You are needed in a way that you’ve never been needed before. Your friends are now Parents of Loss, and their lives will be forever altered. As they heal, life as they know it will now be looked at as before loss and after loss. One Mother of Loss says, "the loss of a child changes our entire being. Our relationships will change. We are learning to adjust to and live in our "new normal" which means everything in the after will be different for some time."
Your friends will feel broken for a little while. They are going through something that is so deep and painful it's hard to precisely articulate. They also know that you can't possibly begin to understand the depth of their pain. Sometimes, they can't ask you for help because they don't want to be a burden and in some ways, they may simply not know what it is that they need.
True friends exist in our lives so that when the day comes that you have to endure any kind of deep pain or hardship, you have people to lift you up and support you at times when you can't do it for yourself. If you are reading this to help learn how to best be a friend to a newly bereaved Parent of Loss, thank you for doing your part to find out how to support them. Thank you for reading this so that you can learn how to be there in the best way for someone in your life.
Parents of Loss are learning to have grace with themselves and with others, so regardless if you say the right thing or the wrong thing, at least you said something at all and that's what is important. Any act of support is appreciated.
Things You Can Do For the Parents of Loss:
1.) Create a meal calendar sign up or offer to take food to the family. If you are the organizer, leave a cooler for them to use on the porch, or suggest they place a cooler on the porch. This is not a time for people to pop in and visit - unless otherwise asked for. The ability to leave food or wine in a climate controlled location allows the Parents of Loss the flexibility to grab it at their comfort instead of answering the door and feeling like they need to entertain or talk to someone if they aren't ready for it.
2.) Send a One Wing Foundation Care Box or a care package of your own. Other examples specific to grief and loss include Hope Mommies, Luke Lives On, and Bluebonnet Box.
3) Some examples of meaningful gifts to help recognize and remember their baby:
A memorial plant like a bush or a tree
A star named after their child from the Star Registry.
A blanket personalized with the child’s name or monogram.
A wooden block carved with the child’s name and birth information.
A Molly Bear is made in the same weight as the child that passed away, to give the parents something to hold that feels like the child did in their arms.
A gift certificate to have the hospital blanket that they held their baby in at the hospital into a special keepsake stuffed animal for them to hold or for living/future children. Etsy has a number of these and we have personally used ShopSweetlyStitched.
An ornament to represent that baby on their Christmas tree.
Parents of Loss need a chance to heal together as well as individually. Gift certificates to help them seek out self care (spa or other types of pampering services, or physical activities they enjoy) or toward a hotel chain for a staycation or "healing trip" can be very meaningful and needed.
Think of the living sibling(s) to show them love and care as well. No matter their age, they are experiencing grief in some way too. Help create play date opportunities to give the parents some time by themselves to grieve without worrying about the child/children seeing them break down. Send something to provide remembrance or memory of the baby brother or sister who passed away. Create a distraction kit (sensory activities, play dough, arts and crafts), or gift age appropriate books to help with their processing (The Invisible String is wonderful), or seasonal activities (like tickets to the Arboretum, the children's museum, pumpkin decorating or gingerbread house kit). Team Mercy has wonderful age-appropriate suggestions and resources for siblings of loss that One Wing Foundation has funded through our grant process.
4.) Make a donation in the baby's memory to a cause important to the family. This is incredibly moving and allows the parents to feel like their child is leaving a legacy, in turn those dollars go to help others. If you'd like to make a gift directly to a cause that supports what they have experienced, One Wing Foundation can set up a Legacy of Love Fund to collect memorial donations to then allow the parents to decide how those funds are used in their baby's name. See the bottom of this page to make a gift or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
5.) Connection with others who understand grief and the road of loss is so helpful. If you know someone that has been through pregnancy or infant loss, when the time is right, make the introduction. It is incredibly healing to email, text, call, or sit face to face with another Parent of Loss who has walked the same road.
6.) Say their baby's name. That is one of the greatest gifts you can give us, say that baby's name when referring to them, without pause. The joy it brings the Parents of Loss to hear their child’s name or see it written is so meaningful. They need others to acknowledge the life that existed.
7.) Most importantly, show up for them. Be a friend who remembers the tough days, the milestone days. Be a friend who sends a text or calls them just because. A "thinking of you" or "just wanted to say hello and that I love you" can go a long way. Continue to support them as a friend by letting them know you care.
If you are a group of friends looking to support a family through their loss, spread these actions out. The entire first year is difficult and there are emotional milestones they will face. Together, create a plan on how you as their friends can support them immediately after their loss, on their due date (if that's a milestone that they will have), through the holidays. Come up with ways to continue to check in to let them know they are not forgotten when the rest of the world seems to go back to normal, but they are still grieving. Finally, remember that they will be in pain for that 1 year mark and each year after that.
Thank you to those people in our lives that did these things for us, showing us how to really be a friend, and who continue to show that support in special ways no matter how much time has passed. Thank you for every meal, every bottle of wine, every special gift to help memorialize our child, every squeeze of the hand, every hug, every call and text, every card, every time you asked, every time you said their name, every time you check in just because, every time you remember the milestone days in which our hearts are the most tender, every time you say I am here, every time you let us cry or cry with us, every time you make plans with us, every time you love us, every time you let us go to that place because we need to no matter how many times you've heard it before. For all of these things and more, thank you.
Thank you for knowing how to love us through this dark time and doing what it takes to help carry us through.
For Friends of Loss
Let's Make A Change
Here are some ways you can donate: