Wednesday, July 23, 2008

How to Treat a Friend Who Has Suffered a Loss -- Part 2

To all those who have done things for and communicated with me. THANK YOU. I know anything you have done or said was an expression of your love and concern for me.  I have not been offended by anything anyone has said to me and I appreciate everything people have done for me and given to me. I hope nothing I write will offend any of you or make you think I didn't appreciate something you said or did for me. 

Why am I writing this guide? I grew up surrounded by brothers. I often got my feelings hurt by them. My mother taught me early in my life, "Men are obtuse. If you want them to say something or do something, you have to tell them exactly what you want them to say or do." That helped immensely in my family life, dating life, and married life. The same principal applies now.  Fortunately, few have been in these terribly painful shoes. At the same time, few know what to do or say. 

Luckily, my bishop visited with us in the hospital and on the Sunday Camille died.  He took some time informing our church congregation of the news and relaying instructions on how I wanted people to treat me -- what not to say or do and how I would like people to treat me. For all the others out there who do not have this kind of preparation given, I write this guide.

So, someone you know has suffered a great loss. What should you do? What can you say?

I haven't suffered every kind of loss, but I think some of the things in the following guideline will apply to most kinds of loss and for most people. Those of you who have suffered similar loss, feel free to add your opinion in the comments. Those whose loved ones are suffering loss, if I do not address one of your questions of concerns, ask me in a comment and I will see what I can do about that.

1) Acknowledge the Loss. -- Don't let your fear of doing or saying the wrong thing keep you from doing or saying anything. It is important that your friend know you care. How you acknowledge the loss depends on your relationship with the person. 
For a stranger - a blog comment, or if you have their address a note telling them how their loss has made you or the world better in some way.  My sister in law was deeply affected by a tragedy last year in her neighborhood. A family in a minivan was hit from behind by a semi and their 3 children were all killed. Since this accident a year ago, every time my sister in law passes that exit on the freeway she tells her 3 kids that she loves them. That type of thing is great to relay to the grieving parents. 

For a friend or acquaintance - Send a card, an email, flowers, a text message, a voice message, a contribution to a charity. Let them know you are thinking of them and praying for them. If you want to send a gift -- see my notes on the best gifts below. 

When you see them for the first time after -- It is best to just give them a quick tight hug and tell them "I love you." Saying you are so sorry for their loss, crying, or talking in depth about the loss just brings up the feelings of pain we are trying so hard to work through. Also, be careful about the look in your eyes. Try to give a look of tender love and confidence.  I know it is hard to control things like crying and the look of pity because seeing us makes you think of the loss and it saddens you. But what we need is love, not pity. 

For a close friend - This is where things get tricky. We need different things at different times depending on the stage of grief we are in and how we are feeling that hour.  When in doubt, ask your friend "What do you need right now? Space, a shoulder, a distraction, a joke, cookies, chocolate, Wii time?" Give them what they need at the time and don't expect the answer will be the same the next day or even the next hour. 
My friend Kathryn sent me my favorite Sprinkles cupcakes mix!
The Red Velvet Chocotherapy was delicious! Thanks Kathryn!

Serve your friend. Most people will not tell you when they really need something. I highly recommend insisting on serving. Don't ask if they need help cleaning. Just show up with your gloves on a cleaner in your hand and ask to see their bathroom. 

After my first miscarriage, a friend of mine called to see if she could come clean my house. I was hesitant. I couldn't do it but my mom was coming and she could. My friend insisted. "I will clean your place so your mom can spend time tending you," she said. 

She came over and got on her hands and knees and scrubbed my gross bathroom and cleaned my whole apartment. I will admit, I was a little embarrassed at first, but that act of service forged a bond of love for this friend that is unbreakable. I love Daleen and 8 years later we still are great friends even though we have lived in different cities for the last 6 years. She will be in town visiting me next week. Yeah! 

I had so many old friends who came to the funeral. That is another thing a close friend should do if it is possible. Go to the funeral. If it is long distance, your friend will likely not expect you to come. But if you do make that extraordinary effort, your friend will appreciate it. 

Family - Come.  If it is at all possible, come as soon as you can to surround your family member in unconditional, nonjudgemental love and support. Then do anything you can to help them. Do all the things I wrote in the close friend section. But most importantly just be with them. Even if you don't talk.  Just be near them.

2) Want to send a gift?  For Children -- When there is a child involved, sending a fun surprise really can take their mind off of their sorrow for a while.  I think "doing types" of gifts are wonderful. My children loved the crafts people sent. My kids happen to really love stuffed animals, I know not all kids do, but mine do and they received several that they treasure. Happy mail from other kids is also a great treat for kids. 

For Men: My husband tells me guys don't want stuff. They want distraction -- escapism. They want a guy friend to call them up and invite them out for a guy movie or a game of baseball or whatever else they are into. I have said this before but I also think the Wii or those kinds of distractions are good.

For Women: Sentimental gifts probably top my list. Photos, songs, DVDs, poems, the locket I got, the scrapbook, the magic blanket, tulips. Every gift says "I love you" and so every gift is wonderful. 

Books:
Most people who experience a loss also receive a number of grief books. I am no exception. The only problem with grief books is that it is VERY difficult to read anything of any length when you are submerged in grief. Your brain just cannot focus on something other than that which is lost for more than a few moments. So reading ... well ...  I managed to skim one or two books on helping children through their grief because I felt it was necessary for me to know this as a mother. That was so hard to do though. I am an avid reader and I have only managed to read one light historical fiction book. It was a bit of escapism for me but even then I was not as into it as I would normally have been. It took weeks before I could even watch TV (well except for SYTYCD). Reading takes so much more concentration than that. I am getting to the point where I think I could read more now, but I am still not up for any book about sad things.

