Wednesday, September 17, 2008

How to Treat a Friend Who Has Suffered a Loss -- Part 3

I have had some requests for an updated post on this subject. And being three months down the road of grief, the road is different here. My needs are different here. I have been hesitant to put down in writing how to treat someone a little further out because I am not sure what the right answers are. I am not sure there even are "right" answers. I am not always sure how I want people to treat me. You can see how confusing this subject can be.

But, once again, I will try to stick to things I think are generally universally appreciated and then let you know about the things that are more specific to me.

We are now at the point where the mail is full of bills and junk once again. Our loss is not the subject of every conversation we have. The weight of the grief is not as constant as it was in the beginning. We are stronger in our bearing of it than we were.

Still there are waves of grief that come over us with great intensity. They are far less frequent but they still come in unexpected moments. These waves can seem even more intense than those waves did in the early days. And when they do come, we suffer them more privately than we did before.

No one can anticipate these waves. Only the Lord knows when they will hit. So for the woman who wanted to know what to do for a person she visit teaches or a close friend, live worthy of and follow the promptings of the Spirit. Pray for this friend and when you pray for her ask if there is anything you can do that she needs that day. This is probably the only universally right answer for what to do for someone who has suffered a loss. 

At this point in the road, I don't want to talk about my loss in every conversation. I also don't want to feel I can't talk about Camille. I love talking about Camille. I am less interested in talking about the loss of her. So it really takes listening to the Spirit to determine if today is that day your friend needs something done for her.

So let's say you feel it is a day she needs something. Now what to do? Again this probably varies greatly depending on the person. I do think there are some pretty safe things you can do that will be fairly universally appreciated.

First, show or express love. If you are going to see her that day, reach out and give her a hug. I have one friend who has given me a tight quick hug every time I have seen her since the accident. It always makes me feel better. If you don't have plans to see her, drop her an email or text, or flowers, or a card that just says, "I was thinking about you today and wanted to let you know that I love you and I still pray for you." You don't need to bring up the loss. Just express love and support. These little love notes can be so helpful on those days we feel swept away by a wave of grief.

Second, I have found it very difficult to deal with all this extra time I have. I have little motivation to get out and fill it with classes or jobs or whatever. I still have Lauren to tend all day. But tending a 3 year old is much less work than tending a 1 year old. I don't want to feel committed to being somewhere everyday to fill the extra time. Somedays, I still need a little time to myself. But I wish I had more spontaneous beneficial time fillers.

So, call your friend up and ask her to go out to lunch, go on a walk, or to a movie. Even better, ask her to serve. Serving brings blessings and it makes us feel good. We need to be sensitive to the type of service we ask our friend to do. You don't want to ask a person who lost a baby to come babysit your kids unless you know her REALLY well and she has told you she wants to do that. For many grieving mothers, it is hard to be around kids the age of the kids they lost.

Still asking the grieving mother to make a meal for someone or to visit the elderly or to make humanitarian kits is a great way to give her opportunities for service. And if she doesn't want to do it, give her a way to say "Thanks, but no. I am not up for that today."

That is about it for my tips on what you can do for someone at this point on the road. I haven't hit any big anniversaries yet like a birthday or holiday. I am sure those will take some extra love and support to get through. I hope this helps for now. 




23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Stephanie,

I do not have any children...so I have not gone through the lose you are experiencing. However I lost my father 7 years ago on July 10, 2001. After reading your post tonight, I agree with the tips you have given on how to treat someone who has lost someone close to them. Like you have said many times; the pain doesn't get easier or go away, we just become stronger in our trials that we are given in life. There are days I am still very angry. I was young when I had to say goodbye to my dad...I was graduating high school and I was supposed to be excited to go off to college...but I was left making choices with the rest of my family that no one should have to make. As you said Holidays/Birthday and big aniversaries must be harder/different...I would agree with this. One person once told me to try to celebrate the birthday and not put as much focus on the day of the passing. I see why they said this...but actually making yourself feel that way is different.

