Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Weeping With Those Who Weep

It's difficult to know how best to love and serve someone who has lost a baby. Even I struggle with "what should I say?" So I wanted to list a few ways we can support grieving families:

• Say, "I'm so sorry. I'm very sad for your loss. I am praying for you." Those simple words go a long way in bringing comfort to a broken heart. You don't have to say words of deep, theological wisdom about the sovereignty of God and His purposes in suffering in order to love and comfort grieving parents. Simple truths, like "My heart is breaking with yours, and I know that God is loving you and holding you right now" can be just what they need to hear.

• Be supportive. Say, "I want to help. What can I do for you?" Many times the everyday tasks of life are too much for grieving parents to handle, so make a meal, babysit their other children, go grocery shopping for them.

• Be available. Say, "I'm here for you. I'll listen as long as you want to talk. I have plenty of time." When you ask how they're doing, really mean it and be willing to listen. Being able to honestly talk to someone about the death of their baby can be very healing and comforting, so don't shy away from asking. However, don't prod if they're not ready to talk yet. Just consistently let them know you're available.

• Touch and hug the grieving parents. They need the physical assurance of your love and support.

• Remember that grieving fathers need as much (although in some ways different) support as mothers.

• Ask about their child and allow them to talk about him or her. Don't think that by avoiding mentioning their baby it will ease their pain. Thoughts of their child are always on their minds, and letting them know you remember is comforting. If the baby had a name, use it. One woman said that hearing others speak her child's name was like music to her aching heart. They want to know that others are thinking of and missing their child, too.

• Understand that the length of time a baby is carried or the amount of time a child lives does not diminish the pain and sense of loss the parents experience. The preborn or newly-born baby who dies is as significant a person as any other child or adult, and the grieving parents feel that acutely. They love their baby as a special, precious human being, thought up and knit together by God and known before time.

• Allow parents to grieve. It is a long process that doesn't end as soon as the funeral is over. Losing a child is a tremendous loss, and parents need to be able to feel the pain of it and have time to work through it. Don't try to "help them get over it" or "make them feel better".
That is not to say that there is no place for words of encouragement, comfort and hope! Just let those words be mingled with the tears. We are sorrowful yet rejoicing, grieving yet with hope.

• Remember anniversaries and holidays. Mother's Day and Father's Day are never the same for bereaved parents, especially the first one after the death of a child, even if it's 11 months later. If the baby died very early, his or her predicted due date can be a very difficult time. Remember the yearly anniversary of the baby's birth and death, and even the first few monthly anniversaries, with a phone call or card. These days are full of tears - though mingled with love and joy - and to know that others are thinking of you and your child on these days does much to ease the pain.

• Finally, remember that God uses His Church as a means of bringing comfort to those who are suffering. Paul says that we are comforted by God, "so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." Your support, love and involvement during this time will be a blessing God uses in the lives of His suffering people. He will use you!

This is something we have experienced this first hand. The outpouring of love we received from the saints after we lost Matthias was a great comfort and strengthened our faith when we were "in the fire". Our mailbox contained cards full of words of love and comfort for weeks and weeks. I am so grateful for all of you!

More resources and information can be found through the links on the side bar.

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