I am sure there is great information in the books that I have. I am not saying no one should send grief books. But I think it would be more helpful if you took the time to read the book before you sent it and pick a few quotes that you think will be the most helpful to the person. Then type those quotes up and insert them in the book with a card. Inspiring and comforting quotes can be uplifting and strengthening. A few salient quotes are about the amount your brain can focus on when drowning in grief. Then later when the brain is more stable, the person can read the book for themselves. 
 
3) Long term care:
Time is a strange thing. I see the date on my calendar is late July but to me it still seems like June. The last 6 weeks have been a blur. The world is moving on, moving forward, but for me, it is strange to think it isn't still June. If someone close to you has lost someone in their immediate family, you should assume that this will be a sorrow to them the rest of their mortal lives. They may not always talk about it. They may not always think about it. But it will never completely go away. I think it is great to "check up on" a friend a couple months after the loss again just to let them know you haven't forgotten their pain. I may write another post on this down the road when I have more experience with the long term end of it.

4) Remembering: You should not be afraid to mention those who have died. We who miss them most enjoy remembering them. We want others to remember them too. They are part of our family whether they are on earth or in heaven. But here I must add a caution. We want to remember our little one but we DO NOT want to remember the circumstances surrounding their death. For most of us, the day our child died or the day they were in the accident that would take their life was the WORST day of our lives. Personally, it is something I want to forever blot out of my memory. So, while it is natural to wonder about the details surrounding how a child died, DO NOT ask this of the grieving parent. If they want to tell you they will do it of their own accord. In the case of accidents, they have already had to relive the experience by telling it to the cops, CPS, and the coroner. Every time I have to tell someone about this day I am immediately taken right back there to all the horrid emotions and crippling questions that surround those events. "How" is just not that important. If you have to ask someone, ask a friend of the family, not the family itself.

5) How are you?: This is an unavoidable question in human society. We answer it everyday several times from loved ones and strangers. It becomes a dreaded question when you are dying inside and don't want to share that with the asker. For those of you grieving, I have found that "I am doing well right now" to be a good answer. If I am not doing well, I stay silent and nod my head. Or I say "good days and bad days." I am sure you have found your own strategies for answering this question as well. 

For the askers, if you are really close to the person, I think it is okay to ask. Personally, I am not bothered by this question, but I know many others are. But for most friends, it is better if you just skip that question and say, "Hi. It is great to see you/hear your voice ..." then go onto the business of your call or visit.

I hope this helps some of you know how to deal with those who have experienced loss. I may have another installment later if I think of more things or if there are enough questions that need answering. Till then I will answer one of your burning questions. "How am I?"

"Today I am doing very well." 

72 comments:

Janelle said...

I am a mother of two. I too live in Las Vegas I just wanted to tell you THANK YOU! Thank you for your words, your honesty and the sincere messages & reminders that you share. My little girl Taryn just turned 1 on July 17th and I have slowed down to play with her a little bit more, caught more of her on videotape (even when she yells for more food from her high chair :), and snuggled and hugged her more since I first read your blog! I have also loved on my son Byron, 4 and read more to him as well. Camille, your words and your sweet family have touched my heart. Thank you!

Brett & Heather said...

Hi Stephanie--
Yes, I am an avid stalker of yours. I happily admit that. You are an AMAZING woman and example to us all.

I have to comment on your suggestions. They are so very real and dead on. I can't say that I have suffered a great loss but recently had a huge struggle of battling breast cancer while keeping a somewhat normal family life intact for my 4kids. All of your suggestions apply to my situation as well. Thank you for sharing your views with the world because there are so many who are at a loss when dealing with the "tough stuff" of life.

Hang in there and know that I (and many) pray for you daily. Because of you I have learned to slow down and hug and kiss my kids a little longer. THANK YOU!!!

Shanan said...

What great insight, Steph. I continue to be amazed at your ability to step back, see the Lord's purpose, understand the healing process, and help others grow from your loss. The greatest news from your post is that you are doing very well! Wonderful news. You are thought of often here in Austin and all of you continue to be in our prayers.

Andrea said...

I loved reading this. Just under 2 years ago my best friend's (We are as close as close can be, tell each other everything, tell eachother "I love you" before hanging up, very close) husband was killed in a car accident. Her sister called me soon after they got the news and I went right over. I feel that I tried my best to do these things that you wrote about. Just offered love and support. It is so hard to know what to do, and even though someone has suffered a similar loss, people are so different...I think these are great guidelines. I'm still amazed daily at your strength and wisdom.

Darren and Nikki said...

Simply perfect. Thanks for your words Steph. The advice is dead on.

Nikki

kathryn_m said...

You are amazing!

Heidi said...

Thank you so much for having your blog a open blog. You have no idea how many people that you touch. I am from Georgia. I came across your blog through Lucy's blog.

I am a fellow member of the church and have been my entire life. We lost my mother-in-law to cancer in April. Of course this is in no comparison to your loss. She had lived 77 wonderful years and has 7 children and 26 grandchildren to carry on her legacy. But with those 7 children (and 7 spouses) and 26 grandchildren comes many many forms of grief and how it is handled by different people. We all miss the incredible hole that Schell filled in our lives for many reasons.
I really enjoyed your tips for how to deal with someone that has suffered a loss. My husband would agree that men really just need an "escape" from the reality of it. After the funeral my husband didn't go back to her house for 3 months..and that was a hard thing for him to do. We had so many ward members from my mother-in-laws ward (Cedar Hills, UT) that embraced us and fed us, and sat with us at the hospital when the end was near. They weren't scared of our large crowd filling the back 3 rows of the chapel at church on that Sunday after Schell died. And her Bishop wasn't afraid to welcome us, and take a moment to tell the audience what a wonderful woman she was. It was an example that I want to fill when I meet someone in their time of need.
Your blog has helped me to understand and learn compassion. Thanks so much!
Heidi Kreitlein
Buford, GA

tharker said...

