Countless times I have been asked by caring friends and family members how they can really help when someone they love is enduring the death of their baby. It is at this moment in time when every one wants to do anything in their power to support the parents and family but may be at a loss as to what may be the best way to go about it. I would like to take this opportunity to share with you some of my ideas and what my family found most helpful in the time following the full-term stillbirth of our son Dylan:
Be specific in your offer of help: So many people told us to let them know if/how they could help. Trust me when I say that the parents do not know what or how to ask for help as they are devastated and trying their hardest to endure the loss of their beloved child. They are not likely to be thinking of ways their friends and family can be of help to them. Be specific in your offer of help. Say “I will bring you dinner Tuesday night at 6” or “I can bring you some groceries Monday at noon”.
Give the family some space and time: Their world has just turned upside down and has lost color. Their hearts are broken and they have a challenging first few days and weeks ahead of them as they have to make funeral and/or burial plans and so many more decisions they never planned on having to make. Simply mailing them a card letting them know you are thinking of them and praying for them means a lot. Leaving a small gift at their front door lets the family know you are there for them.
Remember the family’s surviving children: Not only have the parents lost a child, their surviving children have also lost their brother or sister. Having to help your child(ren) through the loss of their sibling and having to watch them come to terms with that loss is an additional heartbreak for the parents. Sending a card specifically to the child(ren), giving them a small gift (stuffed animal, a bracelet or necklace, book, etc) would be a kind gesture. Before you give the gift to the child share it with the parents first just to be sure it is ok. Someone gave my then three year old daughter a stuffed animal at the hospital and she still cares for it and has a special spot for it in her room two and a half years later.
Remember the family throughout the year: At the beginning so many people come forward to offer support and be of help but that help and support dwindles as the weeks and months and even years go by. Be that person who sends a card or calls a few months later to let the family know you are thinking of them and praying for them. Be that person who sends a card on the anniversary of the baby’s passing. Be that person who sends a card on what should have been they baby’s birthday. Even better…being that person every year forever.
Meal Train: With the family’s permission, set up a Meal Train for them and share it with their extended family and friends, church or with whomever the parents want. This is an easy way for many people to support the family by providing delicious homemade meals. Each person can sign up for a day and what meal they will be providing the family. That way every one can see what is being made so the family doesn’t get 6 lasagnas! Check out www.mealtrain.com
Use the baby’s name: If the parents gave their baby a name, always use the baby’s name when talking about him or her. Don’t worry that saying their baby’s name will cause them more pain and sadness. While it may cause a tear or two to fall, it is most likely because they are so happy to hear someone say their child’s name. When people say Dylan’s name, even three years later, it puts a smile on my face.
“The mention of my child’s name may bring tears to my eyes, but it never fails to bring music to my ears. If you are really my friend, let me hear the beautiful music of his name. It soothes my broken heart and sings to my soul.”