Let’s Talk About What Helped Us In Our Grief
When we are overwhelmed with grief, our friends and family may feel unsure how to help or what to say. They may have heard stories about inappropriate or unhelpful things that were said to someone who was grieving, causing them to worry that they, too, will ‘get it wrong’. So they hold back, keeping their distance, and increasing our isolation just when we need compassionate understanding more than ever. Let’s talk about what helped us in our grief – what people got right!
Talking about what helped us brings grief out of the shadows. It can reduce people’s uncertainty about what to say or not say, what to do or not do. Equipped with ideas about the many ways they can help, they may be more likely to reach out, rather than run away.
We can talk about our grief & what worked
We often share stories of the inappropriate, unhelpful, even ridiculous things people have said or done during our times of grief. It can be such a relief to get it off our chest! The downside is that sharing those stories may actually heighten people’s fear that they, too, might say or do the “wrong thing” when a loved one is grieving.
There is a time and place to tell our stories of what didn’t help, particularly in counselling or support groups, or just when talking with someone else who is also grieving.
I think it would also be wonderful to share some of the helpful, supportive, memorable things people said or did for us. This may help others feel more confident about coming alongside someone who is grieving. It may encourage them to “have a go” at helping, rather than holding back.
By speaking up about what helped us in our grief, we can pave the way for people to show more compassion and support for others who experience the pain of heartbreak.
What Helped Me in my Grief
When my baby died, there were some words said that caused pain. They were probably well-intentioned but often missed the mark, or worse. There were times when I ended up comforting those who weren’t sure how to comfort me. (“It’s okay, I know it can be really hard to know what to say”). Or I swallowed my shock at what had just been said.
BUT there were also a multitude of ways people showed their love and compassion that really, really helped. For example (and this list is not conclusive):
- The midwife/friend who arrived at the hospital for her regular shift while our son was being put on life-support, who sat with us, cried with us, and was a literal lifeline in a confusing, scary situation.
- Those who came to the hospital while we waited for our son to be air-lifted to the children’s hospital, who held us when we discovered he had died not long after arrival.
- A friend who rang the funeral parlour for me, because I couldn’t get the words out without sobbing.
- The (same) friend who came to the funeral parlour and sat with us while we made arrangements for our son’s funeral.
- Those who simply visited and sat with us in our pain!
- People who turned up with toilet paper, toys for our toddler, tea and coffee, and many many tissues, so that we didn’t have to think about such things while our house was filled with supportive friends and family.
- Those who washed dishes, took out rubbish, cleaned our house, mowed our lawn and did who-knows-what-else while our hearts were so broken that we couldn’t think about the practical things!
- A 3-page letter from a friend who had experienced a similar loss, telling us all the things she wished she’d done or not done after her baby died.
- The friend who hid her newborn at the house next door during the wake, sneaking out to nurse and feed him, so I wouldn’t be confronted by seeing a 2-week old baby when my baby was in a grave.
- My parents and parents-in-law, who grieved for their grandson and their own children at the same time, and carried their own pain while helping us survive ours.
- People who changed my toddler’s nappies! I don’t even know who you were, but I figure someone did it because I don’t remember doing anything like that for about two weeks!
- The thoughtfulness of a friend who gave us a baby congratulations card, in recognition that even 9 hours earth-side is something worth recognising. I still have that card, 24 years later.
- My sister-in-law’s gift of a beautiful hand-stitched memento, which we placed in the coffin with our baby.
- The friend who made a beautiful outfit for my son to be buried in.
- The (same) friend who re-made the outfit because a 5kg baby just can’t fit in normal newborn sizes!
- The friend who carried my baby’s coffin to the graveside so tenderley, knowing that this could just as easily have happened to his own 2-week old baby.
- Friends who patiently answered our relentless questions about “what was normal” in maternity practices when we were coming to terms with the awful realisation that our baby probably shouldn’t have died.
- The friend who understood how hard it was for me to visit her newborn in the same maternity ward where my baby had been born.
- A sensitive, compassionate friend who waited until just the right time (about 5 months, from memory) to ask me if I’d like to hold her baby, knowing that our babies should have been growing up together.
- Those who patiently listened, cared and prayed as I railed relentlessly against this unfathomable, unimaginable loss.
- Friends who took their kids to our baby’s grave and left little gifts, without saying a word.
- So many letters, art, gifts and cards! A They are still treasured, even after 24 years.
- Friends and family who kept on remembering our baby’s anniversary, year after year after year.
- A new friend who visited me on my baby’s anniversary the first year after we moved away from the town where he’d been born, died and buried. She simply asked me, “Tell me about Cody? I wish I’d met him.”
I could go on. And on. and on. And I’m sure I’ve missed so many people who reached out with love and support.
What Helped You?
To those who have travelled grief’s pathway, what are some of the memorable ways people cared for you? Let’s remember the good and helpful things, and inspire others to reach out, rather than hide from, their bereaved loved ones.
Add your voice to the comment box below, and let’s bring to light the positive stories of what helped us in our grief.
Do You Need Help?
Are you struggling to cope with your grief, whether it be through the death of a loved one, relationship loss, pet grief, or any other type of loss? It can be helpful to seek support from a grief counsellor. If this is you, please reach out for support.