Thank you Stephanie for sharing these very helpful suggestions. I love to read your thoughts every day. Your words are an inspiration to me so thank you. (I'm pretty sure that I've thanked you in every comment that I have made, but I hope you know I truly do THANK YOU!)

Sleepless In St. George said...

Thanks for the insight. I hope I can be a better friend because of the suggestions you have given me!

Liz's Blog said...

AWESOME POST!!!!! What can I say....you are a wonderful woman!!!! See you tonight! XOXO

Ruthie said...

Thank you for sharing your example of faith and strength. It's made me more aware of how everything in this life truly is in Heavenly Father's hands. He really is in control though to many people life seems random and chaotic. And He is loving. He will do what is right for each one of us and we can hold His hand as we struggle through the hard times. All my love to you and your family - Ruth

Michelle said...

Thanks for writing this guide. I have not experienced the same loss as you but my father passed away when I was 19 of cancer. I remember people telling me that they knew exactly what I was going through. I know their intentions were good but it wasn't what I wanted to hear at the time. I think showing care and love is the best like you said.

It's been 11 years now since my Dad left us and I still think of him every day but time does heal.

julie said...

thank you for this post and all the others. your blog is inspiring. i hope that writing it brings as much comfort to you as it does to others.

Anonymous said...

Hello, I am a mother of one who just expirienced my first miscarriage last month. I found your blog through a friend's blog and I am amazed at your strength and your ability to see what the Lord wants us to see at the moment. Thank you for your insight. Thank you for your ability to write what we need to hear! Thank you.

Kunz Family said...

you are amazing... i have given this topic a lot of thought lately as well. i may just forward people from my blog to yours for this answer. i found a wonderful book. i hope you don't have it, because i really want to get it for you... "tear soup" let me know. love you, britt

Kunz Family said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Janice said...

Stephanie,
I am one of those "happened upon your blog" people. I found you through Darleen whose blog I also stalk. I was googling a product that pulled up her blog and then subsequently found yours the day after Camille's accident. Coincidentally, I am LDS too. I come to your blog for daily inspiration, and I am so glad you never run out of that flavor. I joined the church on my own as a young teenager. Your post on you and Camille being missionary companions is among my favorites. It gave me the inspiration to use my blog as more of a missionary effort with my family. I think of you daily as my baby wakes me early mornings to be fed. If ever I feel to grumble, I remember that Stephanie aches not to hear that cry in the morning. Those are only the smallest of ways in which you have inspired me to be a little better. Thank you for your words, and turning the hearts of all of us moms more deeply to our children. I can't help but think you willingly accepted this call before you came to this earth- to sacrifice and traverse this tragedy, so that many of us would better fulfill our role as mothers, so that we may better prepare a generation for the second coming. Thank you. Last Saturday my husband and I took opportunity to attend the temple. I couldn't help but place you, Jon, and the girls on the prayer roll. I hope you felt strength from those prayers. May I just add yet another thank you to you, a woman who has shown so many how truly great a woman can be.

Hoskins Family said...

Steph, what a truly inspirational post. We all want to help those that we love and care for in their time of grief. Yet, it is so hard to know of the right things to do. Our hearts are full of love and compassion and we want our actions to be the same. For those of us that don't have much experience helping someone through grief, it can be a daunting task. We don't want to cause any more hurt, so we think very hard about what we do. This post just helps us be able to give the love and support we want to give. Once again you are giving us, your readers, life lessons that we can carry with us always. Thank you! Love to all, Daleen

Anonymous said...

Stephanie, I just wanted to add a big "oh yes" to the advice to friends & family, to just come. Come to the funeral, come to serve. It means so much, and not just to those most immediately suffering. As a child I remember grumbling about a long drive to North Carolina for a cousin's funeral, but now I recognize how close my family is; how rare that family closeness can be in this world; and how grateful I am to know that I am THAT important to my family, and they are THAT important to me. I am so glad yours have been there for you. Praying for you.

Cara said...

You have such a magical way of putting words to paper (or in this case-on a blog) I will have to agree with you on all accounts. I lost both my parents suddenly 2 yrs ago and I wish I could have 1 had a blog and 2. had this to give to people. death is a hard thing and knowledge is power. The more we know the better we are at grasping it! Thank you so much for thinking of others at this time in your life! You are making miricles happen everyday!

Jeanette said...

I just found your blog today and I just wanted to say "I am so proud of you"

I know that sounds strange coming from a total stranger, but as a mom who has experienced loss, I feel like I know you in a way that many people don't.

Losing my daughter, my niece, and a dear friend within six months of each other devestated me, and I am ashamed to say that I did not have the inner strength that you have.

My loss turned me biter, angry and resentful.

My daughter died six years ago and there isn't a day that goes by that I don't mourn her loss. But my grief has turned into a hard shell inside of me, something that I can't get over, something that will not allow me to heal.

You are my role model. I would like to learn to deal with my grief with the grace and love that you show when you talk about your daughter and your family.

I think that tomorrow I would like for it to be Christmas in July, I need to learn to embrace my summers and look forward to Christmas with anticipation and eagerness, not with blinders on that block from my view all the good and joyful things that summer entails. I need to stop living for the future and learn to see the many things that today has to offer.

