When you lose a child, it changes you. And our friends don’t know how to act or what to do. They don’t know what to do with the new you even though you’re the same person you were in so many ways. So here’s what we want our friends to know.
1. You are enough
Period. We want you just the way you are and we crave your company. Being alone all the time can be a recipe for agony.
2. You can’t fix this
No one can. No one has the magic wand and no one has the perfect thing to say, including you. So don’t worry that you won’t say or do just the right thing because not even we know what that would be.
3. Ask about our child (or loved one)
The number one worry we have is that no one remembers our child or our loved one we lost. This hurts more than anything. When our friends avoid conversation about my child or never mention him, it’s like they are trying to erase him from our family tree –as if he never counted. Put yourself in those shoes for a moment. Would you like it if your child’s name was never mentioned after he or she died?
4. Don’t avoid us
Losing a child is isolating enough. Having your friends avoid you makes things unbearable. We already feel like such an oddballs being in this horrific category of parents who’ve lost a child. We worry no one wants to be around us because this ugly tragedy is contagious and “depressing.” We worry you’ll think we’re depressing. We need our new friends. And our old ones.
5. We don’t want only want to be with others who’ve suffered this loss
We do find comfort in the club no one wants to be in. But we also find comfort in the friends we knew before this awful thing happened. You knew of our life before all this and that perspective is important. Our history together is important. You are busy but please schedule some time for a lunch or meeting after work.
6. Ask us how we are doing even if it’s years later
Don’t be scared of the answer. I might feel like dirt and tell you that I do. You don’t have to throw sunny optimism at me. That invalidates how I feel and makes me feel badly for being honest with you. I still have days I hurt. Days of struggle. I always will and I need to talk about it. And if I can get that out of my system at the get-go I can get on with having a good time.
7. We want you to share your problems, too
We know it’s not as “big” as losing a child. That doesn’t make your issues any less important. We want you to share with us. We might not be up to this at the beginning of our grief journey but certainly we are as time passes. We have lots of love and empathy and nowhere for it to go. Let us invest some of that in you.
Old friends, we need you more than ever. Just to be there.