As I head into the fourth month of love and loss, I’ve learned a lot about how other’s see and understand grief. In this time, I can honestly say, our society doesn’t prepare us to help others after any type loss. Before Jensen was born, I had no idea how to help someone going through any type of loss. Sometimes, even now, I still don’t know what do say or how to help someone.
Grief is messy, unpredictable, and causes colossal pain. No two people experience grief the same exact way, which makes it even harder for friends and family. I recently read an article that said grief, especially after losing a child, lasts a lifetime. Yes, there’s good days and people learn how to live and manage the sadness, but it is always there. A child is gone. It isn’t something you can just get over, ever.
This list consists of things I would have or liked having in the past fifteen weeks. I’m sure the further I journey through the grief the less I’ll need some of these, but I know loss happens everyday. I hope this list can potentially help other mommas navigating this journey.
Bring food and water.
With the amount of tears a bereaved mom has, she needs to replenish. Since Jensen has been born I haven’t been hungry or thirsty. I’ve obviously ate and drank water in the past fifteen weeks, but the urge isn’t there. My body doesn’t send those alerts to my brain right now. I wake up in the morning and just go; then don’t eat or drink until Anthony and I eat dinner in the evening. I’ve actually downloaded a water drinking app to help me remember to drink.
I know for me, I have no energy to make myself food. So the combination of no energy and not even feeling hungry is not a recipe for success. Just taking them over their favorite meal and a case of water is such a nice thing to do. While you’re there, eat with them. If they’re alone or it’s been a few weeks afterwards, they want the company. It also gives us a reason why to eat. We don’t want to seem ‘crazy’ if someone else is eating and we’re just sitting there.
Although I can’t speak for everyone going through loss, I would never decline food or water if it was offered. I know for others it can be the easiest comfort they could offer.
Go do daily tasks for/with them.
This. I still have not went to the grocery store to get food in fear of running into someone and having that awkward silence. Also, the whole “I have no energy” thing that grief does to me. I remember the first month (or maybe two), I forgot to pay all my bills. Thankfully they all understood, but going to the post office to get stamps and sending them out just wasn’t my main priority. Another thing that would really help that we’re all afraid to ask for, is cleaning. I know there are people out there that really like to clean, but when you’re grieving and the tissues are mounting up like Everest, it has to be done. Any type of errand that has to be done seems like a hundred times more draining than usual.
Those are just three examples, the opportunities for this are endless and really help after loss. Another big one for me would be going on walks after healing. Going on a thirty minute walk improves mental health so much. Heck, you could bring food, water, then go on a walk. Definitely a good night for the grieving.
“Self Care Checkup” text.
A text takes what, ten seconds at most? I’ve gotten texts that have reminded me to eat, drink, even shower in the past fifteen weeks. The most basic things a person does during a day, I completely forget to do. Even if you just ask if they’ve drank a glass of water that day or have ate breakfast, goes a long way. Maybe just an encouraging picture or an inspiring quote grounds me. Or a text asking if there’s anything they need or want. Just make sure you let them know you’re thinking about their mental and physical health.
Another fun thought, you could be their water checkup person. I know that sounds ridiculous, but dehydration is a pretty scary thing. If you add up all the tears and forgetting to drink water you can become dehydrated so quickly. It’s also a great way to make sure you’re drinking enough too. Helping the grieving helps you too!
Most of the time when someone asks me how I’m doing, I want to do better so they’re not worried about me. I know, I should want to worry about myself right now, but that’s not what I’m doing. It helps to know we’re being thought about too, even if it’s just a quick text.
Help do something to honor their baby.
I would say almost all loss moms want to honor their baby in every possible way. From making a baby book to making getting a tattoo, there are so many ideas to do. Bring flowers and make a memorial garden. Make a shadow box with them. Turn one of their onesies into a stuffed animal. Get a candle making kit and do with them. Write their baby’s name pretty and send it to them. Make them a Certificate of Life. If you have pictures, frame them. Help make a memorial garden stone. Bring a keepsake box for them. The list goes on and on. Donate in their baby’s name. Random Acts of Kindness in their name.
