I know someone you love has lost something no one should ever have to lose and you're just trying to hold it all together. I know that all you are is being poured into that loved one right now, and it doesn't feel like enough, not even close. I know that right now it isn't about you or me, but I want you to know that I see how much you are hurting, I see how hard you are trying, and I know how helpless you feel. You too have lost so much. Please know that you are not alone in this struggle. The following are some important things I have learned as I continue to do life alongside my sister and her husband, since the loss of their son Logan in 2012. May this serve as a small guide to you as you embark on this journey with us. I'm so, so sorry that you have found yourself here.
The first and maybe most important thing you need to know about this journey is that you get to chose whether or not to be on it. Please choose wisely! Once the initial dust clears after a loss you quickly discover there are two types of friends and family. The ones that are going to grab onto their loved ones with a death grip no matter how tough that proves to be, and the ones that are just too uncomfortable with someone else's grief and choose to turn their backs. Please don't run away. I promise you will regret it. Nothing about this is going to be easy and I know you feel so inadequate in this situation. Guess what? We all do. Not one of us has a clue what we are doing. By sticking around I guarantee you will probably do and say the wrong things more than once. But I promise you it is way better to stay and mess up, than it is to abandon the ones you love. Please know that even if you could always say and do all the right things, you still would not be able to fix their brokenness. That is way above your pay-grade - it's not your job. Your job is to stick with the people you love no mater what life throws at you. If you leave, not only will your loved one feel more alone, but so will you. Once again, I beg you ... please choose wisely!
Another thing I learned was the importance of sitting with your loved ones in their grief. I know our natural inclination is to try and encourage and up lift the ones we care about when they are feeling down, but when it comes to a grieving parent, you just have to let them feel what they need to feel, for as long as they need to feel it. They need to know that you SEE THEM right where they are. Be with them in their sadness, their confusion, their anger and their despair. It's ok to acknowledge that the loss of their precious child just really sucks and that it's totally unbearable - it's not right and it will never make sense. I've noticed when encouragement is given by people soley because they are too uncomfortable being around someone's grief, it is more hurtful than helpful. Encourage the ones you love when you feel genuinely led to, but you have to also be genuinely ok with their grief too.
Talk about the baby that was lost - by name. Talk about how beautiful and perfect they are. How they have their mother's nose and their father's crooked toe. When something reminds you of the time you had with them, call their parents and tell them. When you gather together as a family for holidays or special occasions acknowledge that their child is absent and that they are deeply loved and missed. Acknowledge all the things you wanted to do with their child and what you think they would have been like as they had grown. I know by doing so you are afraid you might make them sad or ruin their day, but I guarantee you they are always thinking about their child. The only difference between you speaking up is that now they know you are too. I've heard time and time again one of a bereaved parent's greatest fears is that one day their child will be forgotten. I know you will never forget the baby your family lost, just make sure their parents know that too. Remember important dates - birthday, the day their baby passed, due date, etc. - and set reminders so you don't ever forget for the REST OF YOUR LIFE. I know that may seem extreme, but grief is extreme and lasts a lifetime.
Remember, once someone becomes a parent, they are a parent for life, no matter what. So please refer to your loved ones as parents even if they have no living children, and acknowledge them on the toughest days - like Mother's Day and Father's Day. Some day down the road if your loved ones do have more children (or if they already do) make sure you always include the child they lost anytime you mention how many kiddos they have to others. The same goes when discussing the number of grandchildren in the family, nieces, nephews, ect. My sister always talks about how she isn't just grieving the day Logan died, she's grieving every birthday she doesn't get to spend with him, the day he would have graduated, his wedding, and holding his children. Please understand that this loss is a loss for life. I know it may feel overwhelming learning to stay on top of all the information I just gave you, but I promise you'll get the hang of it. A simple rule of thumb in most situations is to treat the baby that was lost like the other children in your family that you are blessed to get to be with on this side of Heaven. Once you are given a child, they are yours forever and even death cannot change that.
After Logan died I remember feeling like my sister had died right along with him and it was so hard. I was hurting and confused and missed my sister dearly. I'm sure many of you may feel like this too - like a precious young life wasn't all you lost that day. Please don't give up hope. The ones you love will never be the same after suffering a loss like this, but they will slowly start to get back pieces of who they once were. Your family will experience laughter again and know great joy. While you are waiting, please make sure you get the support you need as well to grieve your loss how you need to. You matter too. I know nothing may feel farther from the truth to you right now, but through it all I still know that God is good and He is kind and He is always watching over us. Even when it doesn't feel like it. Be patient and you will see Him at work. I am here for you if you ever need to talk or have any questions.