“In times of grief and sorrow I will hold you and rock you and take your grief and make it my own. When you cry I cry and when you hurt I hurt. And together we will try to hold back the floods to tears and despair and make it through the potholed street of life”
― Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook
― Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook
The Importance of Old Friends
Nick and I have been lucky when it comes to our relationships with our friends since Nora died. From the very beginning our friends have been supportive. Over 100 people came to her funeral, which was unexpected, since we thought it was going to be a small event. Since then our close friends have reached out to us, embraced us, and have also given us the room we need when we aren't in the mood for friends.
But some people aren't as lucky. I have read other people's blogs about how their friends just didn't understand why they were grieving the loss of their baby so much. I have also heard from other 'baby lost' moms about how some of their friendships have changed, and even ended, due to their friend not being able to understand how to relate or connect to them as parents whose child has died. Going through the loss of my daughter has caused enough pain and grief; I can't imagine the pain that is added on top of that for those who can't find support in their once closest friends.
However, if you are "prepared to battle the hurricane together" with your grieving friend, as Kristine Brite McCormick, author of Cora's Story (a blog) so elequently puts it, then there are resources availble to you. One of those resources is Kristine Brite McCormick's downloadable pamphlet When a Friend's Baby Dies, a how-to guide on how to provide support to your grieving friend during this difficult time. In the pamphlet she discusses what not to say, how to help immediatly after the loss, along with advice about how to interact with your grieving friend, such as remembering to use the child's name, calling her even if they don't answer, and not judging her grief process.
What I have found most helpful and supportive from my friends, is that they have been willing to provide support in the form of actually letting me talk about Nora at times and at other times distracting me by providing something to do or not talking about my grief at all. One of the greatest gifts my friends have been able to give me is not treating me any different then before. Personally, I didn't want people to feel sorry for me. I wanted my friends to remember that I was still me--Lindsey--but at the same time understand that parts of me had changed. This is a difficult task to ask of a friend who doesn't walk the road of grief after child loss, but my friends have navigated this terrain well.
The Importance of New Friends
Even though our old friends have been extermely supportive, there is still something comforting in talking to other parents who have experienced child loss. Research states that often times bereaved parents find that their friends and family can't always comprehend, relate, or understand the pain they are going through, and I must say to my old friends that it's okay that they don't understand because we don't want them to have to. Since family and friends can't always meet these support needs it is natural and important to make new friends during your journey through grief after child loss.
Nick and I have made some new friends and relationships through our time at Faith's Lodge and other supportive connections and networks that have linked us with grieving parents like ourselves. I find that with these new relationships there comes a sense of relief in connecting over our shared experiences. It's nice to have others in our lives that we can go out to dinner with, where we talk about every day topics, and then in the next sentence talk about our dead child, and then go back and talk about the weather with knowing that our new friend doesn't see this string of conversation as morbid or awkward.
The importance of these new relationships have been researched and studied by Dr. Joanne Cacciatore and Laura Umphrey in Coping with the Ultimate Deprivation: Narrative Themes in a Parental Bereavement Support Group. Cacciatore and Umphrey note that relationships with other parents who have experienced child loss assists each couple in processing their own grief around the death of their child. It makes each parent feel understood and provides relief in knowing that what they are experiencing is "normal." Ultimatly, these new friendships help grieving parents, like myself, find "comfort in the similarities" as Elizabeth A. Catlin writes in her 14-year research on Bereavement Support for Couples Following the Death of a Baby.
So, on this journey through grief after child loss, it is an important task of the grieving parent to renavigate old friendships as well as establishing new ones. Through connections and realtionships, old and new, we will learn how to function again in a world with one less child. Though these relationships and connections will not replace the loss of our loved one, they can provide us with comfort and a different kind of love.
If you want to know what to do to be a support to your friend whose baby has died, there are a few resources listed below. The big point to remember is that EVERYONE GRIEVES DIFFERENTLY, the resources below are suggestions from bereaved parents of what worked best for them or what they would have liked their friends to know, but remember EVERYONE GRIEVES DIFFERENTLY, so sometimes the best thing to do is to have open communication with your friend and ask what they need.
When A Friend's Baby Dies by Kristine Brite McCormick
10 Ways to Support the Person in Your Life That Just Lost a Baby by Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope
What Do I Say? Expert Advice on Helping Friends and Families Cope with Baby Loss. by Belinda Miller @ Healing Hearts.
Some Things to Say & Do/Somethings Not To Say by Healing Hearts
For Family & Friends by Share: Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support, Inc.