Some ways I’ve honored Jensen through DIY’s are signs, flower crates, and picking flowers. I’ve also bought memorial jewelry, a stamped spoon, and candles (which I’ve already listed). If you’re not crafty or live far away, there are many boxes or baskets you can send that are helpful. Or you can make your own to send. I really love BurdenBearingBaskets and laurelbox. You can get items personalized for them and it’s really a treasure to have. I’m actually going to have Jensen’s picture in a locket and I’m donated a tree to be planted in his name. Another neat thing I’ve seen are personalized books that their names can be added in.
This and the next one go hand in hand. The biggest thing that has helped me with grief is just someone listening. I know I’ve posted about listening before, but it is so important. It doesn’t take much and it can be done in person, on the phone, or even through text. Most of the times there’s no way to comfort the grieving, but there’s no wrong way to listen.
I also would like to say, listen without judgement. Many of the things that I’ve said I can’t imagine that I would ever be saying them. As I said earlier in this post, grief is messy, unpredictable, and causes colossal pain. Imagine going through all of that and not thinking the worst things in the world. I know it has to be hard to hear someone you really care about be in all this pain and heartache. But the words they’re saying need to be said.
For me, I needed and still need to pull apart and talk about ‘that’ day and the birth process. Once shock wears off, the memories hit harder and the emotions come out. Bottling up these feelings really hurt, especially when you feel like there’s no one to listen. As a friend, encourage them to talk. Let them know that no matter what they say, you’re there for them. You want to listen and be there through it all. Let them know they’re never a burden and that even if you don’t understand what they’re going through, you want to be there.
Bring tissues and cry with them.
I absolutely hate crying in front of people, but I’ve been doing it nonstop lately. I’ve actually ran out of tissues a few times, they really are much-needed. Sometimes I know I’m crying and see everyone around me feeling uncomfortable. They don’t know whether to cry or not. Or if they do cry, will it make me feel worse? The thing is, a baby or any aged child dying, is the worst thing that can happen to a person. It’s (explicit) horrible. It’s unnatural and just shouldn’t happen to anyone; but here we are.
If you’re a loved one, don’t be afraid to cry with them. Witnessing that amount of pain is hard to see, especially on top the loss of innocence and distrust in the world. Hug them, cry with them, and go through a whole box of tissues. Believe me, you’re not making them cry, they would be crying if you weren’t even there.
Yes, I’m only fifteen weeks in this journey of grief and cry a ton. But I’ve met with and talked to women who are five even ten years out from their grief and they need these days. Losing a child just doesn’t hurt the first few weeks, it’s a lifelong pain. Even if they look like they’re doing better, there’s days where the tears are nonstop and they need someone there with them.
Say their child’s name.
I can’t stress this one enough. For me, it’s the most important on the list. My biggest fear as Jensen’s mom is for others to forget about him. Seems impossible for as much as I talk and post about him, but it’s the only thing that scares me right now. My life is consumed with Jensen, just like any other parent is consumed by their child. I love him and I want to talk about him. The one thing that truly makes me happy right now, is when someone else brings him up in conversation or when someone just says his name to me. Every time I see or hear his name, I smile.
Don’t be afraid to say their name. If they start crying after you bring them up, it’s not because you made them sad or made them remember again. Our babies are always on our minds, it makes us happy that you’re thinking about them too. Believe me, we never just forget about everything that’s happened. We don’t forget that they existed. It brings us peace that they’re not forgotten and their lives have impacted someone else’s.
My short seven item list let me ramble close to two-thousand words off. This is so important to me though. Losing a child and the grief that comes afterwards is so hard to go through and many people don’t know how to help out. Like I said, this is just what has helped me and what I would have wanted. Each person’s grief is as unique as them.
If you’re, unfortunately, going through this grief, what has a friend done that has helped you? Or what do you wish could have been done?