Posts tagged child loss
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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isaac's second birthday

i haven’t had much time to really reflect on isaac’s birthday. not because i was avoiding it or anything. we just haven’t had time to with business trips for keith and hospital visits. i am not sure that even now as i write i have the headspace to let myself really go there.

while on vacation, i got a call from the neurologist saying that boo bear’s routine eeg was normal and that they wanted to monitor him while he was awake. he was immediately scheduled the tuesday we returned for a twenty-four hour eeg. i didn’t have time to digest the fact that we would be in the hospital through the day of isaac’s birth.

boo bear charmed all the nurses immediately, much like his brother did and he did so well considering he had wires glued to his head and then covered in a long sock over his head. the room was smaller than our living room and we were expected to stay inside while they recorded him both through the monitor and camera.

the only thing on my mind was how to keep him entertained until bedtime. i had no space for anything else. as we waited today for our discharge papers, after baby boy was offline, i took him for a walk down the hallway until we hit the end. to my left were a pair of windows overlooking the hospital entrance to the labor and delivery facilities.

i pointed at the building. this is where you were born, i said. and you know who else was born here? your brother isaac was born here. we brought you home from here. i winced, realizing what i had said and was about to say. this was your brother’s only home. he never knew the one you know. somehow, this feels like home for us too.

those words stung like hornets, but i don’t regret saying them.

this is boo bear’s first year celebrating his brother’s birthday, although i am not sure it was an obvious celebration. with his birthday a month later, i have found it difficult to plan for it during may. eleven months. that is all that would have separated them had isaac remained with us. now the earth, moon, and stars stretch in between them.

two earth years, but a thousand years eternal. i love you. happy birthday.

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