Christmas is definately a joyful thing, but without summer, when would we learn to appreciate what is to come?

Thank you and God bless you.

Crystal Annie said...

You are so wonderful. Thank you for everything you have said. I love you and your family, even though we are strangers. I am so strengthened by your words. I hope one day I can meet you. May your burdens be lighter and may you feel the Saviors love always.

Julie said...

Stephanie, very well-written. That was really helpful for me. I hope you know how much you are cherished. Thank you for sharing your heart. Camille's life has such great purpose. This is a ministry for us who read your words...... your daughter is beautiful and lives on in perfect happiness. And with a love that ONLY the Heavenly Father can provide.

Stay strong, you are in my prayers.
Julie
Sacramento

Kathryn Olsen said...

Wow, this post is such a treasure! I love all the insight...just what your mom taught you about men is valuable information, not to mention all the other things about grief. THANK YOU! I am continually amazed by your ability to express yourself and really share your feelings through your writing. This entry will help so many people be so much better at helping others in the future. You should submit this to the Ensign!
To follow one of your suggestions, I want to tell you about one of the ways Camille's influence has changed me for the better. It is through her funeral program. I have it up where I put birth announcements and wedding invitations and many times a day I see it. It reminds me of the things that I treasure the most...my husband and children, the plan of salvation, my Savior,and my eternal perspective. Something about seeing her big smile in that cushy chair on that blue paper over and over has really made me a better wife and mother and a better disciple of Christ. As you said in your "Call me Junior" post, she is serving in another place now, but I feel like she is still serving me here as well. She is a gift to so many. Thank you for sharing her! I love you.

Chell said...

Hi there. I found this poem while on the internet. As soon as I read it I thought of you. Im not sure if this fits into your "how to treat a friend who has suffered loss", but I really hope so. May the Lord bless you. Chell from Africa x


To All Parents - From God

“I’ll lend you for a little time a child of mine,” He said.
“For you to love the while she lives and mourn when she is dead,

“It may be six or seven years, or twenty-two or three.
“But will you, till I call her back, take care of her for me?

“She’ll bring her charms to gladden you, but should her stay be brief,
“You’ll have her lovely memories, as solace for your grief,

“I cannot promise she will stay, since all from earth return,
“But there are lessons taught down there I want this child to learn.

“I’ve looked the wide world over in my search for teachers true,
“And from the throngs that crowd life’s lanes I have selected you.

“Now will you give her all your love, nor think the labor vain,
“Nor hate me when I come to call to take her back again?

I fancied that I heard them say: Dear Lord, Thy will be done!
“For all the joy Thy child shall bring, the risk of grief we’ll run.

We’ll shelter her with tenderness: we’ll love her while we may,
And for happiness we’ve known forever grateful stay.

“But should the angels call for her much sooner than we’d planned.
“We’ll brave the bitter grief that comes and try to understand.”
By : Edgar Guest

Sleepless In St. George said...

I thought of this post all night long and although I already commented I just had to comment again. I think perhaps people meaning well say things that they think will be helpful when they actually cause pain. I know talking with lots of friends that struggle with infertility people suggest that they just adopt and then they will get pregnant right away. (If you physically can't you just can't). I would also think that people asking questions like how did it happen or when are you going to have another baby would be terrible things to say. Just my experience with the terrible things I have had to endure. Keep doing what you're doing, cause you're doing great!

Anonymous said...

Stephanie

Thank you for your comments. I remember the day that I took you to the hospital to have Camille. What an exciting day that was for me. As someone who has had many miscarriages, I know the process of grief too well. We sure miss you and your family in our ward. I miss being your visiting teacher. Take care. Vicki Gibbs

s g said...

I think this is really helpful Stephanie. I have had 2 close friends lose their mom's and a cousin lose her husband in the last few years and I think they would agree with just about everything on you have said. Thanks for sharing, I know it will help so many others who just aren't sure what to do.

Greg was also commenting the other day how he LOVED your idea of you and Camille as missionary companions...how true it is and what a beautiful way to see life.

Tori said...

I am Camille Easton's sister in-law. I just wanted to tell you thank you for your blog and your perspective on life. I am a mother of one little girl. You helped me remember how precious life is. I sometimes get caught up in the moments and forget how lucky I am to have the gospel and a wonderful family. Thank you for reminding me. One of my friends in my ward just had a son (5years old) diagnosed with cancer. I have been struggling to know what to do or say. I think that today I might just show up at her house with my cleaning gloves on!

Tori Easton

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your words of wisdom. I am not a good writer and want you to know how much I appreciate you sharing your journey. Your words are helping me to continue to heal.

10 years ago I had my first son born still at 7 and a half months. The loss was so unbearable that I kept everything inside. 4 years later I had my second son born still at 6 and a half months. I want you to know that reading your blog is like reading a journal I should have been writing. It gives me more comfort than you know.

I have been asked several times by other people what to do for someone who has suffered loss. I could not agree with you more. Through my own journey I have found to be honest with the roller coaster of emotions. I was always concerned that I did not want people to feel sorry for me. I have learned we are all at different places in our lives and for most people it is not easy to think about death or having a chronic illness. I have to be true to myself, and you have really helped me in doing that.

My husband was diagnosed with cancer two years ago that almost took his life. He is still battling side effects from his treatment. I have never felt my boys closer. I have felt them comforting me in some very dark times. They truly are a blessing in my life, even though they are not physically here with me.

Thank you again for putting your heart out there. I don't even know you. but you have really become a gift in my daily life. I have received an amazing amount of strength from you and your words. Thank you for being a bright light!

Natalie said...