You are a very strong wife, mother, friend and daughter...and you have touched so many people not only those you know but many whom you have never and never will meet in person.

Take care...and thank you so much for all of your posts...you have such a strong faith and I believe that you and Camille have helped so many people.

JG

HammondFam said...

Thank you for sharing your insight on this subject with us (your readers). I told my sister about some of the other things you said in part one and part two, and she put it to good use recently. There is a woman in her ward that lost her husband 5 years ago to cancer, very suddenly. My sister is younger than her and she just didn't know how to talk to her. But, after reading your tips, she had the courage to ask about her husband, and the woman was thrilled to share. It was like she had been waiting for this moment, and it all came pouring out. She even brought a picture of him to church the following Sunday. She hugged my sister and thanked her for taking the time to care. So, you should know, your insight is blessing the lives of others. Thank you.

Amanda said...

Thank you for being so honest! Perfect! You are so talented!!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tips. I have a friend who recently joined the church and is still in such deep grief for her husband that it seems to almost paralize her some times. I have been given some ideas that will help me help her to move forward.

Tim and Marcee said...

I found your site recently and have to say how sorry I am for your loss. It brings tears to my eyes each time I look at it. What a special little girl you have.

My grandma passed away almost 5 years ago this Oct, and it is very hard still to see my grandpa w/out her everyday. She was only 68 and it was a sudden heart attack while sitting in the car w/my grandpa and uncle. That was it.

My grandpa loves to talk about her, and loves that his children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren talk about her... all the time. Everyone does grieve differently and we all need to have respect for that. When my grandma passed, we had a family only type funeral. Just family. It was so nice. We then got a lot of grief from friends that were upset about the fact that they didn't get to say goodbye. People definately need to know their boundaries and know the people to whom they are talking too. Even after 41/2 years, it is very hard. but with love and support of friends and family, you can get through anything.

Take care... Marcee

Anonymous said...

Stephanie, when I was little, our Sunday school teacher invited us over to her house and taught us a lesson about prayer. She wanted us to understand the power of prayer, especially the power of many people praying together. Anyway, she asked each of us to take a turn trying to move a huge, old, overstuffed armchair across the room, and of course none of us children could do it. But when all of us pushed together, we did move the chair. I tell you this because I want you to think of it, the next time the waves of grief overwhelm you. There are so many of us, all over the country and all over the world probably, praying for you. For you! I don't mean that you shouldn't feel the grief (I am saying this badly) but I hope you can also feel us all lifting you up, especially in the toughest moments. I am thinking of you in the largest, comfy-est armchair of your choice

Thank you for this post, and for the guidance you are giving through the blog.

Mandi said...

I thought you stated all this very well. I agree with the service part. You can usually help anyone through doing service or being served. It's a great way to show love and support.

Tami said...

I heard a man who lost his 15 year old son say that he was talking to the son's youth leader and told a story about the boy. He then realized that he had told the leader the story already several times and he apologized for telling the story again. The youth leader put his arms around him and said, "I will never tire of hearing stories about your son."

This grieving man said that that was the best thing that anyone could ever say to him.

Stephanie said...

To the Anonymous on the power of prayer,

I do feel the power of the prayers. Oh yes. I have felt their power in such clarity as I could never have imagined before. Thank you very much to all of you who have prayed for me and who continue to do so. That is the sure fire way to help someone in need.

much love,
stephanie

Jen Lee said...

I found your site through a friend and I am so impressed with the understanding, love and grace that you have developed through your experiences. I don't know if you have discussed this is in a previous post (I wish I could sit and read your posts from the last 3 months~ but with 3 small kids at home that isn't very plausable)~ but a thought came to my mind as I was reading and I thought I would throw it out there.... I don't know if you have done anything with Camille's things, but if you still have her clothes and blankets I thought it would make a beautiful patchwork quilt for your family to share as a reminder of her. And on the hard days how nice it would be to snuggle up on the couch and be surrounded by her warmth and love. May God continue to bless your family.

