How to Help During the Loss of a Child

A few years ago, my best friend's daughter went to heaven after a tragic car accident in a drainage canal. This sweet precious little girl was only 9 years old and the shockwave hit California with a JOLT! Four little girls were in the car and they all went to be with Jesus that day.

The grief that hit our state was unbearable! Going through that time alongside my dearest friend was something I never wanted to go through again. Last night, we got news of our dear sweet Dozer, adoring son to Marsha and David, going to heaven.

The men of the family were simply enjoying their afternoon by the pond when Dozer had removed his life vest. He was just shy of being three years old and is now forever in the presence of the Lord.

One thing that many people are asking themselves is this, "What do I say? What can I do?"

Heart of the Matter, an online publication for homeschooling families, has an address where cards can be sent. Marsha is one of their team members and they are forwarding loving, supportive correspondence to their family.

After the initial wave of attention a family receives, the cards will stop coming, the phone calls will cease, then the silence sets in. Being there by my friend's side just moments after the news came, was an incredible time. The flood of visitors was overwhelming! All through the night and throughout the next week, hundreds of people were coming to their home, and thousands of flowers were being delivered. They had so many meals being brought that they literally had to give the food away to their guests. They had the 'celebration of life' service at the end of the week and after that the silence set in.

Every family needs time to grieve, but each family grieves differently. Although my friend welcomed the company into her home during this time, they also needed time to just be a family. I called her this morning and she gave me some helpful tips on how to help a family who has lost a little loved one.

1. Do say "We're praying for you!"

2. Send cards often! Not just initially, but each month, on the child's birthday, on the date of the child's 'homegoing', and on holidays.

3. Meals- frozen food and gift certificates to food establishments.

4. Phone calls to be guarded and monitored. Have someone to field calls and write down all messages. The family may not want to be on the phone, but will appreciate all calls and will read over messages.

5. Have someone compassionate who can make phone calls for the family.

6. Create a schedule of visits to check on the family. It is vitally important to have men visit the dad! Most people tend to flock to the mother's side, but dad's need just as much support.

7. When visiting: Follow the family's lead. Some may choose to stand or sit in silence and the presence of a friend sitting near them is of great comfort. While others may want to talk about normal life. Follow their lead.

8. Help with housework. Now this can differ as well. Some family's use house chores as a way to release their stress. If this is so, do NOT make them stop. Allow them to do what they need to do or work alongside with them. A very close friend or family member may offer to clean the child's room. When the parent's are ready to do so they'll seek your help.

9. Online Friends: My friend's online support was phenomenal! Polite, loving, supportive e-mails were welcomed. She was able to read through them on her own time table. On days when she needed a pick me up, she would catch up with e-mails. Do not be offended if you don't hear back from the family. Just pray.

10. Phone calls: Close friends should call each week. Even if you just get the machine. Leave a message that you're praying for them. Don't allow them to feel 'forgotten'. Talk about normal life.

11. Send small gifts to the the siblings. This kind of loss is especially hard on little ones. Many times they do not understand what is going on.

1. Don't cry in front of the person. The family will be trying to hold it together and breaking down in front of them is very difficult.

2. Don't ask about the accident. Don't ask for details. Allow them to decide when to tell you and what they want to tell you.

3. Don't say 'Time Will Heal'. Sharing your own words of advice doesn't help. Just be there. If the family wants counseling they will seek their own counselor. Do not 'recommend' counseling! Most family's will not need counseling. Just allowing them to talk at their pace is helpful. Every person deals with loss differently.

I pray this list will assist you as you reach out to your loved ones during their time of need.

Special heart felt thanks to MeganFtz for her help in composing this article.

Apples of Gold Ministries

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{ Sprittibee } at: August 27, 2008 at 10:12 AM said...

This is great advice. My aunt is still getting over the tragic loss of my cousin/her son from a year ago. It has been a loooong road... and we are all still slowly mending. I can't imagine loosing a young child. He was 32.

{ Miss Monica June } at: August 27, 2008 at 10:12 AM said...

I heard on GGM I will pray!

{ Angela } at: August 27, 2008 at 11:12 AM said...

This is a wonderful set of suggestions. I am going to bookmark it so I can go back to it if necessary. Thank you.

Nancy at: August 27, 2008 at 2:28 PM said...