Stephanie, I too am a blog stalker and found your blog through a friend at the time of Camille's death. I am LDS and live here in Las Vegas too. I have shed many tears on your behalf. I am so very sorry for your loss. I am amazed at your strength and testimony. You are an example to many. I got an email today and thought of you. I don't know if you have read it, but I felt impressed to pass it along to you. I hope you will find comfort in the words spoken. Your friend in the gospel, Natalie
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=snAjZ8mfoYw

Meliss said...

I am not a mother yet but hopefully soon. I found your blog from someone's else blog. Hope that's okay. I have enjoyed reading your blog and it has inspired me. I lost my nephew about 3 months ago. He would have been the first. I was so excited to have him come to Earth, but when we found out I was very sad. I've been thinking about my nephew lately and have had some questions go through my mind. I had questions when everything happened as well, but have found that if I rely on my Heavenly Father and sometimes others they will be answered. I have enjoyed reading your blog and a couple other people who have lost their children. As I was reading your lost post it reminded me of what one of my best friends did for me, and has done for me. She was there for me and told me to call her anytime. I remember that I wouldn't talk about things at first, but afterwards when I felt like I could talk about things one of my best friends was there to listen and give advice. I will testify that friends are so important at a time like this and in the future. I know that my nephew came to Earth to get a body and then left again. I know that my brother and sister in-law will be able to raise him to his state in the celestial kingdom, and I know that you will be able to raise your daughter as well. (Sorry, my thoughts are scattered but I felt like I need to comment on this post.) Thanks for your posts and inspiration. I am grateful for the knowledge of knowing families can be together forever, the gospel, and the blessings the Atonement brings to everyone of God's children.
Thanks,
Melissa
(Idaho)

Meliss said...

I forgot to say, I have a private blog where I'm wrote down my thoughts of what happened to my nephew and my feelings. I didn't want everyone to see my feelings about it, because there are other feelings of things going in my life as well on that blog.

Hang in there!! You have touched so many lives. Thanks for your inspiration.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Stephanie-

It's a not-very-interesting story as to how I (an avowed atheist and happy to be one) happened upon your blog and continue to read it almost daily. But I hope it doesn't bother you that I do. While we don't share the same beliefs, I very much respect yours, and these posts on "how to treat a friend" have been so helpful and insightful.

A couple days ago I called one of my friends. It was just a few days after we'd spent some time together seeing a local theatre production of the musical "The Secret Garden." I'd seen it several times before and she hadn't. It was beautiful, we'd taken a couple little girls we mentor through a local school program, and we'd all enjoyed the show very much. When I phoned, I just wanted to say hi, etc. She was brusque, chilly, and abrupt with me on the phone. We only talked a moment. It was very much unlike her, and it really surprised me. Initially I thought, "what did I do?"

At first, I sat there feeling hurt. Then I really looked at the calendar. It was just a few days before the one-year anniversary of her toddler grandson's death in a car accident. Only three or four days before, we had watched a beautiful but intense musical story all about death, grief, loss.

When I made that connection, my first thought was to call her back and tell her it was okay, I understood and to see what I might do. But I didn't. I knew she needed a little space. Then I read your "prologue." I knew I'd done the right thing for her in not contacting her then.

Just as I was reading the part 2 post, the phone rang. It was my friend. "I'm sorry for being so short with you on the phone. I was just feeling so much grief. . . ." she said.

Grieving is life-long and a very personal experience. But I think you have hit upon some universal important truths in your posts. Thank you very much. I am so sorry for Camille's loss, but your family's strength and your ability to reflect on what you're feeling and serve others as you heal is the most compassionate act I can imagine.

All the best,

D. in the midwest

Lloyd & Leslie said...

Stephanie, the weekend you all were laboring with your extreme trial, we were out of town (well, staying at a place in town, but no one could get ahold of us) and so got back home just in time to go to church and the first we knew what had happened. The bishop was very direct even, yes, forceful in his counsel on what should and should not be said. There was no ambiguity. It was almost off putting it was so strong, but it was right for you and that's why he had to get the message across. And, as it turned out it was a great thing for him to have done because it gave us all a set of "rules" to go by so there was no question. We were all very lucky to have the bishop give that message from you.

When my daughter lost a child, born asleep just prior to her due date, we cared for her throughout and during her recovery in our home for weeks afterward and were just burdened down caring for her (emotionally, physically, spiritually) and also the needs of very young twins that didn't understand and her other young son. I have had miscarriages including one that likely signalled the end of my ability to try to have a child with my (remarried) husband (it was cancerous -- a complete molar pregnancy), but my daughter's loss was much more painful. I could not accept help when asked, though I obviously needed it. I was just paralyzed really even to speak to most people. I know that grief can do that so when you said just insist on helping, jump in and do something (if you are close to the person), that was so true, as well as the inability to really articulate some things early on because grief, at least for me, shuts my mouth down (and that includes a desire to eat).

The weekend you were out of town, Trisha Bly spoke to us in Relief Society (the lesson was on death) and she gave some thoughts about how she coped when her son died last year. One of the things she mentioned was that she wants people to call her son by name, mention his name to her, etc. You've done that with speaking about Camille here and letting others speak of her, too. So wise of you. :)

You mentioned in another post about putting a story out there for your family's legacy. Are you printing your blog entries to put into a hard copy journal?

Leslie

Darleen said...

I know I was in tears everytime you saw me. But I know you know I love you. She was a blessing to the entire family and I was so grateful to spend time a little time with her while I was in town. This is great advice and very helpful.

hughesfam said...

