Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How Can I Help

I have recently been blessed to come across a network of mother's who also have angel babies. It has been truly touching to learn more about each one. I am amazed at the beautiful impact that each little angel has had on so many lives. Like my sweet Branson, each one has left their mark on this life, and their print on so many souls. Thank you to each one of their mother's for sharing their stories, feelings, pictures, and perspectives with me. I am blessed to rub shoulders with such an inspiring crowd!

On the side bar of one blog I read this week, I found this list...a list of things that people can do to show support, love, and concern for people who are bereaved. I've asked Michelle if I could use some of the ideas on her list, combine them with some of my own thoughts, and share them with others.

As I have reflected often on life before Branson, I am humbled by the things I didn't understand about loss. I had no idea how incredibly life changing it is for a family when they loose someone they love. A loss is a loss regardless of the persons age, well being, or status in this life. I was often the person that said or did nothing because I wasn't sure what to do or say. I had never experienced grief in a personal way, so to speak to someone traveling through the journey of grief was like speaking a foreign language. I have offered many prayers since then that I might be forgiven for the pain I know I must have caused others in their moments of grief because I failed to act in love on their behalf.

I guess that is one of the things I've gained through this journey...perspective...perspective on grief, loss, and love. I, like Michelle, pray that this list of suggestions might help others who have loved ones traveling this difficult road.

Unfortunately, grief doesn't come with a user's guide, or an instruction manual. So this is just a few things from the view I see when I look at my path through this journey and the perspective it provides. I am sure there are many more things that could be added to the list, and some that others may feel shouldn't be on there...take away what you think can help you and the person you love that is bereaved.

When Someone you Love is Bereaved

(Sorry, some of the fonts have gone a little crazy)

1. First and foremost TALK about the loved one who's passed. Even if it's uncomfortable at first, it will become easier. My favorite thing to do is to tell others about Branson, and I love it when people ask...what he looked like, what my favorite moment we shared with him was, or my favorite feature about him. Not so much the heartache that surrounds his death, but the joy that abounds in his life!

2. Most bereaved people will not offer information on how they are doing unless they truly feel like you want to know. This one is especially true for me. Some people ask not wanting to know the truth and when you give it to them, they don't know what to do with it.

3. Don't ever put a time line on someones grief. It is different for everyone, and loosing someone isn't something you "get over".

4. Love notes. Emails. Thinking of You cards. Thinking of the bereaved person cards. We appreciated every single card that we received after loosing Branson. I have kept each one. I pull them out often and read the messages of love sent to us in our time of sorrow. I especially appreciate the ones sent months later from people who wanted to let us know that they were still thinking of us and our little guy.

5. If you don't know what to say, just say, "I'm So sorry you have to go through this." One of the hardest things for me continues to be those who act as if nothing ever happened. Not that I want people to wallow around in my grief, but people who have never said one word about Branson, not even "sorry", make me feel like they believe that Branson wasn't real, that he isn't part of our family, and that our loss was simple, insignificant, and something that we just need to "get over". I know that they are probably the ones who just don't know what to say, but it's hard to accept.

6. If the person needs to analyze the circumstances surrounding the death, let them just talk and rehash anything as many times as they need to. I have found that verbalizing my thoughts, even if there is no response from the person listening, helps me process through it better and come to a conclusion or answer on my own. I appreciate those who just listen without judgement.

7. Don't assume they are ever "better." They never become completely whole and the loss will be a part of them for the rest of their lives. I have decided that the piece of my heart that left that day with Branson will always be gone...I just have to figure out how to live a new "normal" without it.

8. Don't underestimate how frazzled, absent minded, and spacey grief can make someone.

9. Accept the fact that you can not "fix" this for them. What you can do is love them.

10. Saying things like, "They are in a better place" can be confusing. While it may be true that Heaven is a beautiful place, it makes the bereaved feel like the place they had with them wasn't good enough.

11. Do not, I stress Do not get offended if your loved one doesn't answer his/her phone or return your calls. Don't assume that they don't appreciate your effort. It's just that someone bereaved doesn't want to put on a "happy voice" when they are having a hard day, but they don't want to burden everyone with their grief either.

12. If you didn't know the person who has passed at all or very well, ask to hear about them and learn of them through the stories of those who loved them. Most people never got to hold or see my little guy...only 10 in fact...yet he was here, he was so real, and he marks our life forever. There may be people who pass on in the lives of our loved ones and friends that we never knew...that doesn't make them less important or unreal.

13. Validate.Validate.Validate. Please whatever you do, don't compare your loved ones loss to someone else's "harder loss". Every loss is hard. Comparing makes the person feel like they shouldn't struggle because it could be worse.

14. The comment "but aren't you grateful you know you'll see them again" isn't a fix it all. It is true, but it doesn't take the pain out of not having them now. Just because the bereaved may continue to cry and have hard days doesn't mean they don't have a testimony of the plan of salvation, or that they have given up means that they are normal and they miss their loved one more than words can express.

15. Most of all, make sure they know you love them. Be a shoulder to cry on.

Remember that this may be the first time the bereaved has gone through something like this. Be patient, loving, and nonjudgmental of their emotions, thoughts and feelings.

I pray that I too can be a little more sensitive, a little more aware of those around who are bereaved. Thank you to all our family, friends, and loved ones who have been so supportive, patient, loving, and sensitive to our loss.

A link to Michelle's Blog


Sarah Garner said...

Amen! I love this list!

