2. Don't try to fix things. Nothing you or anyone else can do will fix the situation. You can't "make it better." Trying to fix it is just patronizing and upsetting.
3. Hugs. It is amazing how much a hug can heal! Friends could reduce me to tears with a hug and yet, at the same time, make me feel so much better. It was like they were taking part of my burden upon themselves; trying to lighten my load.
4. Let them cry. I really don't like to cry in front of people. But when you have lost your child, you just get used to it. God gave us the ability to cry for a reason. There is something healing about it. So, let them cry when they feel like it. Don't feel like you did something wrong when they cry. The smallest things can set them off. It is not your fault.
5. Listen. I think part of what helped me deal with my grief was to just be able to talk through it out loud to someone else. When I started thinking to myself, I would always stop myself before I got too far down a thought process. But, when talking out loud, it was like I was figuring things out. This kind of goes back to point 2. Don't feel like you have to respond when they start talking about it. Give them time to think through what they want to say and get it all out before you respond.
6. Be willing to sit in silence. When you don't know what to say, it is ok just to sit there. Again, your presence is a comfort even more than words can be some times. It lets them know you care.
7. Prepare food. I know this sounds silly and overly simple, but when you have just gone through a tragedy...and are still going through it...the last thing you think about is feeding yourself. And, when there are family members coming in from out of town for a funeral, the last thing you want to think about is how you are going to feed them. The day after Sydney died, my parents came home to a porch full of food- sandwich things, veggie trays, bread, cheese- everything they would need to feed our family for a couple of days. None of my family, who was also grieving, had to worry about food that entire week. People brought dinner to three different homes (our house, my parents' house, and my in-law's house) for a week! It was a relief!
8. Understand that they may have seemingly irrational thoughts- and that's o.k. I never would have thought I would say, feel, or do some of the things I did after losing Sydney- until I was there. Grief will cause a person to feel things that are abnormal for them. Don't criticize them for those feelings or thoughts. If you do, they may not share them with anyone any more. Holding those things in is not healthy. Talking through those feelings is healthy. Don't deny them of that. For example, I made the statement that I could now understand why a grieving mother would take someone else's baby; or run the car off the road. I meant that without support, grief can make you go crazy. Did that mean that I was considering doing that? NO! Did that mean that I thought it was right to do that? NO! I was just talking through my feelings.
9. Try to avoid saying those "stupid things" that fly out of people's mouths without thinking. For example, we heard things like..."Well, you are still young. You still have time to have more kids." Helpful? NO! That is like saying, "Oh, you spilled a drink? Let me get you another one to replace it." Don't start down the paths of "What ifs?" and help them avoid that path as well. People can "what if" themselves to death, but it won't change anything. A friend came to my house the week of the funeral and asked, "What if they had gotten to her sooner?" and started blaming the hospital. This did not help at all. We also heard, "It was all in God's plan." While it sounds like it should be comforting, it really is not. We did not understand why God's plan would deny us of our child; would cause us so much pain; would tear us apart inside. I don't think God wanted us to suffer like that, but for some reason, he chose not to interfere. Which brings me to another one, "You will understand it one day." That may be so, (though I doubt it) but that does not make it any easier at the time. Don't say you know how they feel unless you have been through the same thing before. Basically, these statements are all made in the attempt to fix the situation, which as discussed previously, can't be done.
10. Don't be afraid to talk about the child. One of my biggest fears was that people would forget Sydney. For the first few weeks after the funeral, no one, including our family, mentioned going by the cemetery. This made me feel like they had all just moved on and she was not important. In reality, they had been going frequently, but had not said anything because they were afraid to upset me. Once they started talking about her freely, I would cry, yes, but I felt so much better about it. Crying is just a part of life when you have lost a child.
11. It is o.k. to leave pictures of them up. Taking the pictures down again seems as if they are out of sight, out of mind. Leaving them up says that you still love them and they are still important.
12. Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty. Being around someone who is grieving is not an easy or fun thing. If your heart is not completely in it, let someone else be there for them. They can tell when you are just going through the motions and that does not help anyone. Sharing in someone's suffering means that when you ask how they are doing, or offer to let them talk, you are prepared to be there as long as it takes. Don't judge them. Don't tell them they should not feel the way they do. Be ready to take anything they may throw out without correcting. As much as you want to, you need to just let them vent. Put yourself into them, or get out of their way.
13. Pray. Pray with them, pray over them, pray for them on your own. This may be uncomfortable at times, but the most comfort can be obtained from God. When I first lost Sydney, I could not pray on my own. I felt like I had prayed for God to save her with everything that was in me, and when he did not, I didn't have anything left to pray about. That is when the prayers of others carried me. I knew that I needed it, I just couldn't do it for myself, yet.