Stephanie- I happened upon your blog about a week ago. I am another LDS mother who is grieving the loss of a child. In Jan. I went to my 16 week OB appointment and sadly no heartbeat could be found. I had two ultrasounds previously and saw my precious baby moving inside me. That experience changed my life. My best friend in my ward here abandoned me... she came over the day I found out and told me she had just found out the night before she was pregnant. She did arrange dinners for my family for a week and took care of child care issues and made some necessary phone calls for me, but a week later she was calling and wondering when I was going to be "better". She told me that my testimony I bore was "weird"...the list goes on. Anyway, I love your advice in this post and wish I could send it to my "friend". I am desperately trying to forgive her in my heart. It hurts so much-the grieving process alone, but to add losing friends on top of that is almost unbearable. We got pregnant again and miscarried at 5 weeks...it has been a heck of a year. But, I have come to know my Savior on a whole new level and for that I am eternally grateful. Thank you for sharing your story.
Stacy

Sandi said...

Beautifully written and right to the point.

Marleen said...

I was hoping you'd do a post like this. You have answered many questions that have been on my mind since June. I think others may agree that have not experienced something like this to your degree, how helpless we feel. We'd like to help and give comfort but don't know exactly how. There are so many people mourning with you at this time, that is most apparent. I hope in the future that I will be helpful and not offend you and your family as well as other friends and family who are suffering.

Heywood Clan said...

Hi Stephanie~
My name is Amy and my sister told me about your blog. I have been following it for awhile now. I just wanted to tell you Thank You for sharing it so openly with all of us. I have learned so much from you. You are such an amazing person!! I have definitely slowed down to enjoy each and everyone of my 4 children thanks to your advice. Thank you so much!!

Julene said...

I loved your advice. Thank you for letting me know what to do. I want to help but sometimes don't know how. This is great information that should be published.

Christy and John said...

Stephanie,
I am friends with Brittany who lost her son around the same time you did so I came across your blog. You obviously have a way with communicating with people that touches them and helps them. My sister passed away unexpectedly 3 weeks ago. Before we lost Sandra I would have probably not said anything to someone who had lost a loved one because I would think they wouldn't want to talk about it. Like you said, that's not true. Acknowledgement is very important. Thanks for your post.
Christy Denney

Val said...

Stephanie,
I am a friend of Elizabeth's in San Clemente. I visit your blog almost daily and find so much inspiration in your words. You are an amazingly talented writer and I absolutely love your openness and honesty. The gift you are giving so many women through this blog is priceless and a legacy to Camille. Thank you!

KMeechudhone said...

Stephanie,
I weep everytime I read your blog. I sometimes hesitate to read it because I it hurts me so much as a mother to consider myself in your shoes for a moment. I find myself annoyed with my children on a regular basis. I then am reminded that I may not always have them and try to be nicer. Thank you for your insight about how to deal with someone who is dealing with such a huge loss. You should be a writer. Kim Meechudhone

Brittany Osborn said...

My aunt just died of lukemia two months ago. It has been a hard loss and we miss her terribly. Her daughter and I talked on the phone yesterday after I had read part one of this entry. She talked about how she wished people wouldn't say certain things like, "Try to appreciate what you have." She knows she needs to appreciate what she has but doesn't understand how that has anything to do with the fact she no longer has her mom here on earth with her. Also they have said, "She is in a better place." Her dad finds this very frustrating. Like life here with him wasn't good. We discussed how people just don't know what to say. She said before her mom died she was ignorant to this as well. I felt inspired to put a link to you post on my blog helping people understand what we should and should not do. Thank you for helping me and others to handle the situation just a little bit better.
Also, my friend from my mission in Missouri is the Cathy who designed your logo. What a small world especially since she is not he person I found your blog through.

Laurie said...

I visit your site often. I think I have posted before and I wanted to post on this also.
I am the mom of 4 children, but only two of them live here with me. I gave birth to stillborn twins.
I like your list and I think it is something that people need to know. I disagree on one thing. I have no problem with people saying "I am so sorry for your loss." I prefer people to say that then to try to come up with reasons for the loss. I HATE when people bring GOD into the equation. I am a Christian and I do believe in God. My problem though with this is that the comment "they are better off now with the God" does not make a grieving person feel any better. Because although that may be true that my children are having a great time in Heaven there is no worse feeling than thinking that my kids who I never got to know are better off without me. "This was God's plan" is another quote that I would avoid alltogether also. I think it is sad that people bring God into it and how often do you know someone's heart and true relationship with the Lord? I am saying total strangers saying this to you.
Again this is very important because many people have hurt me very badly with their comments on why my girls were born still. Unless God whispered in your ear as to why my daughters are in Heaven and I never got to know them then I would just prefer you keep your mouth shut and just say you are sorry.
I don't think people know how much a grieving person is seeking truth and asking the questions of why. Why did this happen? why did this happen to me? In my case I took everything people said to me and listened to it very carefully because maybe that is where my answer to the why would be. The more I played the comments in my head the more outraged I would become. Some people say some very ignorant things.
Again I am very sorry about Camille.

The Gray Family said...

Hi Stephanie!
Thanks for such a great list of suggestions. I have been fortunate in my life so far (knock on wood) to not experience any great loss. It does unfortunately make me really bad at knowing what to do when people I know are experiencing such heartache. I truly am sorry that you are having to go through such a horrible thing, but grateful to you and your example! You are touching the lives of so many people with your beautiful words. Camille accomplished more in her 14 short months than most of us will in a lifetime.

The Silly Witch said...

