Do you know someone who lost their young child and what they went through? Did you ever wonder why they were so distraught when they had hardly known the child?
Parents of stillborn children or those who pass away within a few days or months are or rather were eagerly waiting for their little ones with many dreams in their hearts, with their nurseries decorated and baby showers thrown too. They did not know such a fate was awaiting them.
In a blink of an eye and a lot of the times, without a reason or a cause, they lost their babies, their dreams and their envisioned futures. They had not expected this and don’t know how to cope with it. The indifference or avoidance of the topic hurts them to the very core.
Pregnancy and infancy loss is almost a taboo subject in many parts of the world. It’s as if the children who have been parted from parents at such an early stage did not officially exist. A lot of people want bereaved parents to forget about their child’s existence or at least not mention the young ones so as to not make them feel uncomfortable.
Here are three ways you can support a grieving parent:
First, show up and be there for them: It might be uncomfortable for you but do remember that for the parents, their foundation has been shaken and the entire world has been upturned. Do take out some time and show up for them. You can go over or call them up. Those few minutes will make a lot of difference to them.
In April 2009, my twins were born in the 31st week instead of arriving in June. When my firstborn twin son passed away on the third day after birth, I felt that I had quite lost the plot of what was happening around me.
I couldn’t attend his funeral so as not to transmit any germs or infection to my 3-day-old daughter. And for forty days, we both were in isolation for the same reasons. I was cut off from the world. It would have been so nice to have friends reach out, at least by a phone call..
Secondly, be open to talking about their child: The centre of their world for the last so many months is no longer with them. Become their safe space where they can talk about, reminisce about, cry about, or even share their anger, frustration, guilt or any other emotion they might be feeling. Many grieving mothers feel that if they don’t actively remember their child, then their child’s memory will simply fade away.
I mostly felt people avoided bringing up the topic of my son’s death. Maybe they wanted to spare me the pain of reliving the experience but it felt as if they did not care about such a tragic but nevertheless an important milestone in my life. It took me eight years before I could finally chronicle about this journey in the form of a book. Writing is therapeutic.
Thirdly, help them grieve and process the grief: The young couple in front of you grappling with sorrow and grief, might not know how to get out of it. You can help them mourn the child and slowly but steadily help them re-enter society when they are ready for it. Without your support and encouragement, some might just throw in the towel. But having a strong community backing them would be an incentive for them to at least try.
It is difficult to open up about something so personal but having people around who are willing to help and support you is sometimes enough to get you back to the land of the living.
It took me a lot of time to process and understand God’s grace and purpose for me. His comfort and hope sustained me through this difficult journey. But I do rest in the promise that I will be seeing my son soon and very soon.
I wish and pray that parents-to-be do not get to experience such a tragic loss. But just in case any one does, I hope we as a community are there to back them up, support and encourage them during this time when they need all the love and understanding that they can get.