I love Michelle's blog, she has a way of illustrating her feelings in a way that I will never in a million years be articulate enough to do!

him, her, or the other one said... are so amazing. I think that you share so much on this blog that can help anyone, no matter what their battle is that they are facing. I have been thinking about you a lot lately and hope that you are doing okay. I have been thinking about what you must be going through as you get to the point to be able to try again. I am sure that the feelings are so intense and on such a broad spectrum. It seems like the past six months in some ways have gone so fast, but in others it seems as though time stands still. My feelings about Branson are still so fresh and overwhelming. I find myself still being overwhelmed by tears when I think of you and him and what you have been through. I can't even imagine how it must be for you. I heard this song that I need to send to you it is amazing. It talks about how in Heavenly Fathers time each minute is like a thousand years to us. The man who is singing it is talking about how he lost his wife and how in Heavenly Fathers time they will be together in about an hour. And I couldn't help but think about you, Rob and Branson. That in about an hour you will be back together. I know at times it doesn't seem like that but I thought it was an amazing perspective. I hope that you know how much we all love you and how much we think about you and what you are going through. I wished that you were closer {and hopefully soon you will be} so that we can see you more.

Mariah said...

Nat, again you have outdone yourself in your posting! There have been so many people that I have shared Branson with. I continually share his amazing story of love, grief, happiness, sadness, hope, and so many more feelings that I always have when I am thinking of you, Rob and Branson. I hope and pray that I have been there for you as you have always been there for me! I will never tire of hearing or talking about Branson and the wonderful miracle that he is! You are such an awesome mommy and I love the way you show it in so many ways! ~mariah
ps. My feelings/thoughts about Branson's birth day are still a work in progress! I will give it to you soon!

The Hicks Family said...


I want to first say I am sorry. I am sorry I have not had the courage to come to you and talk about Branson, even though the desire has been so strong to do so. I think a lot of it was that from the very beginning when I wanted to talk to you others were there around you to comfort you and I didn't want to bother that or be annoying. And then other times it was not knowing what to say or do. I don't know what you guys are going through, but I do want you to know that we care. I can't tell you how many tears I have cried for you, Rob, and Branson since July 1st. The thoughts I keep thinking are, "what can I offer them? I don't even know what it is like to be pregnant. I have no idea what they're going through." I have several friends that have also lost a child in infancy/birth, some with more than 1 child, but everyone is different. I have found myself on my knees often asking the Lord what it is I can do for you guys and how I could be there for you? I try to keep up with your blog (which you do such a wonderful job at!) including following through with Branson's service stocking. But I know that isn't enough... I am so thankful that you have sent us those pictures/cards in the mail of your beautiful family, they all hang on our refrigerator. I do wish to be there for you, to talk about Branson, and get to know more about him. And with this new calling I am hoping that I may be able to come closer to you, Rob, and Branson. I am sorry you guys have had to go through so much. Please know that I care so much about you guys, and please let me know what it is I can do to be a better friend. We love you guys so much! -Shannon

Candi said...

Thank you for sharing this with your thoughts... sometimes I feel like you are pulling them right out of my head and my heart. I have always liked this list (I have seen others like it) and have always wanted to share something similar on my blog.
You have such an amazing spirit and I love how, through your words you paint a beautiful picture of your love for your son. If it is okay with you I would love to post a link to this blog on my blog list.
You are inspiring, you have an amazing spirit about you and I feel so blessed that my Bishop pointed me to your blog.

Candi- Avery's Mommy

Ashley said...

Natalie! You said it all so prefectly! Thank you for helping me so much. It helps knowing I am not the only one going through what I have gone through.

Lindsey said...

Those are such great points, and I totally agree with them all. I know it's hard for those who haven't lost someone close to them to relate, but hopefully they can be more educated about how to approach the situation. Thanks

Hiatt Family said...

I love this list. It is worded so well, and I feel that every bit of it is true, at least in my experience it was. By the way, I commented on your blog without seeing your comment on Jackson's blog. I just saw it today. I thought that was so funny that we found each other through different links at the same time. Thanks for putting yourself & your feelings out there. I think it is really helping others to realize what we moms go through.

Jackie A. said...

Natalie, as always this is beautiful and very heart wrenching. I think one of the hardest things for me as a mother is the distance that we are apart and not being able to just come over and cry for a day with you or go out to lunch when you need some cheering up or etc., etc., etc. And also the fact that I feel you don't open up to me like I wish you would. It's hard to know if the person grieving wants to talk about things to you or not and so in order not to make things worse often you hold back on saying anything for fear of causing sadness. It's a weird and hard road we are on. I wish there was a site for grandmothers of these angels and the mothers of the daughters who have gone thru this because it would be nice to sometimes just be able to get it all out. I hope that I can be better to you and others by reading your list here and trying to understand better, I wish others would read it and understand better how we as the grandparents feel also. I know that someday we'll look back on this and see the growth that has come, but right now it's just so hard that I don't enjoy it.

The Holland Family said...

Natalie, Thank you for the sweet comment on my little Mia's blog. I'm so sorry for the loss of your sweet little Branson. He is adorable. Yes, I do know Talena and David very well. We have "compared notes" many times. Michelle is also such an inspiration to us all. She is an amazing woman. I was glad to finally meet her in person. May the Lord bless you in your sorrow & I hope to be in touch with you often. I'm sure I will visit your sites regularly. Love, Nicole Holland - Mia's mom ^i^