Your guide is right on. I lost my 5 year-old to a brain tumor nearly three years ago, and I appreciated any love sent my way. Your comment on books was especially right on. While I appreciated the thought people gave into books, I just looked at them as big cards and rarely read them. I did appreciate the children's books sent to my 4 year-old, though, and the simple messages of comfort they contained. I wish you peace as you grieve; I know that people can cry every day and yet still move forward with gratitude, faith, and peace.

Anonymous said...

Your comments are very helpful to those of us who are close to someone who has suffered a loss. Over three years ago we lost a 8 month old grandson to cancer and I still think about him almost every day. I tried to support his parents as best I could but know I slipped up many times. I tried making deals with God - give me this cancer and take it away from him - knowing that it was not in His plan.
I too have found myself saying nothing out of fear of saying the wrong thing, even after suffering this terrible loss.
As a parent of a child who lost a child, it was (and is) so very, very difficult to watch not only your child, but his child, my grandchild, suffer through the dying process. Now I have a daughter who recently suffered a miscarriage. I still struggle with what to say. Thank you for this insight.

Michelle said...

If you are ever asked to give a fireside - please let us know. I would love to "hear" the words you write. Again - my testimony is stronger because of you - because Camillel lived and lives again.
Bad days suck. And the sad thing is, they will probably always come and go --- but then again... so do the good and the GREAT days. I pray for your comfort every night.
The things you write - how do you feel about being "quoted" when having to speak in S. Meeting? :)

Kelly And Andy said...

I am a Mom of 3 and LDS. My first son passed away 4 years ago. He cam way to soon at 23 weeks he lived 3 1/2 months. Just as you did the day he died my husband and I knew it was time for him to return home. As I read your blog I remeber all the feelings you have and some days they are as fresh as the day he died. In Long Term I would tell people just because time has passed and its been years the pain of the loss still comes. It creeps up on you when you least expect it. There are days I feel as if I just lost him. A member of my bishopric told me his mother lost a baby and 40 years later there are days that she feels the pain and misses that baby. Sometimes I think its just us missing him. I know though he comes to my side on the days that are really bad becuase I feel him there and especially in the temple. Thank you so much for putting many of my feelings to words and also putting on your blog Calling All Angels I have been looking for the artist and the name of that soon for awhile.
Thank YOU!!!

Anonymous said...

best advice ever. thank you.

loving others, my new goal, not just to those that mourn, but to those within my reach too. you teach with grace, you're so close to the lord, it emulates from you, you inspire me to BE better.

May God continue to Bless You as you bless your family, friends and strangers' lives.

Adam and Megan's Mom said...

wonderful advice thankyou!

Gina Rochelle said...

Thank you Stephanie! This is something I REALLY needed. I struggle to know what to do and say for people experiencing pain. Love, good intentions, and sincere condolences can fall short of offering comfort and help. I know (on a much smaller scale) I learned while Jamie was away for several months that the only way I would accept the help I needed was when someone pushed themselves in the door. I'm better at my service now and hopefully will be better with the words too.

Tiffany Robinson said...

Wow! I am so glad that you wrote down some of the things of what to do. I am the witness of a tragedy that just happened last week and I am trying to deal with this also. Yes I am a stranger to someone who died, but I wanted to do or say something and I didn't know how until I read your blog....so thank you so much for being so honest. you are a strong woman and you have inspired so many.

Lacie said...

wow, I hardly read something that takes my breath away, you have the strength I could not find deep down inside me even if I tried, absolutley amazing, you bring tears to my eyes...,

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your words. And for the courage and eloquence to provide very real, very tangible suggestions on how to help others in their grief.

Our family is devastated by a situation that mirrors your own. I'm so so so sorry for your loss. And I'm so so sorry and heartbroken for ours.

Thank you for helping me know how to try to love and help those I love so dearly.

Barnes Family said...

Stephanie,
Your blog has really touched my heart. I feel so for you and your family. Thank you for your strength it really inspires me to be a better mother, wife, friend everything.
My cousin lost her 14 month old in a bathtub accident in the beginning of June. I haven't known what to do or say for her. Your words have helped me to realize that I need to put aside my fear of not knowing what to say but that I just need to call and show her my love.
I am so in awe of you and your courage. Thank you!

Stephanie said...

What great advice and direction. I guess you will see if I am any good at following instructions!

k8 said...

hi stephanie-

i am a friend of darren and nikki's and i just really want to thank you for being so open throughout this experience. your blog has been a source of so much inspiration over the last few weeks. this advice comes at a great time as an old friend recently lost her husband and i was feeling at a complete loss as to how to reach out.

your family has been in my prayers the last few weeks and will continue to be.

i hope you are enjoying SYTYCD tonight ; )

kc in boston

Amy Jones said...

Stephanie - I'm using this post in my relief society lesson on Sunday. The topic is death. I've been very intimidated about giving it, until I remembered this post and of course others you've posted. Thank you!
Amy (Cox)

Tiggerjay said...

Thank you so much for your post, it really helps!

Tracy said...

Hi Stephanie,
My sister referred me to this post on your blog. I'm a mother a 5 and have had two people in my life experience very recent deaths of their babies. My heart simply aches for them, and for you, and your post answers so many questions I've been asking myself on where to go from here, after the funerals, etc. Thank you for sharing yourself and sweet Camille with a total stranger. I am inspired by your words and so thankful to have "met" you and your little angel today.

Beverly @ The Buzz said...

Thank you so much for these wonderful thoughts. I hope you don't mind if I post them on my blog. We lost our oldest daughter 3 1/2 years ago and people still don't know how to treat us. Maybe this post will help them--and us. Hugs and prayers to your family.

Noel Giger said...

