49 pm

I lost my eldest son almost 3 years ago, a month after his 21st birthday. My girlfriend lost her eldest son a couple of months ago, a month after his 21st birthday. A friend of her son’s spoke at his viewing, telling so many stories of them. Afterward I went up to her and thanked her for doing that. It is so important to the family to hear how their child/sibling impacted other lives and how he/she lived when not with them. I treasure the stories of my son that I was told after his death. They are so important…

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43 ABBY August 20, 2013 at 2:39 pm

This is such a wonderful post. I lost my first child, a daughter, the same summer as Molly. Coincidentally, we somehow both found a wonderful private blog for parents who’d lost children (that a friend of mine had recommended to me). It was comforting hearing from other parents who were farther out in the grieving process and how they got by day to day. I also agree with the suggestion to ask about a person’s loved one who has passed on. I remember (immediately after our loss) aching to talk about my daughter. I had a dear friend who brought me dinner almost weekly for a few months afterward and would invite me out at night to walk and talk with me about how I was feeling and ask about my daughter. It was so generous and kind. I’ll never forget her kindness.

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44 Tasha August 20, 2013 at 7:57 pm

Thank you all for your wonderful advice and sharing. I am sorry to all who have lost a beautiful child. I have had a colleague lose a daughter and I tried very much to ask about her, say her name and continue supporting her mother. I have always tried to follow this advice as I can understand the importance of doing so. I cannot help but be inspired to use the healthy suggestions about not asking “How are you?” daily to my mother who is battling stage 4 colon cancer. I was moved reading your posts to now ask her something else. I knew this and have tried, but realize after learning today that I have to just ask her the real questions each and every day. Today was an especially quiet and awkward day as she never was one to be open or talk and she started expressing how awful her hospital visit (tests) had been. She wanted to talk and I wonder did I rise to the occasion!? I realize I’m off topic and hope you indulge me, it’s just that I feel the lessons being discussed pertain to all kinds of grief. I am sincerely enlightened today because of all of you. ♥

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45 amy c August 21, 2013 at 8:57 am

Amy. Thank you for this touching post. This subject has been on my mind all month because August is the birthday month of Drew, the son of dear friends of ours who died almost two years ago now at 16 months. Having watched our friends lose him and then watched the grieving aftermath, I often feel at a loss. For a while, I just asked if I could hug and hold them for a while, allow them to lean on me for a bit. We send cards, messages or packages for his birthday and do check in with them on the anniversary of his passing. My husband and I try to ask about Drew, ask about memories or things he did. We want them to know that we still think of Drew often, we remember him and his brief time here. Thank you for the insight.

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46 Alie August 21, 2013 at 2:32 pm

What wonderful timing of this post! In less than one week we’ll celebrate what would have been our daughter’s first birthday.

Amelia was born at 38 weeks, and she lived for two and a half beautiful days. We even got to take her home with us. She died from a birth defect, so we knew during our pregnancy that she wouldn’t live. We moved for my husband’s job right after we found out (four days after we found out!) and at 20 weeks pregnant, I pretty much had to make new friends and divulge our story simultaneously. Luckily I was welcomed with warmth and compassion. My new friends even threw me a “baby shower”, where they gifted Amelia and I with matching Vintage Pearl bracelets. I still wear it every single day, and often think of how thoughtful and kindly they approached the (awkward) situation.

Grief has definitely taken on a completely different role than I ever thought it would. I’m such a different person, but strangely enough, I’m a better person. A friend who also lost a baby (20 years ago) gave me a journal right after Amelia died and told me it was exclusively for writing about our daughter. It’s been nice to confine sacred thoughts of her. And I know it’s definitely not for everyone, but I wrote publicly through it all. Writing (blogging) was the only thing keeping me from being consumed by my thoughts. I don’t like to read other people’s stories (it’s too hard, too close to my tender heart) but I’m so grateful I wrote down ours! (http://delightedtobe.com/baby-amelias-story-anencephaly/)

Anyways, hugs to every mama who’s lost a child and to the dear, patient friends out there who are brave enough to help her through it.

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47 Rebecca August 22, 2013 at 6:22 am

I agree with so many others who find the question “how are you?” hard to answer. A friend often asks me “what colour is your sky today?”. The answer to such questions may be long or painful. It may seem obvious, but only ask how someone is doing if you really want to know the answer. I remember once mumbling a quick yes when asked how I was. My friend put everything aside, sat down with me and said “really?”. It was such a relief!

And yes, most people how are grieving will welcome stories they haven’t heard before or photos they’ve never seen. Say the loved one’s name. A short note on the birthday or aniversary of death, just a quick “I wanted to let you know that I’m thinking of Emily today. I miss her laughter and silly jokes” can do wonders.

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48 Gina August 23, 2013 at 3:44 pm

One year, one month, and twenty three days ago I waved goodbye to my 15 year old stepson as he left the house to walk to the flea market a few blocks away. An hour later we got the phone call that he had been hit by a train (he was wearing earbuds and couldn’t hear the train whistle).We rushed to the hospital where they told us they had done everything they could but his injuries were too severe, and he didn’t make it. There are no words to describe the way I felt at that moment.

In the hours, days, and weeks that followed many people offered condolences, brought food, or sent messages of sympathy. Everything helped. Nothing helped. I hated the sense of obligation I felt to acknowledge everyone. I gave up writing thank-you cards because it was just too sad.

One of the hardest things to bear is the sound of the train. It is just down the street from our house and we hear it at least 6 or 7 times a day. It’s not that it reminds me of our loss, that is something I think about all the time, it is that it reminds me of the horrible way he lost his life.Losing a child is a horrible thing to go through. It is a burden we will carry the rest of our lives.

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49 Happy August 26, 2013 at 5:18 pm

Gina,
Your story made my heart ache. I have no words for you but wanted you to know that I am so sorry for your family’s heart break. I hope one day that you can think of him and smile at his memory instead of just feeling pain washing over you.

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50 Diana January 5, 2014 at 10:12 pm

I have a friend who lost her 33 year old son just over a year ago.
He was her only child and he was taken from her in the most awful way imaginable.
Her grieve has just started to really show and I am having difficulty knowing what to say to her.
I think she would gain from some professional help but how can I help her get this?

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51 sophi January 13, 2014 at 4:28 pm

I lost my identical twin sons. One at birth on September 2nd 2014 and one 2 and a half month later. it has not been 2 months yet and I am in the midst of the grieving process. I came to this blog looking for resources to share with family as I feel that I constantly need to justify myself for how I choose to grieve. I like to talk about my sons openly and often and it makes some family members (who never met them) uncomfortable.. People have opinion and will share them. Especially in France where I am from. People just want to debate about everything….this is a topic where I think there are no opinions, no debate. it is just plain tragic….

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52 daleen da costa January 22, 2014 at 2:39 am

I’ve also lost my 2week old son and my heart is braking I don’t know how to deal with it its hard really hard

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53 daleen da costa January 22, 2014 at 2:47 am

My 2week old son past away last week monday and his funeral was held at friday the 17th it was really hard and it hurts so much I really miss him and there are still so many questions I have I miss him so much and I can’t stop craying

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