Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Encouraging things to say to someone who has lost a child

Over the past almost 18 months (wow, can you imagine me having a kid that old right now?) since Grace left us, we’ve had SO many encouragers come alongside us. Some of the things people wrote us and said to us in have been mind-blowingly good. The best were the simplest statements, each which carried an immense weight of meaning.

Now, I was planning on sharing the “Do’s and Don’ts” of things to say when someone has lost a child, but after looking over the “Don’ts” that I'd written, I realized that some people might be offended. And honestly, the last thing I want to do is make someone feel badly. Not one person who talked to us or sent us a card or message was ever mean-spirited, nor did anyone mean anything other than support. So, I just want to share with you the “Do’s” so that in the rare and tragic case that you ever encounter someone who has lost a child (God forbid), you’ll know some uplifting things to say.

But, as a note, often the best thing to say is nothing at all. Just being there can be the best way to comfort someone who is grieving. A simple card with your signed name or a homemade meal or a shoulder to cry on or a Starbucks drop-off or a necklace with the child's name engraved in it – all of these were done for us and they all beautifully classify as "being there."

Encouraging things TO say!

It makes me cry when I read through the beautiful things people wrote to me in the months following Grace's death. How was everyone so inspired with such encouraging, deep, heartfelt words? Had I never been through something like this, I would have never known what to say, and yet, somehow you all knew. The following are my favorites, but there were hundreds more that blessed me similarly!

1.You’re a great mom. Grace is blessed to have you as her mom.

People who said this to me became some of my favorite people on earth. Because, they knew and acknowledged Grace as a person, a human being, who was loved by her mother – me! They recognized the positive of the situation – that in the process of being pregnant with Grace, I had become a mother.

When saying this, use the present tense. Just because Grace died doesn’t mean I wasn’t a mother before and after she died. Having a child living on earth isn’t the definition of parenthood! To parent is simply to raise and nurture a child, or to cause a child to come into existence. Grace originated in my body, I nurtured her for nine months, raised her body from a tiny ball of cells, communicated with her, was her friend, showed her love unconditionally, experienced her life with her! I was and am her mother!

2. Congratulations on giving birth. Congratulations on your daughter.

Counter intuitive in the situation? No, it’s actually one of the best things anyone thought to say. They saw my daughter as an accomplishment, one that I worked so hard for, and spent so much time and energy and love on!

3.She is beautiful.

What a perfect thing to say. Instead of focusing on the death aspect, you can compliment and bolster a mother’s pride by telling her how awesome her child is. People also commented on which parent they thought Grace looks more like, and mentioned several of her unique features.

4.I’m praying for you.

 If you really do pray for the person, then saying so will mean a lot. God worked through the prayers that were lifted up for us during our most difficult days. And it will mean even more if you continue to pray, and tell the person you are months later, when most people will have forgotten and moved on from the loss.

 5. God will bless you again.

Being confident in God’s power, and looking to the future– that is the perspective I really wanted and needed to hear when I felt practically hopeless. One of my friends actually bought and saved a “congratulations on your pregnancy” card many months before I became pregnant with this baby, as she was in complete faith that God would bless us with a healthy pregnancy again and she’d have a chance to send it. How cool to receive that card with her message written inside about the story of faith behind it!

6. You look great. Good job on the weight loss!

It’s great when people remember that the mom who just lost a baby is also dealing with everything that comes with being postpartum – leaking boobs, physically recovering from childbirth, the night-sweats, the hormones, the weight loss. Compliments on the one positive thing that is happening to the mother – her body returning to normal (a few months down the road) – are very well received ;)

7. I will miss her. I will never forget her. She made an impact on my life.

Recognizing Grace as more than an unborn baby – but as a human soul who lived on this earth, whose existence made the world a better place, who brought glory to God her Maker – that’s all any mother could want to hear about her child (living or not). Amen!

And there were so many more. People complimented her grave-site, headstone, the labor and delivery, our strength, our faith, our story, our God. If there’s one thing I know about mourning, it’s that positive comments go a very long way.


Sharon Glasgow said...

I love you Heather! What are great mom you are :)

Adam Lucas said...

All of the above :D

Giannini Family said...

Bless you Heather. Thank you for writing this. You are an amazing person and Mother.

Anonymous said...

Our friends just lost their 4 year old Daughter to a medical mistake.
I am making food for them, I will be there for them for anything.
I do not want to bug them. What do I do if they do not ask for anything?
Also, I have a Daughter the same age, I feel guilty I still have her & they dont have their girl:(
What can I do??? The couple as 2 other children & not much family.
Please help me,
Thanks J

heathergyoung said...

Dear J, I'm so deeply sorry to hear of your friend's loss. I cannot imagine. If they do not ask for anything, pray pray pray for them, and then send little messages here and there telling them you are praying for them, thinking of them, remembering their sweet daughter. Remember her in the months and years to come. Continue to lift them up, as the mourning process is a long one.