I get that question a lot. In times of need when people are mourning with you, for you, they want to be put to work. They want concrete ideas and often times they are just as stunned as we are in knowing how to handle the situation. What to say? What to do? I thought it might be helpful for those who want to help us in particular or perhaps help someone else going through a similar trial to list some things people have done that have made all the difference in helping us feel as if we are being carried.
1.Messages of love. We have received Facebook messages, texts, notes, and cards that express beautiful words of sympathy and love. I love when they remind us that someone is thinking about us, about James. It reminds me that someone hasn't forgotten. For the first week they were numerous and lovely and I know they will taper off because they already have but it never ceases to ease my heart when I get that surprise message.
2.Flowers and care packages. We have received beautiful flowers, art, books, and care packages. One of the care packages was so perfectly timed I knew there had been some divine guidance in its arrival. We had just come back from the funeral home, making arrangements and my heart was heavy. Coming home to a care package full of things that just brightened the horizon for a moment. It had some beautiful necklaces, nail polish, lotion, etc. I am not beneath saying that a necklace can brighten my spirits. It can. It might help someone else too :)
3. Food. Our church support system is amazing and quickly after the news broke we had meals lined up for us. When you are grieving it can be hard to fix a meal, even to remember to eat so having food at the ready (especially when you have to feed a toddler) is a wonderful blessing. Beyond delicious dinners, friends have brought over snack food and fed me lunch. I especially love when the food is healthy. Emotionally and mentally we are hurting and our spirits and minds are trying to heal, it is important to remember that comfort food is good but don't forget nutritious food. We have been lucky to receive delicious salads and fruits that keep our physical bodies feeling great so that we don't have to worry about that along with everything else.
4. Say James' name. This might not be for everyone but for me at least, I like when people say James' name. It can be hard for me to hear at times but it reminds me that he was a real person and that the rest of the world views him that way. Ultimately, I love it. Having a stillborn can be hard but add onto it the fact that very few people saw your baby and it just feels like a bad dream. When people ask questions about him and say his name themselves my heart swells with mama pride. It feels good.
5. Financial assistance. Being grad students our ability to cover funeral costs was a scary thought that luckily didn't cross our minds for long. We have wonderful people around us who were immediately willing to pitch in and it has eased our minds greatly. We, personally, have no more need for financial assistance but if you have a friend going through a trial similar to this and you are able to help financially, try to.It doesn't have to be a lot, the smallest amount helps with things like flowers and something nice for them to wear to the funeral if they are having one.
6. Hugs. Now I am not a natural hugger. It was just not something we did in my family growing up but I have grown fairly used to them. For me personally, I like meaningful hugs that are not drawn out. Some people might like the tight, long hugs but they can be very hard for me. Usually they just bring everything to the surface and while I need that sometimes, I usually know when I want it all to come out. So, give a hug but don't drag it out so long that it feels like you are planting all of your sadness for them on top of them. Hug them with all the love you have for them, hearts connected. True love is not stifling and clingy, it is pure and delicate and intuitive. Gauge what they need and give accordingly.
8. Don't forget the husband. The focus is largely on me and I keep telling people, as long as Kyle is ok then I am ok. But if he is not doing well, you can bet I won't be doing well either. When people remember him in their thoughts and how hard this is for him as well, it means a great deal to us both. It can be hard for guys to express grief and having people reaching out to Kyle has been huge for him. It might be to go fishing or to go play basketball or go on a hike, but just don't forget the husband.
9. Pray. Remember us in your prayers and pray to be guided in how you can help. I have a HUGE testimony of prayer now. It never ceases to quell my anguish and bring so much peace and I know that as people have prayed on our behalf we have received peace and comfort in our hearts when it gets really hard.
10. Be careful. Be careful with your words, your actions, your intentions. Make sure they are pure and filled with love. I have read so much about people who are hurt during their trial by well meaning words and acts but for some reason or another were received the wrong way and it seemingly intensifies their hurt. I feel lucky that this has not been the case with us. People have said the right things at the right moments and have laughed and cried with us. They are tender and gentle when we talk of James' and laugh and share their joys with us.