Before Ellie died, I was afraid of death, pain, suffering. I didn’t want to experience any of those things for myself and it was scary to see in other people. I didn’t know what to say, how to feel, what to do, and the easiest thing was to avoid thinking about it. Sadly, I had never been to a funeral before Ellie’s.
Now I always go to the funeral. I have been to probably 15 funerals/visitations in the past two years, and volunteered to help out as needed. It is so important to support the grieving families by just being there for them.
Suffering can be a great teacher — and this is but one of the many lessons I’ve learned — always go to the funeral!
Here’s a couple articles that you might find helpful on this topic:
Awhile ago we asked the following question to some bereaved parents – “What has been helpful on your grief journey?”
For example, after Ellie passed away a fellow grieving father called Todd out of the blue and expressed his desire to walk with him and support him. He’s become a good friend and been very helpful. We received several personal letters that touched us. Anytime anyone remembers Ellie and shares a story, it is such a blessing. Many people supported Ellie’s 1st Angelversary and remembered her on her birthday.
Feel free to add ideas in the comments that we can do for those that follow us down this path. Thanks in advance for sharing.
Here’s a few responses we received…
Remembering special dates. Not avoiding the topic of our dead kids. Letters telling us things about our kids that we wouldn’t know. Being mindful of words used.
I have been trying to get my son’s friends to write down their memories so I can put together a memory book for his children.
Sometimes when I least expect it and think everyone has forgotten, God sends me a lifeline.
Love to hear stories about my son. It would be so great if people would write them down in their handwriting or type and sign it, to make a scrapbook or something. That would be really nice.
The greatest gift I was given after my son died, was something a friend said to me. He always said, “Be gentle with yourself, be patient with the process.” Those words really helped me through it in the end.
I let them know that I am always willing to listen. Sometimes having someone who has been down this path brings comfort. And I tell them that they call the shots. What works best for one grieving parent may not be what works best for all.
I found the willingness to talk to others great. I have a friend that would sit with me for hours without saying a word while I just got everything off my chest.
I have found that making a real effort to reach out to and stand by the “newbies”, and not offering any of my own ideas unless asked. I like that this process has helped me sit in their silence, to look at their photos with them, to hold them.
The smallest gesture can be so big.
In the loss of my child, and also other loved ones, I have found that when others share their stories and memories of their experiences and perspectives on the part of my son’s life I didn’t know, it is so comforting, brings smiles and laughter, and brings them close to me once more. My grandson goes to one of my other sons to hear stories about his dad growing up and asks me for stories all the time. He says, “It helps me remember him.” (He was very close to his dad and was only 7 when he died 5-1/2 years ago.)
My wife does a blanket drive receiving blankets from all over the world.
The Compassionate Friends (TCF) has been very beneficial for us , but once a month was not enough. We now have the TCF Breakfast Club and a bunch of us meet every other week for breakfast. Being around others in the same situation and not having to worry about what you say is the best. Our conversations cover everything not just grief.
Our children being remembered is probably the greatest gift.
My son’s friend came to celebrate his heaven birthday and also his earthly birthday. It is very helpful.
We honor my daughter every year on her birthday with a blood drive and party. It was something she was passionate about it gives me something positive to focus on.
Helping new Angel Parents has been a healing for me.
One friend went on my granddaughter’s Facebook page and took about fifty photos and made me a precious scrapbook. A friend of my daughter’s showed up at the house as soon as she heard, with a cooler full of bottled water and soft drinks.
We had glorious friends and neighbor give us a gift certificate to a very talented local jeweler who made memorial pieces with our daughter’s hair and funeral flowers. We cherish them all, and have purchased many pieces since then. Friends allowing me to retell the same stories over and over without reminding me that they already have heard it a 1,000 times. Especially in the beginning stages, not trying to fix me, allowing me to grieve the way I needed and still need too.
The best thing my friend did for me was to call me and say, “I hurt for you and I don’t know how to help.” I told him to talk to me. And he called me 5 days a week and even if I couldn’t talk, he just talked. To me, that was a gift because my child took his own life and the rest of the world turned their backs and walked away.
The best gift that I can receive now 3 1/2 years after my twin son died at the tender age of 7 unexpectedly is pictures of him that I have never saw or to tell me a memory of him, or on his surviving twins birthday also make mention of or include his twin in someway. Not always easy to do, bittersweet day, celebrating one while grieving for the other.
I just contacted some of my son’s army buddies (he’s also a twin) begging for any photos they might have of him that I haven’t seen. I crave those items and stories I haven’t heard.
Photographs are my most treasured possessions. We had a memorial evening for my son and a compilation of photographs were projected onto a screen, heartbreaking but put together with so much love.
My daughter’s friends have a birthday party for her each year.
The littlest thing can make a difference. The day our baby daughter died, our distraught next door neighbor appeared on our doorstep with a pot of leek and potato soup.
Some of my deceased daughter’s close friends keep in contact with me, personally or on Facebook. That brings joy to my heart as she will never be forgotten.