Watching a friend experience the loss of their baby and the grief that remains can feel so helpless. Unfortunately, there isn’t a “one-size fits all” approach to support a grieving friend through loss, but there are many ways to be supportive.
When my daughter died at 33-days-old, it was the first loss of this type in our social circle. Friends and family were shocked and horrified alongside us. Others wanted to help us; to do something, to do anything, but they didn’t know how. My first year of grief was truly devastating in and of itself, but having to educate others as to how to best support me only added to my exhaustion. The best forms of support we received were from friends and family who asked us what we needed and truly listened to what we said.
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Because every person is unique, the support your friend needs is individualized too. Here’s how to best support your grieving friend:
1. Ask- What can I do to support you? Ask your friend if they want to talk about their baby, their feelings, or their daily experience. Identify a tangible need. I’m going to the store, what can I bring you? Can I mow your lawn? Can I drive carpool for your other kids? Be specific in your questions. Even the simplest of offerings can be so helpful and they allow you to contribute in a helpful way.
2. Listen- When your friend speaks, truly listen. It takes a tremendous amount of courage and trust to share about this experience. Give your friend your undivided attention. Keep your phone in your purse, don’t check the time. Be present and emotionally available.
3. Keep showing up– You may not hear from your friend for a while, grief is all-encompassing and may appear as selfish. Texts may go unreturned, phone calls sent to voicemail, do not take this personal. This is not about you or a reflection of the importance of your relationship. A lot gets set aside while grieving, friendships included. Keep showing up.
4. Honor the important days– Birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays highlight the loved ones that are missing. Honor the important days by acknowledging the emptiness. Your gesture doesn’t need to be grand (although those are appreciated, too) but even a simple acknowledgment is greatly appreciated.
5. Acknowledge the regular days– As the world moves on from the initial shock of loss, bereaved parents face this reality even more so as time moves forward. Grieving parents are constantly reminded of their pain and loss, you won’t be reminding them by checking in. Instead, you’ll be demonstrating that you remember alongside them. Even though the important days are crucial to acknowledge, the regular days are too.
6. Speak baby’s name– Speak it, write it, text it, include it. Keep your friend’s baby’s memory alive. They’re always thinking of their baby, let them know that you are, too.
7. Follow your friend’s lead– Many times if you allow your friend to take the lead, you’ll be able to fall in step with what they need.
The worst thing you can do is nothing. The silence without a baby at home is deafening, help to fill that empty airspace. Call, text, send cards, bring a meal, and keep showing up. Even if they can’t articulate it, your friend will always remember your support.
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