I wholeheartedly agree with most of what you are saying, but I disagree on 2 points:

From my own experience, I would not say that crying in front of the grieving family is a no-no. I appreciated those who were willing to cry.
I also would not say that advice is not appreciated- at least not advice from someone who has been there- who has lost a child. We clung to those who had gone through this before us, and they were our greatest support, as far as human comfort goes. What they said to us was invaluable, because they understood.

The words I most hated to hear from someone were "I'm sorry".
And the giving of reasons why God took our child.

Thank you for posting this though- a lot of people really need to know it!

{ Karin Katherine } at: August 27, 2008 at 2:50 PM said...

Thank you for this. You've provided some very concrete ways that I can be a friend and offer my support.

{ Sisterlisa } at: August 27, 2008 at 3:10 PM said...

Thank you for your input. My best friend simply gave testimony on how hard it was when people would 'lose it' in front of her. She felt it would be best that a person could refrain from sobs in her presence. Tears weren't the issue at all. ((Hugs))

{ Martha Leah } at: August 27, 2008 at 3:47 PM said...

Great post Lisa! I have never lost anybody close to me yet and I often wonder what to say to those who are suffering from such a loss. I will definitely come back to this post for reference! I will be praying for the two year old's family, how tragic :(

Anonymous at: August 27, 2008 at 3:58 PM said...

I just wanted to add...Please remember to acknowledge the aunts and uncles and other close relatives as well. Their grief is intense also.

My 14mth old niece's tragic death in June of this year brought this very close to home.
Many Blessings,

{ Wendy } at: August 27, 2008 at 7:47 PM said...

Great article Sis. Though I have to agree with Nancy- I wish I had someone there to encourage me when the baby died that one day it would indeed be better than what we were experiencing at that time. Time does heal, and that is the truth. That's not advice. The assurance that one day it won't be so horrid, and being reminded that the one that died for us will see us through that darkest valley is very assuring as a Christian.

The biggest no no I would say - is again agreeing with Nancy- giving reasons of why it happened. Pondering on that edifies nothing when the pain is so raw.

I would add to not minimize a child's feelings about the loss with simply saying "He / she's with Jesus now". Yes, that's true, and children may realize that, but depending on the child's maturity, they may be wondering why they were not "chosen" to go be with Jesus. Or in their pain wondering why "Jesus done that to me".
Again, BTDT. Allow children to talk in their own way, in their own time about their feelings about what happened. Simply be there for the child and love him or her. The tears cannot be talked away. They just have to happen.

Anonymous at: August 27, 2008 at 7:53 PM said...

Great advice, but I do agree with another commentator that I actually felt far more comfortable when others cried along side of me and I wasn't alone in the horrific pain.

A Bible verse that spoke to me:
Romans 12:15 says-Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.

Lorri at: August 28, 2008 at 2:24 PM said...

I agree with Nancy's post - which also illustrates that how you can help a family will vary so much.

When our daughter died, almost 4 years ago, we were also overwhelmed with food and offers of help. However within a month others had moved on and we were left alone. I would like to add to the list to provide meals as often as possible, for as much as a year later. Not having to cook or get fast food even just once a month would have been such a blessing. We lived on scrambled eggs and sandwiches for weeks. I would have loved to have someone help me clean up, too. The grief would often overtake me and doing even the most everyday things would fall to the wayside.

The most important thing would be to call or come by and ask, "How can I bless you today?" It might be to clean up the kitchen or take your friend for a walk or just to sit and visit. I know how hard it is to keep doing this for months - but it is so important.

{ Paula } at: August 28, 2008 at 2:43 PM said...

I've been checking on my kids every few minutes today, with little Dozer on my mind. Thank you for your timely and carefully considered article.

{ Sisterlisa } at: August 28, 2008 at 3:54 PM said...

Thank you all for your additional input. ((hugs)) to those who have lost little ones. We really appreciate you opening up and sharing with us what would help.

Anonymous at: September 13, 2008 at 7:46 PM said...

On July 20th we celebrated our only son's birthday, it was also his deathday. I had no desire to see people cry, or hear pathetic appologies from people who thought they were encouraging me by saying "He's in a better place" or "You have three other children be thankful for them" or "At least it wasn't one of the other children it would hurt much worse". These people have no idea what they are talking about. My son was just as much mine as my three girls are mine. It hurts still and though "time does heal all wounds" it takes a long while. The people who I thought would be the biggest help with healing were the ones who hurt me the most at the time of my son's death. The do's and don'ts are perfect don't change a thing.

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