Q. A dear friend’s child has died. How can I best support her?
I know my family and friends would have welcomed suggestions as to how best to support me when my daughter Jasmine died. Some were afraid to say something to me in case they ‘got it wrong’ and somehow upset me. Silences were the worst as I wanted people to reach out. So, based on my experiences, here are a few practical suggestions for the first few months.
- Get in touch with your friend as soon as you can, rather than giving her ‘space’.I really appreciated people’s messages and cards, especially those who used my daughter’s name and wrote something personal. A few months in and it all stopped. I found this hard as grieving doesn’t stop after three, six or even twelve months. It takes as long as it takes to fully grieve the loss of a child.
- Don’t take it personally if your friend doesn’t reply to your text messages or phone calls. It isn’t personal, so do keep persisting.
- If your friend lives near you might pop round with some home-made soup or biscuits. It will mean such a lot to her to know that you have been thinking of her.
- Flowers are always welcome and sending them a few weeks later shows her that you are still thinking of her. If you find any photos of her child ask her if she would like to see them.
- Perhaps the greatest gift you can give your friend is to listen to her without trying to cheer her up. At some point she will want you to share a little about how you are.
- I was very touched when two dear friends offered to share the first anniversary of Jasmine’s death with me. We had a beautiful day, and to my surprise we laughed as much as much as we cried.
- I found it so nice when friends invited me to the cinema or for a meal at their house. Sometimes I felt so lousy that I cancelled at the last minute. Encourage her to go, no matter how she is. If she refuses, know that this is not personal. Your friend is likely to find large groups of people and noisy places, such as a pub, difficult to handle. I know I did.
- Do allow her to talk about her child. And please don’t change the subject when she brings her child into the conversation. Her child is very present and alive in her.
- Grief is so unpredictable, that even months later she may drop into another well of sorrow or despair. Continue to ask her how she is feeling.
- Jot down in your diary the birthday and date when your friends’ child died. Find some way to mark these. At Christmas please do not send her a card wishing her a happy Christmas. It will not be a happy time. ‘Thinking of you’ is far more appropriate.