Rey and Meegan said...

That was beautifully written. Great advice for all of us.
I have been reading your blog for quite sometime now, and you continue to amaze me. I can see that you are a womean that tries to live by the spirit everyday. And, that you want to do the Father's will.
Thanks for being the mouthpiece for so many. I will continue to pray for you and your family as I have been. May today be a good day for you.

Val said...

Thank you for continuing to share your life, your wisdom, your wonderful spirit with us here in "blogdom". I still peak at your blog everyday and am always uplifted and inspired. I love how real you are, how open and honest you are and I admire your ability to express yourself so perfectly through writing. I hope you know how much you are appreciated! Thank you for giving so much, even when you may not feel like giving.

Anonymous said...

I found your blog very randomly and have read the whole thing over the past week when I get the chance at work. Many times my eyes have filled with tears as I've read your powerful example of trust and faith in the Lord. My brain cannot comprehend the complete agony of what you've experienced...for your loss I am truely sorry. And at the same time, grateful to you for sharing this time for it has greatly helped me. The caliber of your spirit, outlook, the things you have expressed have been an inspiration and a blessing to me. You and your family have been in my prayers. Thank you for your example. I admire you. May the Lord continue to be with and bless your sweet family.
A hug and my love,
KT

Randall said...

It is always interesting to read other people's views on the grieving process and how often it is the same a your own. I especially agree with wanting to talk about the person who has died. Not about their death, about them.

When eating ice cream with someone I want to tell them my father's favorite flavor. Or in the summertime how he kept a bowl of water with cleaned radishes in the fridge. He lived, he had things he loved. Just because he isn't here now doesn't mean he never was.

Thanks for sharing your daily stories, I enjoy reading what you have to say and how you're doing.

Heidi A. said...

Thank you for your beautiful blog. I can't even imagine what it would be like to lose a child though I know a lot about other loss. Thank you for your openness and honesty! You touched me.

A CD that helped me was by Jack R. Christenson entitled "Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled". It came at a time I needed and taught me things that I apprediated hearing.

Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

I've found that blogging is therapeutic. We've got a new blog LIST for Mormon Moms who blog and would love to add your name if you are willing. It's at http://MormonMomsWhoBlog.blogspot.com if you are interested.

Thanks and ..... hugs to all.

Stacy said...

Stephanie,
I wanted to ask you a question, after your post a few days ago, but I wasn't sure what I wanted to ask you. After a few days of pondering I've been wondering one thing. Have you ever thought about homeschooling your children? From my understanding you are a reader, {me too!!}, so I was wondering if you've ever heard of the book "A Thomas Jefferson Education." It is so wonderful. It has changed my life forever. I could never thank Oliver Van Demille enough for how it has helped me. I'll have to read "These is My Words" now!

Jody said...

Stephanie, have you seen this? I hope everyone votes for you. :)

http://www.divinecaroline.com/awards/801-a-daily-scoop

Tara said...

My cousin, who is facing the eminent death of her ailing child, shared this article with me today. She said the concept was one she knew, but the analogy helped make it real. I wanted to share it with you.

http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=78d33645a2cba110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&hideNav=1

Tara said...

Sorry I don't think the link worked correctly. It's an article titled Lesson from a Milk Jug from July 2008 Ensign.

MM said...

Thanks! It's very helpful...

Anonymous said...

A little different topic, but maybe same concept. I have a friend who was diagnosed with cancer and is currently going through chemo. Does anyone have experience with this and ideas on what to do/how to treat someone going through this experience?

Whitney said...

I think you should post this post (and parts 1 and 2) on the side bar for quick reference. Many people will want to reference them in the future, but will either have to search for them or won't even know they are here.

Stephanie said...

Those looking for Part 1 and 2, look around July 22.

Stephanie