WHAT YOU CAN DO For Someone Who Has Experienced A Loss
By Jennifer Hammer, Sacred Nest Perinatal Support Services
& Randi van Wiltenburg, Butterfly Baby Doula Services
The holidays can be a hard time for those who are grieving the loss of a child. The greatest gift you can give during this season is the gift of sharing memories with the grieving parents. We know how hard it can be to comfort someone who has recently experienced a loss. You feel helpless and you wonder what you can do to help. It’s important to remember not to take anything personally during this difficult time and sometimes more listening, less talking is best. Be mindful of your words, check out our previous blog posts for What Not to Say and What to Say to Someone Experiencing a Loss. We’ve compiled a list of some ideas to help a grieving friend or family member.
“Most of the time a bereaved parent just wants to know that their baby or child is not forgotten and that their short life meant something. So speak their child’s name. You are not reminding your friend or family member of their loss. Trust me, they have not forgotten.”
- Create a Meal Train. There are a ton of websites now that allow you to do this for free. One of our favourites is Mealtrain.com which allows you to set up meals based on # per day and includes additionals things like child care, set times for visitors, housework, meals, car rides ect. It would be good to have a few weeks or more of meals for the family. Once created you can share the web link with extended family, friends and over social media platforms, as long as the family approves.
- Start a Go Fund Me account for financial assistance to help with funeral costs and time away from work. In our society, we tend to have a hard time asking for help especially when it comes to finances. Setting up an account for a friend can be extremely helpful but be sure this is ok with them first.
- Send a Card. Just a few sweet words letting them know you are thinking of them and love them can make all the difference. We would also encourage sending cards during momentous holidays and events such as Mother’s Day and Christmas. Holiday’s can be a hard reminder for what could have been.
- Just sit and listen. Cry with her. Watch a “chick-flick” movie which can be especially helpful to give her an outlet to release her emotions and grief. When we grieve, we experience a wide range of emotions and it is important to meet the grieving person where they are at in their grief and provide them an outlet. If someone is feeling angry, it can be helpful to take them somewhere to release the emotion such as participating in axe throwing, or a shooting range like Shooting Edge, Calgary Archery Centre.
- Offer to take older siblings to the park or for a walk. This can really help the older siblings feel special and it will also give the parents some time to themselves.
- Give the gift of self-care. When we experience a loss, it is hard to want to take care of ourselves. We get lost in our own grief and emotions. Sometimes, getting out and doing something nice for ourselves can be helpful to remind us that we are still living and we are worthy of care. Gift certificates for a pedicure, massage, or a spa day can be a great way to pamper themselves when they are ready to.
- Hire a Postpartum Doula and/or a Loss Doula. These are trained professionals who specialize in postpartum and loss. They can provide the necessary support, guidance and resources to families who have lost a baby.
- Source out local resources and offer to attend support groups with her. Provide her with contact numbers for local programs and support websites such as www.stillbirthday.com or www.october15th.com or www.babylossfamilyadvisors.org
- Make phone calls to let friends and family know (if approved from family). It’s can be difficult and emotionally draining to think about telling people you have lost a baby.
- Be there for her partner too, they often get forgotten. A loss affects the entire family unit, not just the mothers. Partners need to grieve too and know that there is support available to them. Often grieve hits them harder when the initial shock settles down so it’s important that you are there for them
- Offer to run errands, kids to school, groceries ect. Anything that will help minimize the disruption to their daily routines and lifestyle especially when older siblings are involved.
- Offer to drive them to appointments. Grief is consuming and draining and more than likely the bereaved parents have not been sleeping well. Offering to drive them as needed can be very helpful in the first few weeks after loss.
- Make a momento. Offer to do a remembrance ceremony (consult parents). There are a ton of options for this and you can find ideas online. Planting a tree, a butterfly release or creating a memory box with pictures, music, artwork, hospital bracelets is a beautiful way to honour the life that was lost. It validates the baby’s life and also provides the family with something to reflect on and cherish for a lifetime.
- Give a gift to commemorate the loss such as a necklace with the baby’s birth stone or name. Check out The Midnight Orange for a beautiful customized design that will last a lifetime. You can also give to a charity that is close to their heart in memory of their child.
- Provide a gift certificate for a Sealing Ceremony for the loss. A Sealing Ceremony is a way to honour the mother’s body for carrying life and the transformation of such an event. It involves an oil rub-down with a sacred tuck-in, typically followed by a belly binding to help support and bring the body back to its pre-pregnancy state.
We’d love to hear some more suggestions on what you can do for loved ones suffering through loss! Please share yours in the comments and as always, if you know someone who needs support during this difficult time, please reach out to us for guidance.