Sunday, 30 March 2014

When A Child Dies

It seems like it's getting further and further between blog posts, as life is so busy.  I want to continue my blog because it's a record of our family, but I also don't want to feel pressure to blog, just because I feel like it's about time I did a post.

I want to record things that are important for me and my boys - things we are going through, events that I know they will want to remember, and the every day little things that make me laugh.

But I also hope that things that I share and say may help someone, somewhere.  I often get lovely comments, emails and messages from people saying that what we have gone through has helped them, and I guess that's another reason that I continue to blog, even if the posts are spreading out more and more. 

Over the last few months I've gotten messages from strangers, asking me how they can best help someone they know whose child has just passed away.    It's such a hard question to answer as each person is so different, and everyone's journey of grief is so different.

We all have our own experiences which shape who we are, what we believe, and how we deal with things, but it has made me think about the things that I can share with others, about how to help someone who has recently (or not so recently) lost someone.  

In this post I will focus on the things I have learnt after Noah passed away.  Losing a child and losing your husband is so different, and really can't be compared. The ways to help in these different situations can be very similar, but also very different, so I may do another post in the future about how to help someone whose partner has passed away.

The things I'm going to say are nothing new.  It's probably been written about hundreds of times before, but I haven't read very much about grief and the stages or how to help others through their grief.  It's just too much going through it.  I haven't felt like reading about it would help me at all.

These are the things that I've learnt since Noah passed away.  If someone's child dies:

Be There
...depending on how close you are to the person.  Having heaps of visitors just after someone has passed away can be too hard, especially if they are people you aren't close to.  If you want to let someone know you are thinking of them, but you would never have dropped into their house any other time, then don't go.   Send them a card, an email or a text instead.  It's lovely to know that so many people care, but it's so hard to talk to so many people when you are just surviving, especially people that you don't feel comfortable with. 

If you are a close friend, you may not know what to say or do and that's okay. Just be there.   Be honest and tell them you don't know what to say, but just be there and listen.  It's better to say that you don't know what to say, than to say things that are going to hurt more because you feel awkward.

If they don't want to talk, still just be there. Just hold them, hug them and let them know you are there for them no matter what. Get busy around the house and just let them know you are there.
In The Early Days
Don't say 'let me know if there's anything I can do'.  Everyone means well when you say this, but when you are overwhelmed with grief and shock, you don't even know what you want.  Just jump in and do something - anything.

Help in practical ways.  The last thing you feel like doing is eating, let alone cooking.  Drop off meals in disposable trays or plates, so they don't have to worry about which dish belongs to who, and how and when to get it back to you.  If they have a big freezer bring meals that can be frozen. You don't feel like cooking and eating for months afterwards, so it's nice to be able to pull out a frozen meal when you're having a particularly hard day.

If they have other kids, bring food for school lunches.  It's such a help to have pre-made sandwiches and treats which you can pull out of the freezer. 

Ask if you can help at all with funeral arrangements.  Can you help find and sort out photos, or help make a special display?  Do they need help finding an outfit to dress their child in?  Do they want help with dressing their child.   Do they need help with other things like arranging flowers or providing food for afterwards?   How are they going to pay for the funeral?  Do they need help with this?  You may not be in a position to help personally, but may be able to work out a way to help them.
If they have kids ask if they would like you to take the kids out for some fun, for a few hours.  They may be grateful to have some quiet time, where they can let the tears flow without worrying the kids, or they may want to keep them closer than ever before.  Just ask and see how they're feeling.

Special Gifts
Send a card.  It seems like something little, and at the time you get many cards, but months and years later it's so nice to be able to pull them out and reread them again.  It reminds you that so many people care.

After Noah passed away we were given beautiful and thoughtful gifts from many people.  These things meant so much as they acknowledged Noah and how much we loved and missed him.  We were given beautiful jewellery and figurines, plants for the garden to plant in memory of him, books, photo frames, quilts, vouchers for meals and many other things. 

Stick Around
Don't just be there early on, but be there weeks, months and years later.  Send cards months later just to let them know you're thinking of them.    Remember their child's birthday and know that this will be one of the hardest days. Send them a message or a card, to let them know that their child hasn't been forgotten.   Know that Christmas and Easter and every other holiday now feels so different, and are especially hard. 

Grief is so lonely.  The days are long and the nights are even longer.  It's especially hard when their partner goes back to work for the first time after their child has passed away.  Invite your friend to join you for lunch or a play at the park with their other kids, but don't be offended if they aren't up to it.  Keep asking.  There will be days when they want to get out, and other days when they are just wanting to be alone.
Mention Their Name
 Their child passed away.  They were once here.  Mention their name and talk about them.  Cry about them, and laugh about them.  You may be scared to mention their name as you don't want to upset them or make them cry, but they're sad anyway.   They're always sad.  It means so much when someone mentions your child's name, because you realise that they are missed by others, not just you.
Don't Act Like Nothing Happened
A beautiful couple from church recently lost their three month old baby, very suddenly.   I wasn't close to them, but knew that they wanted to talk to me so I went to visit them as soon as I could.

The husband apologised to me and said he was so sorry that he didn't hug me more after Noah and Aaron passed away.    He said he was away when Aaron passed away, and he was very nervous about seeing me for the first time when he came home.  He said he came to church and expected to see everyone hugging me, but no one was.   He said all he wanted to do was give me a hug, but because no one else was, he didn't feel like he should.

When his daughter passed away, he then realised that all they wanted was hugs and acknowledgement that it had happened.  He said he was sorry he never hugged me,  and said 'everyone needs hugs'.   Since that day, every time we see each other we give each other a hug.
It hurts so much when people just act like everything is 'normal'.   Life is anything but 'normal' now and just someone saying  'you're in my prayers', 'I'm thinking of you', 'how has your week been?' or giving you a hug or a rub on the back as they walk past, means a lot. 

