It takes bravery to enter into another person’s mess.
It does. I know. Unfortunately, the mess is normally mine (and mine to keep), and it’s the brave souls that God has blessed me with in my life that are the commendable ones.
And the bravery I have seen from them over the last seven months, especially in the last month… it’s something special.
I’m going to say it flat out: a year ago, I would not have known the first thing to say to someone who lost a child.
I would go through all of the typical responses I had heard over the years in an effort to counsel them or give them advice. I would probably say a lot of things wrong. I hope I would at least say something, but maybe I would have avoided the situation all together. I honestly don’t know, and I don’t envy the people in our lives who are now left with this battle of trying to figure out how to support us in what is uncharted territory for most of them.
Over the past year, I have gleaned wisdom from others living with one child in heaven, and in the past month, I have journeyed this firsthand. It’s a messy journey, that’s for sure. I keep saying that situations so painful and a life so beautiful as Charlie’s, good and more good has to come from it. The loss of a life so precious has to be redeemed.
To those of you that know someone who has lost a child, I’d like to share a tiny slice of my experience thus far in hopes to help you support them.
To those of you who have lost a child, I’ve got your back.
Tips for loving those that have lost a child
(In no particular order):
1. Don’t dig. I say this one first, because this totally would have been me even six months ago.
In my life and in the lives of others I have come to know whose children have also died, there have been people who try to draw the emotion and the “true feelings” out of us. I don’t think that is their motivation. I think they genuinely want to help, and they feel like trying to counsel is the best way they can.
Please don’t dig. Let parents offer up how they are “really” doing when they are ready, and don’t be offended if they never choose to confide in you or come to you.
Don’t be intrusive unless you know them very well. And I mean very well. Most I know would rather be given space to offer up their true feelings.
Still feel free to check in on them, but just don’t dig.
2. Talk about their child. Parents who have recently lost a child have not forgotten their child. On any given day or any given moment of the day, if the child is not at the forefront of their mind, the tiniest reminder will bring them there.