Last month, our friends lost their little girl. And when I shared it here on the blog and on Facebook, so many of you shared your own stories of loss, or asked others what helped them get through the darkest days. I was overwhelmed with gratitude at your openness in sharing your grief and how people helped and hurt you. I also felt so sad to hear so many stories of people losing their children.
I know that when the accident happened, I felt completely at loss at how to help my friends. I had no idea what to say or what to do. But your suggestions and comments encouraged me. So today I want to share the collective wisdom that was passed on to me on how to comfort friends who lose their child.
Unfortunately, because of the broken world we live in, we will all experience grief and sorrow, whether our own or that of others. I hope these ideas will give you a place to start in supporting your friends if they suffer the greatest loss that could ever be experienced by a parent.
Not all of these ideas will be right at every moment. So use some judgement and see which of these, if any, your friends need.
And these are for the loss of any child - whether before birth or after!
And please share in the comments any other ideas or suggestions you have!
I know there is no way my list can cover everything, but I hope it’s a place to start.
6 Ways to Comfort Friends Who Lose Their Child
1. Pray - tell them you are praying - and ask what they need.
If you are a person of faith, prayer is the biggest way you can help your friend. But don't let it be a passing, "I'm praying for you." If you're both comfortable with it, pray out loud for them over coffee or at the dinner table. Ask them specifically what their biggest need is right now. And remind them that you are still praying for them, even months later.
2. Give mementos of their child - photos and other tangible things are helpful more than just digital ones.
Here in Cambodia, a lot of people don't have digital cameras or phones that take photos good enough to print off. Our friends had almost no photos of their daughter in every day life. So having that tangible reminder was huge for them.
And even if you live in America, it still will mean a lot for you to give your friends any mementoes you can. You may have photos of their child they've never seen before. And having something physical they can hold is so helpful. If you're crafty, you could even consider making a memory book, celebrating their child's life.
Don't expect them to look at them right away when you give it them. They may not be ready; but eventually, they'll be glad to have the reminder that their child was loved by many and is still remembered.
3. Don't be afraid to talk about their child
This was something lots of people said was painful - when their friends just stopped talking about their child. Maybe the friends were afraid of making the parents upset. But have the freedom to talk about good memories and share stories about their child. Don't act like she never existed. Her parents live with her memory every day, and they need to know others haven't forgotten about her, either.
4. Don't be afraid to ask how they are really doing - even months after.
It can be easy to think others are doing ok when they're functioning well on the outside. But grief can come back unexpectedly and brutally at the worst of times. Even if it's been a few months or a year since their loss, ask your friend how they are really doing. Is their heart healing? Are they finding peace with how life turned out? If no one asks, they may not be able to share their struggles.
5. Remember the hard anniversaries - birthdays, the day she died, Mother's Day, etc.
Parents never forget those days. Can you imagine anything more painful than going through your child's birthday, but no one celebrates the fact she lit up your life for a few short years? Make the phone call, send a text or an email, take them out to coffee - be present for your friends on days when the memories and the grief can seem fresh and raw all over again.
6. Remind them where their hope lies.
As Christians, our hope lies in our Savior. When we comfort each other with, "We'll see her in heaven again," it's not empty words; it's truth. But it's also not where our ultimate healing and comfort come from. Even if their child were returned to them from the grave, the world would still be broken. Grief and loss would still happen. And we would still need a Savior.
The amazing thing is that our God also suffered the loss of His child - and He did it so that He would gain a family of people redeemed and celebrating their status as children of God. We look forward to heaven not just for the people we will see again. We look forward to our final resting place of eternity in our Father's presence - the only thing that can make our hearts whole and complete.
So now it's your turn.
What suggestions do you have for comforting friends who lose their child? How can we mourn with those who mourn, yet still encourage each other to keep their hope anchored in the Gospel? Please share your stories and ideas in the comments!