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what to do when a friend loses a child

people mean well, my neighbor peggy said to me last year when i opened up about losing isaac. but they don’t know what to say sometimes and end up saying something stupid.

i was out walking with my youngest last year when i we first met. she was trying to get a peacock out of her driveway and i stopped to look on in amusement. she noticed my son and asked the question that i get asked all of the time, is he your first? to which i reply no, he has an older brother. the followup question of course is oh well how old is he? to which i have to quickly answer their question without soliciting pity. but that day, for whatever reason i started to cry in the middle of my response. i quickly muttered an apology for making the moment solemn.

peggy surprised me. she said, you don’t have to apologize. not for this. can i give you a hug? i nodded. i told her that i never wanted to talk about it because people usually replied with well aren’t you glad that you have this one now? as if that is supposed to magically melt away the pain i feel over losing my first. he is apart of you, peggy said, apart of your story and you can’t every forget something like that, and you shouldn’t have to.

i shouldn’t have to but somehow i feel responsible for the comfortability of others. i see the discomfort on their faces when they realize or at least think that they have reopened a wound. they immediately want to move on from the idea that maybe they caused me further pain and want to lighten the mood with encouraging words or maybe just a quick sympathetic apology.

recently, i have tried my best to keep them in it just a little longer while i explain to them that they haven’t inflicted any pain on me and i let them know that i am very blessed to have known isaac in his short life despite the sorrow that followed his untimely departure. an old college friend of mind reached out and told me of her friend who was going through a similar story of child loss and i thought i would share what at least for me was helpful while i walked through my grief with friends.

create a space in your heart to really grieve with your friend.

i am not saying you have to put on sackcloth and ashes, but allow yourself to share the burden of sadness. i cannot begin to tell you how much better i felt when my friend anne let me talk about the day we lost isaac. it was probably the first time i had actually shared with anyone the painful details of that day probably ten months after his death. i remember her eyes were just flooded with tears as she sat quietly and listened. then we hugged for a while and sat in the sadness together. no pep talk. just us sobbing. i am realizing now that i need to think her for that moment.

listen

like i said, people are quick to extinguish discomfort, but doing this while someone is opening up to you about their loss hurts more than if you didn’t say anything at all. be quick to listen and slow to respond. sometimes silence can offer more healing than a quote from your daily devotional. unless your words are not some standard response, the spirit of god is powerful enough to minister to them. just be an ear.

ask how you can be of help

i am guilty of wanting to help people in a matter of which is comfortable for me. but it isn’t about you. by asking your friend how you might serve them best, you invite them into a safe space where their needs can be thoughtfully cared for.

don’t be afraid to pursue

i spent almost a year in solitude. not by choice. i think i don’t know this for sure that people may have just been trying to give me space or maybe they weren’t sure how to talk about what happened if the subject arose. again i had maybe one or two moments during my pregnancy with my youngest where i went out and felt comfortable to share, but otherwise i felt like people were scared i was too fragile for socialization

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