Nothing can prepare you for the loss of a child. Nothing. But as a friend you can be there when someone you know loses their son or daughter.
Grief isn’t pretty. But love and support are. They make all the difference.
- Think before you speak. When the funeral director dropped off a tiny urn containing the ashes of my son, his parting words to me were “at least you can have another child”. Words spoken cannot be taken back. There is nothing you can say that will lessen the loss. But you can say “I’m so so sorry”. Really that’s all you can say.
- Leave space. I wanted to talk about Lucas and the pain I felt. That life had stopped and that it would never be the same again. That I felt angry, not with God but with the stupid people who said stupid things (I’ve forgiven them since). Leave space for your friend to say whatever they want even if it may seem shocking. Death isn’t neat or nice.
- Be kind. Your friendship won’t be the same for a while. Their loss will affect you too. Don’t feel guilty that your life is normal and theirs isn’t. It’s not your fault and your friend won’t think that either. You are not to blame. Your life goes on and your friend will still want to hear about what you are doing. It will help them to escape their grief.
- Be practical. When registering the death of your child you need to fill in a lot of paperwork that can’t be done at home. Offer to drive your friend to the Registrar. They won’t want the added pressure of finding a parking space and are likely to bump into new parents registering the birth of their newborn baby. That is painful. Moral support makes a massive difference.
- Cook, wash and clean. Everyday tasks are impossible in the early days of loss. Get together with some friends to cook meals, do the washing and ironing and hoover. Don’t wait to be asked. Just do it. Believe me.
- Always remember. Dates are important. Birthdays, anniversaries and significant family events will be difficult, especially in the first few years. A short note, a home cooked meal, a little gift. Really that’s all it takes to feel loved and supported.
- Tell them about me. That I have said that there will come a time when they feel that they can live again. I want to give them hope. They will laugh and life will find a new normal.
- This is just a small list. There are so many other things that you can do and if you don’t know what they are just ask.