Words Can Hurt
Sometimes people say things, hoping to help, but instead they can really hurt.

"You're lucky they won't turn into a teenager" (I'd give anything for him to be here and to be a teenager!).

"You're so lucky you have your other boys" (yes I am, but I felt anything but lucky at the time).

"You're so strong, you'll be okay".  (There are many days when I don't feel strong, and I don't want the pressure of having to act like things are okay). 

"Isn't it wonderful that we know that 'families are forever''. "Thank goodness for the gospel" (yes it is wonderful, and it's good to be reminded sometimes that we will see them again, and our beliefs do help as we know that this life isn't 'the end', but when you have to live 50-80 years without someone, and your heart literally feels broken and you can not imagine ever feeling any joy again, you just want someone to acknowledge how hard it is, despite believing what you do). 

Ask and Listen
Ask how they're doing, and be prepared for the answer.  If you don't want to really know the real answer, then it's better not to ask.   You know when someone genuinely wants to know how you are, and when someone just wants to hear the words 'I'm good'.  We know you can't fix things, but just listening helps. 
Don't Compare
Don't assume that you know what they're going through, even if you have lost a child yourself.  Don't compare your grief to theirs.  Everyone is different, and has different experiences.  At the time you can't even think about what others have been through, and it puts pressure on you to stop feeling the way you do.
An Hour at a Time
I used to hear the phrase 'just taking it a day at a time'.  Grief isn't like that at all.  You don't take it a day at a time.  You can wake up feeling okay, but an hour later you can feel overwhelmed with grief.   You can wake up feeling terrible, but then by lunch time you feel like you can face the day.

Be aware that your friend is taking things just an hour at a time.  Check on them regularly.  Ring them in the morning, then send them a text at the end of the day.   They may not always have the energy to talk in person or on the phone, but just somehow let them know you care.

Let Them Grieve
It's hard to watch someone in so much pain, but allow them to deal with it how they need to. It's okay if they want to stay in bed, as much as it's okay if they want to keep busy.  Don't tell them that they should or shouldn't be doing something.  No one should feel like they're being rushed along the road of grief.  It takes years and years, and there will be many bad days and better days for a long, long time.  

It's okay to cry.  Let them cry, and cry.  “Don't be ashamed to weep; 'tis right to grieve. Tears are only water, and flowers, trees, and fruit cannot grow without water. But there must be sunlight also. A wounded heart will heal in time, and when it does, the memory and love of our lost ones is sealed inside to comfort us.” 

If they want to talk about what happened, let them.  Part of the healing is talking about the details.

Don't tell them that it's time to 'move on'.  'Moving on' is such an awful term. It makes you feel like you are leaving them behind.  No one wants to leave their child behind and forget them.  All a parent can do it to try to work out best how to continue on without their child here on earth.

If they're having a terrible day don't assume they're not coping.  If it's months when they are really struggling, then maybe they need some extra help to get through it, but they're going to have many terrible days, before there are some better ones.

If they're talking a lot about them years later and are still sad, it's okay.  They will love and miss them forever. 

If they're having a 'good' day don't just assume that they're doing okay.  They may be out and about and smiling and talking, but their heart is still broken and they still need your love and support. 
I will probably remember a lot of other things after I've posted this, but hopefully this will help someone who may not be sure how to help a friend, after their child has passed away.  Many of the things I mentioned are the same for when someone's partner passes away,  but there are also other things that I will share later, that are only specific to losing a partner.

It's a long and lonely road, but with great friends the journey can be made a lot easier.  I believe that this is one of the ways that Heavenly Father works - through others.  I'm so grateful for special friends and family who have loved and supported me, and allowed me to deal with things how I have.   Without them it would be a lot harder every day.


  1. Definitely a kick butt, bang on accurate post! Good job!

  2. Thankyou Lisa. We lost our severely disabled son 7 weeks ago and I really can relate to everything youve said.

  3. Thank you for sharing Lisa. It certainly gives a good insight into what it is like to lose a child. I think people often want to do or say something, but they are not sure what that is or should be. It helps to know from the perspective of someone who has had the experience what can be helpful to do.

  4. 4 Years ago I losted my 7month old to sids

    And your right
    I hate people that say I wished my baby never grew up.
    Well I wished mine did

    Ur blog has help with hidden things that iam dealing with

  5. Thanks so much for this Lisa. Very pertinent to my family at the moment...Love you xx

  6. I don't know you, but I follow your blog. I always appreciate your honesty, your strength and your wisdom. Tonight as I watched a video at the General Women's conference I thought of you and how unfair it is for you to bury your boys so early. Then I came home and read this post. Just know that your "sister" across the world has been touched by you and your family. Even though I never met them, your boys have affected my life and I think of your family often.

  7. Thank you for all of your advice. We have had a YSA recently move in with us. Her mum died when she was 6 and I see the struggles she has with remembering her mother. I read your BLOG and try to see things from the child's point of view. Helps me relate to her grief and heart ache.

  8. I so look forward to your posts - I too, don't know you and have not been through what you and your boys have been through. Thank God for that! I struggle with what to say or do when someone passes away. Thanks for some words of wisdom, from your heart. Every situation is different, so that makes it even more difficult. I hope you understand that I DO admire you and am amazed that you are able to put one foot in front of the other and carry on.

  9. Lisa,

    You must be a wonderfully gifted teacher for this post truly makes it obvious. Thank you for the enlightenment.

  10. Thank you for this Lisa.


We are so grateful for everyone's love and support, and appreciate your comments xoxo

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...