In January 2012 during a routine ultrasound, my best friend was told that her baby daughter had Turner syndrome, and that she would die before she had the chance to be born. She was about halfway through her pregnancy, and the impending loss of her daughter was unbearable. But like most trials, she had to find a way to endure the pain. Her baby lived another two weeks before her heart stopped beating and she delivered tiny baby Elle, heartbroken.
I’d never personally experienced a loss like this, nor had I ever been this close to someone who had. At times I felt very helpless as I’d cry with her, or just listen to her talk for hours. I was at a loss for words. Still, more than a year later I feel helpless sometimes. I wonder if I’m doing enough, or if I’m being the support system she needs, though she assures me I am.
A huge part of life is facing trials and pain, but another part of life is lifting those around us when they experience trials. We may not know exactly what to do or say. Often when we don’t know what to do, we don’t do anything. We ignore the person entirely. While it doesn’t behoove us to say something awful, it doesn’t help to ignore them or their grief.
I’ve done a bit of research about how to mourn with someone, and here is what I’ve learned:
- Be there to listen. When Molly Jackson lost her daughter in a choking accidents, she said one of her friends took her to lunch and asked her to tell her all about Lucy. She said it was an incredible healing balm to sit and remember her beloved daughter.
- Send a heartfelt message. When Elle passed away, Rosalie asked me to compile all of her Facebook messages, posts, and blog comments, so that she could remember the goodness of people, and how they reached out. A year later, she was ready for me to send them to her. As I recall, there were more than 12 pages of condolences. I know how much she appreciated those who reached out to her.
- Prepare a meal. Even if someone isn't necessarily physically recovering, it's a great way to lighten their burdens
- Attend the funeral services, unless it’s a private family affair. By doing so, you acknowledge their grief, and show them you will continue your support as they begin this next phase. Find out if there is anything needed (food, music, etc.)
- Help take care of everyday tasks. When my friend’s father passed away last summer, a group of her friends were able to clean her house and provide some groceries when they returned from the funeral. I was glad we were able to support her in a small way, even though she was out of state.
- Be patient and understanding. There is not a timeline for grief and everyone grieves in their own way. Continue support long after the initial trial.
- Express your love to them often. Call them just to say hello. Be patient, sensitive.
- Don't assume they have help/family or that they are already being taken care of. Rosalie suggested when offering help, you should be pretty specific. "Don't be afraid to ask them what they need...BUT if they are like me, they will say they don't really need anything, so sometimes instead of offering to do anything, say, "I can do A, B, and C for you. Which one would you like me to do?" That way "ANYTHING" can really turn into something. Honestly, even though I know most people were sincere when they said, "Let me know if you need anything," it got redundant, and I just started telling people that I didn't need anything because I honestly kind of got tired of it."
- Let them know they are not alone, without being overbearing. When Elle passed, I didn’t know if I should call Rosalie, so I sent her text messages a few times a day just to let her know that I loved her, I was praying for her, and I was there when she needed me. It’s hard to find a balance, but it's better to err on the side of compassion, rather than leaving them alone to mourn.
I'm no expert on grief, but I've been blessed to serve those acquainted with it. I've been witness to tragedy, but also to resilience and strength. Nobody can go through this life alone. Let us go through bearing one another's burdens.