I'm so glad to have found you through Somewhat Simple. We lost our 3 month old son (our 3rd out of 4 children) to SIDS 3 years ago. Everytime I am with other families who have experienced a loss, the conversation always ends up with something like what you have written! We all swear that "one day" we will write a book!

Personally, I told my husband I would break the arm of the next person who said "just think of all the other grieving mothers you'll be able to minister to when you get through this"! I ended up using art as a way to heal, and just started a business this year - you can come visit my blog or FB page if you like. Blessings, Noel

Amy said...

I really think you hit it right on the nose for the most part. I lost my 17 month old son July 12, 2010 and it is all still very fresh in my mind. The only thing different for me is I'm constantly reading anything I can get my hands on about grief and uplifting talks and things. I have 4 living children and I'm always concerned for them and wanting to have the answers whenever the questions come so I want to be well prepared. I plan on posting a link to your blog on mine for all my friends and family to read. Thank You..

Elizabeth said...

Wonderfully said. Thank you for posting from your heart and giving such practical advice. It takes away the "I don't know what to do or say" synodrome. I worked through the loss of 3 unborn children and total loss of the ability to have more this year. There were some very dark days but it always helps when someone cares enough to say or do something. Thank you.

Stephanie said...

These are wise words. It's so hard to know how to help friends after a loss. I'll always remember reading somewhere that the best thing to do is to DO SOMETHING.

A little effort means a lot.

stephanie@metropolitanmama.net

Todd and Jeanette and family said...

Stephanie,
It is interesting the way that things happen. I came upon your post a couple of weeks ago through a link from another post. I read it completely, and was so humbled by your generous gift of offering to help others through a loss.
It was to my sadness, that I learned just a few days later that my best friend of 36 years lost her husband unexpectedly. I have referred to your blog a few times over the last week, so that I could be more perceptive of her needs. I just want to thank you for helping both of us through this very difficult and challenging time. Please continue to share your feelings on this blog because you have a gift to help others. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

Anonymous said...

One of my dearest friends found out in December 09 that her baby boy's kidney's were not developing and that there was a good chance he would not make it full term, and even if he did, he would not live for more than a few hours. After receiving this news her closest friend told us not to contact her. To give her space. As this person was her closest confidant we did just that for a few months. As the due date drew near I couldn't fight the strong feelings and desire I had to contact this friend and in turn found out that she had long been wondering why so many of us had what seemed like to avoid her. Oh how I wish that I would have come across your blog sooner. I have now learned that it is better to do something, to say something, to acknowledge rather than to avoid and be silent. I am sorry for your loss, and hope as a result more of us will know how to respond and take action in times of tribulation.

Steve and Jen said...

Thanks for this post. I was brought to your blog recommended by a friend. I just lost my son at the end of May (he was 10, had special needs and has been healthy for the last 5 yrs. but had an emergency surgery and didn't survive.) We miss him deeply and I feel all of your advice in this post is spot on! We have one biological daughter who is 12 and are hoping to adopt (We have been in that process for 1 yr & 3 months.) Some beautiful things that others have shared with me about loss:
Loosing a child is like birthing them into immortality, so you have put all of this effort into birthing them into another life but do not have a sweet thing to hold and love in your arms, just the loss. This was beautiful to me, such a sweet way to think of death/life.

I have received the most thoughtful gifts! I have such lovely friends and such wonderful family. I have this tile that my friend made that gives me such hope. It reads "The best way to have a piece of heaven in your home is to have a piece of your home in heaven."

One more thing that has been super thoughtful... Someone annoymously has been putting gifts on my doorstep about once a week. It is so thoughtful, but fun to think about who is doing this, I really have no idea, but I like to think that it is 1 of 3 people. Small things like a small boquet of flowers, a movie with popcorn, homemade bread, lemonade with fresh lemons and cute plastic cups, taffy and sparklers. They are always so cute with ribbon, but no message.
Aren't our lives ment to celebrate and mourn with each other? God bless these people who do this and are angels on earth!

Becky said...

Just "happened" upon your blog this evening. Found this post and I think I'll print it and give it to everyone I know that wonders what they should do for someone that has lost a loved one.

I have never been great with words, so to read what I have felt the past few months is incredibly comforting. We lost our 14 year-old son this past June. He was hit by a boulder that flew off a mountain while hiking in Nepal with my husband and our 12 year-old son. My girls and I were here at home when it happened. The hole in my chest is immense and yet we have felt incredible comfort from the "enabling and strengthening power" of the Atonement.

Some of our friends gave us the most thoughtful gifts. To name a few:

-A plaque that reads "There are some who bring a LIGHT so great to the world that even after they are gone, THE LIGHT REMAINS." It sits prominently on the mantle above our fireplace.

-A Willow Tree figurine of a boy sitting on a stack of books, reading another book, with yet another book sitting open at his feet (our son was a FANATIC reader).

-A Hummel figurine of a boy playing a horn, carrying a lantern (a gift from his french horn teacher- she said the lantern represented the light he carried)

-A yellow bucket of "sunshine" filled with all kinds of yellow things: candy, cookies, headbands for our girls, etc.

-Someone came and decorated the bushes by our front door on his birthday (a mere month after his death)

-A neighbor girl held a lemonade stand with a couple of other neighbor children she was babysitting and brought the proceeds to us so we could enjoy a dinner out

There have been countless other acts of kindness shown to our family for which we will ever be grateful. I think the reaction that I remember best from a friend was a couple of weeks after our son's funeral. I hadn't seen or spoken with this friend yet (there were ~1000 people at his funeral and we obviously didn't have time to visit with each person) and she came up to me and said, "I don't want to say anything but 'I love you' and to give you a hug." I will never forget it.

Thank you for sharing...