We are 10 months and 2 days since we experienced the single worst thing that’s ever happened to us.
Never in a million years did I ever think we would be in the group of parents that have gone through this. No one ever really does, I guess. But especially when you have a near perfect pregnancy, you REALLY don’t expect it.
I wanted to write a little bit of what helped (and frankly what didn’t) in the first few hours, days, and weeks of the loss of our son, Aaron.
(These are MY own experiences, everyone is different. So please do NOT take this as the end-all, be-all for this particular subject, it’s not a references and procedures guide)
Do reach out. Start with text/private message so the parent can decide when they want to read and when/how they want to respond.
It sounds impersonal, but that was probably the best thing for me. We called our immediate family afterward. But for me, when I needed to tell people and speaking it was 10x worse than texting it. Plus, (sorry for being extra impersonal) I could copy and paste and I didn’t even have to TYPE it a million times. I chose to inform 2-3 people at a time. That was about as much as I could handle. I left my phone on silent (not even vibrate mode) and put it face down next to me. So when I was ready, I could just turn it over to see who reached out. And if I wanted to reply, I could. If I didn’t want to reply, I didn’t have to. Also, do not let your feelings get hurt if they do not respond right away. Remember, this time is about THEM and no one else.
What do you say? Just be you. Be honest. There is no need to say, “I know nothing I can say will take the pain away.” You’re right, nothing can take the pain away. Now that you know that, don’t try to take the pain away. Just be a friend and be there. So many messages to me started that way and I wanted to smack them. Just the fact that they were reaching out to me to offer comfort in the first place was exactly that, comforting. And that’s exactly what I needed. To be surrounded by love, even if it was miles away.
Personally, I did not want phone calls or visits. I had my family and that’s all I needed/wanted. Don’t panic when you don’t hear back right away (unless you think that person might be self-harmful), just let them process. Again, it’s not about you, it’s about them.
I stayed off of Facebook for a good 2 (or more, I can’t remember now) days. It was the best thing for me. Which was hard because the very next day was my birthday and I knew there were a ton of birthday messages coming in, which is something I look forward to every year. Some of my friends (that knew what happened) felt bad that I was receiving birthday messages from everyone who didn’t know what happened. WHY?? I was comforted by the fact that I was still getting birthday love. It was a positive during such a negative time. Why rob someone of that joy? I’m a big girl, I knew it was my birthday the day after I lost my son, wouldn’t I need as much good as I could get?
Do offer to deliver food. Always offer, do not demand. My managers from work texted me that they had some food and flowers to bring by. I did not want to see them (not to be rude, maybe it was more that I did not want to be seen). I felt very anxious to be seen by anyone but my immediate family. They offered to just drop it off by the front door, which was very respectful and much appreciated. A couple days later a friend made us a big dinner (complete with pasta, salad, and dessert), and due to timing and who she was, I was ok with visiting with her for a little bit. Neighbors brought over some sides, I wasn’t quite prepared for that visit. But it was good. The meals were a big help, but still…offer. If they say no, don’t push, don’t be offended, don’t get your panties in a twist. Just be respectful.
Do not inform people on their behalf: I’ll correct that, Do not inform people on their behalf, WITHOUT their permission. Part of my healing process, and actually processing that this horrific nightmare really happened in my life, was personally reaching out to my friends and family. I think as compassionate people, we want to do whatever we can to make the experience any amount easier on our loved one that we just want to help. Which is a nice feeling to the one receiving help. But, if you feel the urge to reach out to your loved ones friends/family, ASK THEM FIRST!!!!! Again, THIS IS ABOUT THEM, NOT YOU! Like I mentioned about the food, always offer! Yes, it would be easier to have someone else share bad news. But easier isn’t always better.
Do not be offended: I know I mentioned it a few times, but don’t let your feelings get hurt. Your loved one needs to KNOW that if they decline something that you’re not going to get all bent out of shape over it. They are dealing with enough and really don’t need any more drama. If your intentions are true, then you’ll be very understanding.
Do not feel like you can’t reach out: I’ve had so many friends tell me they were avoiding reaching out to me. I wish they hadn’t felt that way.
Do reach out to others who have experienced something similar: If you’re still unsure what to say/do at that particular time (and I hope beyond all hopes that NONE OF YOU have to use these suggestions in the future. But because life is the way it is, sometimes, the unexpected happens), if you know someone else who has experienced this, maybe reach out to them for suggestions.
I could go on and on, but I think these are good ones. I am always available if anyone ever wants/needs to reach me. email@example.com. Even if we don’t know each other, I’m always happy to help.
I hope these make sense and can be useful in the future.