We were very fortunate to have help in carrying the grief of our loss, so Joseph and I, along with our two oldest children who have memories of losing Jude, reflected on the support we received while we grieved. We came up with a list of ten specific ways to offer one's support or sympathy.
2—Many families will name their baby even if he or she is born into Heaven without the gender being known. Respect this by referencing the baby by name. It is okay, when appropriate, to mention the child. It isn't like the parents will forget that they had the baby, no matter how much time passes.
When is it appropriate to mention the child? Remember meaningful dates! Anniversaries of the baby's original due date or the date when the child was born or entered Heaven are certainly times when the mother will already be thinking of her baby, so mentioning the loss will not catch her off guard and will endear her to you for being so thoughtful.
3—Now that I've established that you shouldn't ignore the fact that a family has suffered this loss, I should also mention that you should give them space as needed. For me, I felt a deep need to withdraw for about a year. I didn't attend many social events, and Joseph was kind enough to attend birthday parties and the like with our children. I was happy to have tea one-on-one with friends, but group settings were extremely challenging for me for a long time. There is no logical reason for my need to live like a recluse, only raw emotion. Grief is curious that way. Love people through it.
4—If you've experienced a similar loss, share it with them. Depending on where they are in their grief, they may want to know more, or just knowing they are not alone may be all the comfort they need at that moment. Through sharing your story, they know they can call on you again if they are having a bad day or just need a resource such as a book recommendation. Miscarriage is not a big, bad secret. Many women experience it but don't find the support they desperately need. If you are strong enough in your walk to share, please consider this work of mercy.
Aniston was consoled when discussing the loss of Jude in religion class at school. Several classmates spoke up about how their families had also experienced miscarriage. How healing for middle-schoolers to support each other by sharing their stories! Adults can take direction from them.
5—Ask about having a Mass offered at your parish. This is powerful because we are never closer to the departed than when we are in Holy Communion. It would take an entire post to elaborate on this belief. (Joseph? I think a guest post is in order?) When you do this, your parish will often give you a nice card to send to the family so they can plan to attend if they desire.
6—Pray! Though I don't know every person that was praying for our family, I most definitely sensed it in the grace that showered us. There were days when I could tangibly feel myself being lifted in prayer. Say a quick prayer. Say a rosary. Just pray.
7—Miles specifically remembered people bringing meals over during my physical recovery, which was lengthy. He recognized that meal preparation is a main duty of mine, so it spoke volumes to him, even at his young age, that people were helping our family in this way.
These last three are more appropriate for a family member, someone very close to the family, or an authority figure, such as a ministry leader or priest:
8—While still very weak in the hospital, I remember Joseph having these very legal conversations on the phone as it related to Jude's burial. Only because this was Joseph's field were we able to determine our rights to our son's remains. This knowledge is hugely important for parents who want to bury their baby. Some states don't allow for you to remove the body from the hospital if the baby is born before a certain stage of the pregnancy. Many Catholics will have a funeral mass and burial, so this information is essential.
9—Another area where Joseph and I were very comfortable was in planning the funeral mass. We both love the liturgy, so we knew exactly what we wanted in terms of scripture readings, music, and other components. There are probably parents who wouldn't be as comfortable with this activity or would be so overwhelmed with grief, they may not be able to handle this alone. They may not even know a funeral mass is an option! It has surprised me how often this is the case. A supportive priest, which we had, can make this challenging task almost pleasant and definitely healing.
10—For me, this remains one of the most important parts of processing my grief: If at all possible, take a photo of the baby! The night that Jude was delivered and they wheeled me into recovery where we met our son was a whirlwind of everything—it was like a tornado of physical and emotional pain. Somehow in that place where we said goodbye to our baby, and I could barely lift my head and Joseph faced the real possibility of being a single parent, we had the presence of mind to capture a photo of Jude with Joseph's camera phone. That photo sits on my nightstand as a reminder of our fifth child and points the rest of my children to the truth that life matters and that, no matter how small, they are and have always been loved.
This post has been linked over at Top Ten Tuesday. Head over there to find other lists, most of which will be lighter than this topic.