How to help
The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing... not healing, not curing... that is a friend who cares.
What to say or do
Attend their child's memorial service, visit any online memorial, grave site, etc.
Listen to them talk about their child, the experience of losing him or her, and their feelings. Do so without judging.
Offer to run errands. Be of practical assistance.
Offer to help care for living children. Take them to activities, so the parents get a break and so the children get some extra attention.
Remember their child's birthday/ death date.
Let them grieve in their own way and time.
Offer to walk the dog.
Tell them to ask if they need anything, but know that they might not do so. Follow up.
Call their baby by his or her name.
Allow them to express their feelings and not force them to be happy again.
Know that, when they begin to laugh again, they are not "over" their grief.
Call to ask how they are doing that day.
Offer to help with household chores- laundry, dishes, vacuuming, taking out the trash, washing the car, etc.
If you don't know what to say, admit it. Or just be silent and let them talk if they wish.
Accept that everyone grieves differently.
Anticipate difficult days, such as holidays, anniversary dates, etc. and be gentle with them around those times, even years later. Offer support again. Send a card.
Research resources that can help you be supportive and that the bereaved parent(s) may find useful.
Listen compassionately. And listen some more.
Tell them you care.
Bring over a home cooked meal.
Continue to invite them to events and fun activities, and let them decide whether they feel up to attending. Accept their decision.
Encourage them to take care of their own physical needs (healthy meals, exercise, sleep, seeing appropriate professionals, etc.) without being bossy or judgemental.
Encourage them to remember their child in their own way.
It's never too late to call.
Remember, you do not have to be the perfect support. Know that your heartfelt efforts are all that's needed.
What not to say or do
Don't offer cliches, such as:
"It was God's will"
"Time heals all wounds"
"She/ He isn't hurting anymore"
"It must have been his time"
"I know how you feel" (Unless you yourself experienced the death of a child)
"Be thankful you have another child"
"You're young, you can have more"
(The last two diminish the importance of the baby that died)
Never compare their grief over losing a child to your grief of another kind. It's not the same.
Never minimize their loss.
Don't wait to be asked for help, offer to do something practical.
Try to avoid euphemisms such as passed away or loss, unless asked otherwise.
Be careful not to say "you musn't feel that way" even when they are expressing guilt or self blame. The statement unintentionally tells the bereaved person he/she should not have those feelings. Allow them to express and sort through their regrets.
Don't put a deadline on someones grief.
Don't feel you need to take away the parents pain- you can't.