Tomorrow we will be passing 4 years without Phoenix. Over the past few days I have been constantly reliving that morning of walking into her room and unknowingly starting my grief journey. Honestly, I don’t like any of the terms used to described that day. Anniversary – too happy. Angelversey – eh…too many reasons why I don’t like that word. Deathday – dark much? But, I digress…
Over the past 3 years I have been approached multiple times with, “my friend just lost a child, what should I do?”. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that people feel like they can reach out to me. But, sometimes I just want to respond, take over some tissues and food and just let them cry/talk/scream/whatever. And, guess what there is nothing you have to say!! Seriously, saying anything more than ‘I am sorry, this is awful’ is unnecessary! Don’t put any pressure on ourself to say the perfect thing, because there isn’t anything you can say. There burden removed.
But, I am guessing you want a little bit more than just food and tissues…so here is my list of things to do when someone you know experiences child loss.
1. Send money. Okay, this sounds odd, but hear me out. Parents are (usually) not saving for a child’s funeral and it helps to have some financial help with that bill. There also might be some medical bills that still need paid. Or, the parents will use it to live on for a time, while they adjust to their new life.
2. Food. I did not cook for MONTHS after Phoenix passed. We survived on meals brought to us by loving friends and family or eating out. I have talked to other loss parents and there seems to be a conciseness about cooking after a child passes- that it is somehow painful, because of the practice of creating after something so precious was ripped from our lives. I vividly remember the first meal I cooked – actually I put some frozen chicken strips in the oven, but that act alone has really stuck with me these past four years. If you are not geographically close to the family who lost a child, send a gift card to a restaurant or a website like Postmates (online order and delivery). You could even have a pizza delivered to their house. Another option for food, is snack items. We had people drop off baskets full of snack items, which was a blessing, because it was one less trip we had to make. I know this one was long, but it was probably the biggest blessing to us that we were showered with so much food after Phoenix passed. Thank you to all of you who helped look after us in those early weeks.
3. Cards or little mementos that show you are thinking of them. I still have all the cards that I have received over the past 4 years. I have also received pictures of Phoenix that someone copied a poem over, jewelry, and little figurines. I treasure all of them. Also, if you have any pictures of the child who passed that the parents has not seen or does not have, they would love to have a copy.
4. Be willing to be silent. There isn’t anything you can say to make the parent feel better. NOTHING. And, if you try – you will more than likely cause more hurt. Just be there for them, let them cry or whatever they feel like doing. Let them know you are sorry and that you love them. If what you are going to say starts with “at least…” just don’t say it.
5. Suggest a support group. Compassionate Friends is an organization that has chapters all over the country that supports parents after child loss. Not to mention any local groups through various organizations or hospitals. Compassionate Friends has helped me so much on my grief journey. It has helped me know that I am not a alone and what I am feeling is normal.
6. Gift them this book: Healing a Parent’s Grieving Heart: 100 practical ideas after your child dies
I don’t remember who gave me this book (I am so sorry – but thank you whoever you are!), but it is my favorite book suggestion for those early days because the suggestions are really short, and it doesn’t have to be read in any particular order. Honestly, I haven’t searched for anything else recently, so if you have any suggestions, I would to love to hear them!
7. Know that they will never ‘be over it’. Yes, bereaved parents do come to a place where they seem normal to you, but we aren’t. Sometimes, we let that sadness show – even years later. We want to talk about our children who passed. Because they are STILL our children; and we want to talk to about them just like you want to talk about your children. After child loss, just expect them to be a little different. We might hover over surviving children more. Or, be more anti-social. Some parents do make poor choices, and I don’t have anything to say about that expect just be there for them as best as you can. We are just trying to heal our broken heart.
I hope these suggestions help, but I also hope that you never need them.
Time is an odd business. Sometimes, it feel like Phoenix has been gone forever. Yet sometimes it feel like she passed a few days ago. I really can’t believe it’s been 4 years since I looked into those mischievous eyes. Or ran my fingers through her crazy beautiful hair. I can’t believe how long it’s been since I heard her laugh. I can’t help but wonder, what would she be like now? How would she be like with her brother and sister? Would she be in dance or t-ball? Would she be sassy like her sister and stubborn like her brother? She would be 5 now and starting kindergarten this fall! Sometimes, I feel like dream of ‘should of been’ is so great it will crush me. I always miss her presence.
She is and will always be my Baby Phoenix. Mommy loves and misses you Baby Girl.