My greatest fear as a grieving mother is that the world will eventually forget about my daughter, Katie. Eight years ago, she walked out the door and never came home.
Grief is hard and it is lonely. People surround you with love and compassion when your child dies, but then their responsibilities pull them back to their own worlds. They get on with their lives....Will they forget about the loss of your child?
We are a reminder of what can happen and no one wants to be reminded.
I know that not everyone understands child loss and I know people don't want to cause me additional pain, but by not saying anything my heart breaks all over again. Hearing my daughter's name or the fact that you were thinking about her warms my heart. It doesn't stir up my pain. My pain is always there and it will never go away.
While I don't expect that Katie's name will be a part of every conversation, it is nice that she is remembered on her birthday and on the day she went to heaven. Those days will forever be wrought with emotion. A simple card, hug, text, or email is always appreciated. It helps me know that you haven't forgotten about my girl.
My daughter will always be a part of me. Every single day of my life.
Here is an excerpt from my book A Journey to HEALING: A Mother's Guide to Navigating Child Loss. It is part of the appendix I included at the back of my book to help friends and family support us in our loss.
If you are a friend of a bereaved mom, or family, or even an acquaintance, please be patient with us. We may look the same to you, but we are very, very different now. We are fragile and need lots of gentleness, kindness and patience. Please know that there is no timeline to healing, that healing is the choice of the bereaved, not your choice or your timeline. We are human beings and have different wants and needs during our grief and it changes over time. No two people grieve the same. Good communication, like other areas of life, is paramount.
To help you best support a bereaved mother consider the following:
· Acknowledge our child’s passing. Say something and do something. Remember our children – say their name. We won’t be upset. We might cry at hearing their name but it brings us joy. Share any memories, pictures, anything at all.
· Understand that this journey is a balancing act for us – grief in one hand and joy in the other. Know that we can experience both and some days we need more patience and support than others. Our grief never goes away.
· Know that our lives will never, ever be the same. It’s not just the loss of our child; it’s the loss of all future moments with our child. We mourn the big things like future weddings and grandchildren and the little things too. Things like an empty chair at the kitchen table can be heart breaking for us.
· Be there for the long haul. We need you and your support forever. While your life goes back to normal after the funeral, ours is silent and lonely. We need you to stay in touch and reach out after the funeral is over for the days, months and years to come.
· Encourage conversations and memories about our children. Include them in the conversation. Don’t ignore the fact that they existed.
· Visit, send texts, emails- it all helps. The pain does not stop after the funeral and that is the time when the bereaved feel the loneliest.
· Listen. Really listen. Be present and listen.
· Write down our child’s birthday and date of death on a calendar and send a message or card on those days. You won’t make us sad by reminding us that our children are no longer here. We will never forget that. But by remembering and saying our child’s name you will warm our heart. We are all scared that our child will be forgotten. Please remember them.
· Be gentle and considerate. Ask if we want to talk about what happened. Let us talk, rant, and scream. Just listen and acknowledge our pain. Do not offer suggestions unless you have walked this path. Please stay away from the clichés.
· At least 2 days every year, we need some grace – our child’s birthday and their anniversary will always be days that we need the most understanding. However, every holiday no matter how big or small is difficult. Mother’s Day is a very challenging day for us too.
· Keep checking in, considerately. We may turn you down 500 times but keep asking. Give us space but keep letting us know you are thinking of us and wanting to visit when it feel right for us. Invite them out, or ask to stop by. Keep calling or texting.
· Step in and step up graciously. Don’t say “if there’s anything you I can do, just ask”. We do not have the energy or the forethought to do that. Bring a meal or a cup of tea. Arrange to take our kids to activities or take care of our pets.
· Understand that grief is complex and difficult for us to understand too. Know that you can’t fix this.
Grief after child loss is far from easy, so let's walk together.
About the author:
Lisa lost her daughter Katie in a car accident in 2015. After serious consideration of ending her own life, she began crawling out of the depths of grief through writing and connecting with other grieving moms. In 2019, she published her book Journey to HEALING, and in 2021 created The Angel Moms VIP Community where she helps other bereaved mothers find their way out of the darkness.
PS: One of the most common questions I get from grieving mothers is: "What do I do on my child's birthday or Angel Anniversary?" I created this free download for you. It contains over 80 ideas to mark their birthdays, Mother's Day, and all the other days of the year. You can request the download here .