How to Support a Loved One Through Loss

“Every human being must find his own way to cope with severe loss, and the only job of a true friend is to facilitate whatever method he chooses.” –Caleb Carr

While we were facing our loss with Tinleigh, people responded to us in many different ways and while there have been MANY people that have supported us in a variety of different ways, there’s a few that stand out as being my ongoing, to this day, shoulders to cry on.

Most of our loved ones remained somewhat at a distance once they heard what we were walking through. I don’t blame them. It’s uncomfortable. People don’t know what to say. They don’t know if we want or need space or if we don’t. There’s no handbook on how to support your friends and family when their baby is going to die or has died. I get it.

However, there are a couple of people that ran straight to us and that’s what this post is all about. The day after we learned of Tinleigh’s diagnosis, my nearest, dearest friend Morgan, called me just to check in, let me cry and process and vent and be angry and feel all the things and simply just let me know that she was there for me in whatever way I needed. I can’t quite remember but I think I remember telling her that I didn’t even know what I needed but I knew I could rely on her. We ended our conversation and within two minutes of hanging up the phone, I received a text from Morgan asking if I’d like her and Ashleigh to come and stay with us for the weekend. I immediately said yes. Morgan let me know that they had no expectations for the weekend and we could do whatever I did or didn’t want to do and she jokingly said that if nothing else, they’d give my dad someone to make fun of and be comedic relief (I can assure you the comedic banter that takes place between Morgan and Ashleigh and my family is always the comedic relief I need).

On Friday night, Morgan and Ashleigh show up to my parents’ house and the next day we decide to go shopping for a new couch for the house we had just purchased and run a couple of small errands. Guys, this Saturday was a fairly uneventful, unexciting day and somewhat purposefully so – I didn’t want to dwell in my feelings. That was simply too hard at the time. In doula training, we learn about “holding space” for a laboring mom which sometimes means a certain level of active inaction (I know, it sounds contradictory) but basically what it means is providing a person with the space to be where she needs to be emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally and holding that space for them. That’s what was happening for me on that particular Saturday. My friends were holding space for me. There were moments where I’d talk about my never-ending list of feelings and there were moments we’d laugh and joke around as if it was a typical visit and there were moments where we were looking at furniture but, through it all, Morgan and Ashleigh held the space for me to be where I needed to be and for that I will forever be grateful. Fast forward to six weeks postpartum as Morgan and Ashleigh sit next to me in the waiting room at the OBGYN’s office as I wait to go back for my postpartum visit. Dustin, my husband, wasn’t able to go with me due to work and as much as I thought I could do it alone, I started crying as I got ready to leave to head out to my appointment. Without hesitation, Morgan and Ashleigh jumped in the car and held space for me that day too. They held space as I sat in a waiting room full of other moms with their newborns and they held space when I came out of the exam room and explained how it hurt that the nurse had forgotten that my baby had died and asked me how my baby was doing.

Then fast forward to a couple months ago as I planned Tinleigh’s memorial and these ladies held space for me on that day too. They woke up at the crack of dawn with me when I insisted on making homemade cinnamon rolls for the brunch that morning and patiently listened as I provided them with a list of to dos of all the things that needed to happen before everyone’s arrival. And they did all this without one ounce of complaint. These are the friends who show up always even and especially when it’s most uncomfortable.

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My father-in-law, Terry, surprised us and showed up this evening as well. Sometimes there’s those people in life that you didn’t know how desperately you missed them until they show up and give you one of the best hugs you’ve ever experienced. Let me tell you, my father-in-law always gives me the best hugs that make me feel so unconditionally loved and I hadn’t realized how much I needed that until he showed up. His support that weekend was equally as appreciated, and he held space too. He loved on us and loved on Kiptyn and joked with Morgan and Ashleigh and made our weekend bearable. In fact, he sacrificed a fishing weekend with his other sons.

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On this day, one year ago, I received a package from my friend, Lucy. While I don’t possibly have enough time to explain the backstory of our friendship, I’m going to share just enough because it’s relevant. Lucy and I attended the same church and were in a mom’s bible study prior to us moving away from California. Lucy and I sat through the bible study together for months but didn’t have an opportunity to truly connect until one or two weeks prior to us moving away. Once we moved, Lucy and I didn’t touch base a whole lot, however, our story changed when she was one of the first ones to reach out after hearing about Tinleigh’s diagnosis. She sent me a text and asked if I would mind if she sent me something and I told her I didn’t mind at all. She sent me the book “I Will Carry You” by Angie Smith and a journal with a note that encouraged me to write Tinleigh’s story. What I didn’t realize, at the time, was how much both of these would mean to me. At the time, I honestly didn’t realize how very much would be woven into Tinleigh’s story. I’ve also leaned on the book so much throughout our journey and finished it within days. Through the book, I also discovered the song “I Will Carry You’ by Selah based on Angie and Audrey’s story. That song has carried me through my darkest moments and was one of the songs we included in Tinleigh’s memorial. I encourage you to listen to it at the link at the end of this post because it truly is a beautiful song. But more than these resources, Lucy has become one of my closest friends who has reached out and continues to challenge me spiritually and walk alongside me in my darkest moments with no judgement and unconditional love. I believe that God brought us together, through Tinleigh, and I’ll be forever grateful to Him for placing such a prayer warrior and spiritual sister in my life.

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I’m going to end on this note: if you ever have a loved one experience perinatal or infant loss, run to her and hold space for her. I know it’s uncomfortable, but I can assure you that your silence will be deafening. She will feel alone. Ask her about the hopes and dreams she had for her baby. Speak her baby’s name. By doing so, you’re not going to remind her that her baby died. Trust me, she thinks about it every day. But she’s going to know that someone else thinks about it too and that will provide her comfort. Sit in the ordinary with her. Bring her food. Simply hold the space.

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