July has been designated as Bereaved Parents Awareness month to honor those mothers and fathers living with the loss of a child. It is a time to bring attention, comfort, and support to an area of life that can be difficult to talk about, let alone live with.
Grief is new territory for everyone involved–the parents, family, friends, and sometimes those awkwardly unavoidable conversations with strangers. If you’ve never lost a child but know someone who has, I guarantee that you still remember the moment you received that text or phone call–the one that made you feel like you’d been punched in the gut when you heard the devastating news. As a parent, that life-altering moment is relived over and over again, traumatic and deafening.
However, with the right amount of support and love, those moments can soften with time and healing. We can help one another, whether fellow bereaved parents, or family and friends. Gestures do not have to be grand. Some ideas:
- Send a text, email, or message on social media, letting them know you are thinking of them or their child.
- Share a photo you have or a memory of the child.
- Drop off flowers at their doorstep or the cemetery and take a picture. No special occasion required. (As a parent whose baby is buried in a different state, I have LOVED seeing pictures of my baby visited by others, especially when I can’t. Thank you!)
- Go hang out if you can, even if you don’t talk about the loss. Sometimes just having company is good enough. Maintain your friendship!
Some of you may hesitate and ask, “How do I know if they want to talk about their child? I don’t want to make them sad.” Good question. Everyone is different and some more private than others. Even as someone who has lost a child, I still feel hesitant to reach out at times. One major clue: Is that parent posting or talking about their child and their loss? If so, that is an easy green light. That parent is saying loud and clear, “I miss my kid. Please talk to me. Recognize my loss. Remember my child.” For the more private, quieter parent, a kind act of service is a good place to start, or the messages that don’t require face-to-face conversations in case they are not ready to talk. Eventually, depending on your relationship, you can have an honest conversation about their grieving process. Ask them how you can show support. Even if they don’t quite know how to answer, at least they know you are interested.
For the bereaved parent: BE HONEST and COMMUNICATE. It’s a whole new world for all involved, with lots of questions and potential to be hurt. My advice: look at each situation and believe that most people do not intend to hurt you. Most people will be as confused and unsure as you are as to how to approach you or how your loss might affect your relationship. Be ready to give your friends and family the benefit of the doubt. It is a learning curve and we need to forgive the outlier experiences that might make us think no one cares, or that people intend to say mean or insensitive words. Yes, some of those people are out there who haven’t a clue what you are going through, and just might be the jerk suggested by their actions. However, as you tend to the wounds that certainly will come within this minefield, be willing to forgive the accidental offense. We’re all treading through it to varying degrees, often maneuvering blindly with no idea of the outcomes that lay before us.
Nevertheless, even the blind may sense a change in darkness. Be searching for light along the way. There will be people beside you and ahead of you who are walking that similar path, hurting and healing in their own way. Some of them you will be drawn to. Others will directly offer a hand, sharing advice and hope that they’ve gathered through their own experiences. I know because I’ve lived it, grateful, ever so grateful, for the bereaved parents who let me know I wasn’t alone. I’ve gathered that light through friends, family, and strangers whose desire to help became a beacon for my soul. Go to them. Let them help.
With that, let me talk about this month’s giveaway. I’ve teamed up with Ashley Sullenger, the founder of PRESENTLEE, whose goal is to “help everybody have a support system when hard things come their way, even if it’s just one person.” The giveaway necklace is just one of the many incredibly beautiful pieces of jewelry and craftmanship offered through the website as gifts to show support.
Borrowed Angel is the book I wrote and published in 2014 about my grief and healing experiences losing my son to SIDS. In it, I share how I grappled with losing my identity as a mother, struggled with guilt and hopelessness, and eventually faced the anger I fearfully ran from.
To participate in the giveaway, FIND ME ON INSTAGRAM @borrowedangel09. Look for the original giveaway post (same picture as the one posted at the top). Details include:
- Liking the giveaway post
- Following me @borrowedangel09
- Following Ashley @give.presentee
*July 18th is the last day to participate! Winner will be chosen and announced on July 19th, 2018.
*US entries only this time. Look for next month’s giveaway for international participation with gift cards and ebooks. =)
Please email or message me with any questions or comments. Much love to all of you!