If there is anything I can do...

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PODCAST: THE GLIMMER PODCAST

Where you can turn after the loss of a child. And more about how friends and family can support grieving parents on this journey. 

The Glimmer Project is supported by Stillbirth Foundation Australia and does amazing work in supporting parents who have suffered a loss.

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PODCAST: ONE QUESTIONS - WHY WE SUCK AT CONDOLENCE

I had this beautiful chat on One Question Podcast which shines a light on the way I feel about Grief and condolence, I hope you learn a thing or two here. The 'Silk Ring Theory' that we discuss can be found in resources under Susan Goldman. 

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PODCAST: I SWEAR I NEVER 

This chat opens up about the day that we lost Sebby and the way we chose to donate his organs to another person. Losing a child is so physical, they are no longer there to be seen, so we tell Seb's story proudly so that you all know that he was here, and he was spectacular.

Offering condolence is tough, yet death is so common - it happens to all of us. But talking about our experience, I want to break down the taboo that surrounds death, dying, and grief.

 

Most people feel an intense discomfort stemming from a fear of saying or doing the wrong thing, but there is no wrong - so long as an effort is made. 

 

Remember when supporting someone who is grieving, that there is nothing you can say that will alleviate their pain, or take away what was happened, so just saying something, showing up, being there - is more than enough. 

"I am sorry for your loss", is a simple sentiment, but if you truly mean it, it is the best thing to say. 

 

Silence is more deafening than the "wrong" words or actions. 

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DO

React immediately

Put aside your own feelings and respond to the situation as soon as you can.

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SAY

Say their name

Do not shy away from saying the child's name. This is music to a grieving mum or dad's ears. Say it often, say it forever. 

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GIVE

Flowers die too

There are more creative gift ideas that won't leave them overwhelmed dealing with waste or mouldy vase water. 

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REMEMBER

Don't forget

Life moves forwards for you, but it feels much slower through grief. Check-in from time to time. They will need hugs forevermore.

 

WHAT TO DO

 

  • Respond as soon as you hear the news - leave a voicemail (on your way to the post office to send a card!) 

  • Send a (physical) card, a virtual "like" or private message does not make up for this in any way

  • Be honest. "This is fu*#ed" is perfect, as it's true!

  • Respect your place - if you aren't close, don't show up on their doorstep or even think about posting on social media

  • If you do visit, make it quick - grief is exhausting, they need rest

  • Offer to babysit for other children - take them away from the house for an hour or two, or an evening if they are older

  • Repeat: Do not post anything about their situation on your own social network without permission

  • Go to the funeral, wherever appropriate

  • Small things - take the dirty washing and bring it back clean, make the bed, unstack the dishwasher, clear the fridge, leave a small amount of fresh seasonal fruit

  • Respect their requests - no flowers, no food, no visits, donations instead etc.

  • Just be there. Whether you get a response or not - still call, still text, still drop notes on the doorstep, knowing that others are thinking of you really does help

  • Offer assistance with the funeral - transport, photos, music, catering, assisting elderly family etc.

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT TO SAY

  • Say the name of the person who died

  • Listen

  • Avoid sharing a story of how something similar to you, this is not the time

  • Don't shy from difficult words? Dead, death, funeral etc. these are facts now, not notions

  • Euphemisms are crass: my baby isn't "sleeping", he is dead - HUGE difference

  • If all else fails you "I am sorry for your loss" is perfect

  • Avoid visiting if you have no words at all and will avoid talking about the death

  • Ask if they want to talk about the details, some will, some won't

  • Do not make excuses for your own discomfort- this is not about you

  • If you start a sentence with "at least..." PLEASE STOP. There is no "at least" when someone dies

  • (Particularly when a child dies) avoid "they are in a better place" as any mum or dad will struggle to comprehend what you mean by that. The best place for any child is by their parent's side

  • Avoid God talk, unless you know they are religious and will find that comforting, but again "God has a plan"is just a few wasted words on a grieving person

 

 

 

 

WHAT TO GIVE OR SEND

  • Flowers die, a plant or succulent is a nice substitute

  • A donation to their hospital or to an organisation aligned with the death

  • If you do send flowers, make them bright and include a vase (go back a week later and clean the dirty water)

  • Bring real, healthy food. I would have killed for a salad but all we got was lasagne, ragu, stews etc.

  • If you cook: portion it, label it, freeze it

  • A book with meaning, or a good quality candle they can light wach night in honour of the child

  • Vouchers are great, with no time limit: local restaurant or cafe, massages, magazine subscription, a hotel for a mini-break

  • Food vouchers are even better. (In NSW) The Dinner Ladies were an absolute saviour

  • Avoid excessive food waste - kitsch food gifts like glazed donuts, strawberry towers, giant chocolate boxes, cookie hampers etc. My local nurses loved all the gifts, but every time another turned up, it put pressure on me to remove the waste from my home. 

  • Have a look in the cupboard, they may need the basics: tissues, toilet paper, milk, bread just to get them through the "visitor week"

  • If a child has died, write a post-it note with the Red Nose 24/7 Hotline 1300 308 307

 
 

 

 

ONGOING

  • Make an effort, or stop saying you will. One year later I still had people saying "we should catch up".

  • Share memories, a text, a card in the post, remind them that their child was here. 

  • Remember the anniversary (set a reminder in your calendar NOW), and send another card

  • Milestones are so important - particularly if it si a pregnancy loss or still born, the due date will be so important, acknowledge it gently

  • Bring food. But wait a few weeks or months- the excess of food will run out quickly, but their exhaustion will still be high

  • Let them decide when they are ready: "we will be at...tomorrow if you'd like to come", instead of "let me know when you want to catch up"

  • The visits stop, so continue to reach out after everyone else returns to "normal"

  • Just because they seem fine, they might not be fine, just an awareness of this is helpful

  • Don't ever forget. Remember how many children they have had, not just those that are here.  

  • If you do slip up - that's ok, acknowledge the mistake and move forward together 

Feel free to share more of the things that helped you too and I will add them in here. Guidance in this space is always helpful, we can all learn from each other and be better at offer at condolence as it has become a lost skill.