On September 20th, 2009, I became a mother, myself. I was 19 at the time, and my fiance had been together about a year. She was perfect, but I was stubborn. Every piece of advice I was given, I didn’t listen too. I wanted to parent on my own, learn on my own. Sadly, I never got that opportunity, as February 3rd, 2010, my daughter passed away in her sleep, of SIDS. This is not only my story of loss, but my guide to helping you cope with grief, or loss, to understand how to help better understand how to comfort those parents, and family who have lost a child, thru my own experiences.
Sometimes, you may not know how to approach the person- either whom has experienced the loss, or their family, who also in some way is grieving in their own way. Always make sure to be careful, how the loss is brought. You don’t want to put salt, on an already open wound. I remember people asking me constantly, “What happened?” It is best not to pry, as if the parent wants to disclose, they will disclose in due time.
DO mention their child’s name, approach with caution, as some parents may have a different view on this.. but generally it is comforting knowing that other’s have not “forgotten” your child.
DO ask how they are doing,if there is anything you can do, if they’d like to vent, etc. Sometimes, they may not seek out someone to talk too. Don’t be pushy for them to talk to someone, otherwise it can come off as a negative, instead of a positive of you trying to be supportive.
Do not take everything they say, or “post” personally. I remember many nights, when I would post mean, upset, or angry statuses on Facebook. These often landed me getting messages from numerous people, telling me how wrong I was. Needless to say, I wanted only one of those people, to ask me what was wrong.
If you are the one experiencing loss, my best advice to you- is that you will never “get over it”, even when trying to rebuild your life. It’s just not something you forget, and you shouldn’t forget nor want to forget. That was your child.
Try to occupy yourself with positive things, or positive people. Try not to let negative things bring you back down, or people’s comments. Depending on the loss you’ve experienced, you may get different questions, but generally when a child loses his/her life, in any situation or tragedy, people try to figure out what happened, or why. Try not to take it personally, try to be polite (this can be hard!).
Try to educate. In my situation, I began to research the knowedge (or lack thereof) of Sudden Infant Death Syndome or SIDS. I had began educating people on the risk factors, and some other things. It occupied my time, so I wasn’t depressed as much, because I felt as though I was helping, or even possibly preventing someone else from losing their child. The risk factors for SIDS are pretty well laid-out, although they aren’t always made clear. I didn’t smoke with my daughter, she was healthy, I had regular prenatal checkups, I had the window open in her room (airflow), nothing would have pointed out that she would pass away that day. I realized in my research, that even I was uneducated on some aspects of how these things happen. Infact, the day she passed away, I was cleaning my house, & threw away the SIDS informational brochure I had gotten from her birth, because I assumed she was much too old for SIDS. That day, once again, I was proven wrong.
During the course of my rebuilding, as you will see, you have to step back every now & then, it’s what’s normal. I realized that sometimes I was projecting anger, or sadness, and it was due to my daughters death. It had been in the back of my head that day. Again, going back to that you never forget. I reached a major milestone in my rebuilding, when I had gone to a doctors appointment with my now 2-year old, after we moved to a very, very small town (of about 700 people in total). The nurse explained to me that SIDS risk is over at 2 months old. I began to educate her, a nurse, about how serious it is, that she stresses to these mothers (especially first time mothers), that SIDS is very, very real. And, SIDS risk is cut in half at 6 months, it is almost completely zero at 12 months. Infact, the timeframe she told me SIDS risk was over (2 months), is when the SIDS risk is highest (between 2-4 months).
Again, take stride, and occasionally realize that sometimes people aren’t trying to be rude, they can just come off as nosy, when really they are just curious. I have someone very close to me, who just lost his son in a car accident- and the same thing- people are asking what he was doing, how it happened, was he speeding, etc.
While some people are out there to be rude, there are many who are just curious, and it may project as rude. Try to occupy yourself with happy things, like crafts in memory of your child. I found, in my personal experience that going to the park, looking at the sky, sometimes just driving or walking, making things in memory, researching, petting an animal, all can help when things become a bit too overwhelming.
Realize, that as a parent, you may believe that your loss is the worst in the world (and to you it is), realize that your family, your spouses family, possibly even close friends are grieving with you. And, even some of them in their own way. And, try to remember, it is okay to cry, one year, two years or ten years down the road.