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Ways to Help Your Loved Ones When They're Grieving
While there seem to be no words that can help at a time of such tragedy, saying nothing is actually worse. Here are some tips that can help.
What to say:
- Tell your friends or loved ones how sorry and saddened you are to hear of the passing of their baby.
- If they're not taking calls, send a note, text message, or email letting them know that you care and are concerned.
- Reassure them that they do not need to respond to your messages.
- It's important to affirm your friends and validate their feelings. Tell them what wonderful, loving parents they are. Tell them you can't imagine how broken their hearts must be.
- Parents desperately do not want their baby to be forgotten. If you met or knew the baby at all, share your memories of him/her (such as, "I will never forget when you brought baby (name) to work, and he/she grinned at everybody with that precious smile....")
What not to say:
- In our experience with other SIDS families, we have found that most parents do not want to hear "I understand what you're going through" unless you have in fact experienced a similar loss.
- Many families also have a hard time hearing phrases such as "God needed your baby" or "There's a new angel in heaven now." Besides not being accurate, those thoughts do not really bring comfort when all the parents wants is to have their child back.
How to help:
- Your friends or loved ones probably can't even think of what they need right now, much less express it.
- Rather than offering generic help, go ahead and take the initiative to help out in some way.
- Easy ways to help include dropping off a meal, making yourself available to family members and friends coming to town, and assisting close family with "logistics."
- The family is likely flooded with support immediately following the death of their child. It's in the weeks and months to come that they will desperately need to hear encouragement and support.
- Check in with your friends periodically, letting them know that you are thinking of them and that their baby is not forgotten.
- The three-month mark seems to be a very difficult time for families grieving a loss, particularly because that is when denial has faded and reality has started to sink in. It is also at this point in time that there seems to be an expectation of the family to "move on," when in fact grieving is a process that requires still much more time. Be especially present for your loved ones during this time.
- The greatest help you can give your loved ones is to pray for them. In Matthew 22:21, Jesus himself said, "Whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive." Prayer is the single most powerful tool for your friends' healing.
Ways to Pray for your loved ones:
- God will answer your prayers for them.
- Pray for them to feel God's peace and presence in the midst of their pain.
- Pray that God would remove the traumatic replay of events plaguing their minds.
- Pray for them to get restful sleep.
- Pray for God to give them the strength to accept what has happened and to begin living a "new normal."
- Pray for their marriage, as husbands and wives often grieve differently.
- Pray for God to heal their broken hearts, for their joy to be restored, for God to bring good out of their tragedy, and for them to experience hope again.
Know that there will be a time that your friends will want to talk, get answers, research SIDS, and/or want to connect with other SIDS families, but it may be days, weeks, months from now. We all grieve and process our grief differently. So when you think the time is right, you can tell them about the resources we have to help at www.sidsamerica.org. We have found that most close family members and friends want this information right away, so you might direct their family and friends to the resources early on.
We know from other experiences with SIDS families that they will eventually want to connect with families who have lost a child to SIDS. That's why we're here. We want to reach out to them, connect with them, be there for them. If you think they would be comfortable sharing their contact information, please let us know. We would really like the opportunity to reach out to them ourselves and serve them.