Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What You Can Do to Help a Grieving Family
















Jack was the one who first taught me how to really love.

Thousands of other people are teaching me how to love someone through grief. You see, I realize now I have NEVER been good at reaching out to those who were grieving. I made a lot of excuses such as, "I don't want to intrude", "We're not that close," "I'm sure plenty of other people are doing it," and "I don't want to make them any sadder than they already are." A lot of times I think I just chose my agenda versus reaching out, and I missed many opportunities to walk beside grieving families.

My amazing friend Heidi, who writes the compelling blog Fancy Feet, recently published a great piece about What to Say when a friend has suffered from a tragedy, in Heidi's case, nearly dying in a fiery car crash.

This got me thinking about trying to sum up for you some of what has been done for us. We are truly amazed by the outpouring of love we have received upon losing Jack, and we hope some of these suggestions could help us all know how to "love on" another family in need.

1. PRAY. PRAY. PRAY.

2. Attend the Funeral. To attend funerals people must travel, skip work or school, arrange childcare, and figure out parking and directions. Funerals are inconvenient. The bereaved family knows this and will be blessed and lifted when people extend themselves to be there. Do not worry if you were not close to the deceased, or have been out of touch with the family for many years. Attend anyway. A funeral is a communal event; you will not be intruding. You never know if your presence, or even a glimpse of you or a hug from you will be THE ONE that provides the most comfort.

3. Cook. Have a point person arrange meal sign-up via a website such as Take Them A Meal. or Sign Up Genius Consider making a meal and freezing it in your own freezer for when the other meals stop coming. A small family will appreciate smaller meals so they don't feel they are wasting food. We were so grateful to have meals provided for us for almost 4 months!

4. Send a card or a handwritten note. If possible, include a personal story about the the person who died. Even the smallest anecdote is welcome. These are treasured by the family and read over and over. One friend reminded me in a card that one of Jack's first words was "Azalea." How cool is that?

If you are not able to share a personal story, don't worry. A simple, "I am so very sorry for your loss" or "My heart is breaking for you" will help. When you write your letter, consider going ahead and addressing another envelope to send 3, 6, or 9 months out. The envelope will help you remember to pray for the family, and your next letter will come when most people have stopped sending cards.

5. Send flowers to the home or church; however, you may want to consider sending flowers to the home a month or two after the death so that they will not overwhelm the family. Seeing the house full of flowers, that would eventually die, was hard for me.

6. Come by to show your support. When Jack was missing, close friends and family just showed up. They stayed with us until we found out the horrible news of his death. Several sat in the dark at my kitchen table until after midnight to be there when my sister arrived. They all had other things they could have been doing that rainy night, but they showed up.

In the days following a death, a family should have a point person who feels comfortable telling people whether or not it's a good time to visit, because immediate family members may be too shocked and confused to be able to communicate this. When you drop by, be prepared for a quick hug and then to be on your way, but be flexible. If the bereaved family asks you to stay, be open to that, too. Men, don't be shy about coming by. Tim appreciated men dropping by just for him.

7. If you are a close family friend, consider taking any children out for an activity to give them a break from the home atmosphere. Kids need chances to feel "normal" in the midst of grief.

8. Give the family pet some attention. Our neighbor walked Shadow several times a day and even kept her overnight during those first crazy days.

9. Consider the physical needs of the home. Working in the yard could make a family feel too exposed or vulnerable so soon after a death. One friend mowed our grass for us. He didn't know that Jack was the grass mower in our house and that it would be so painful for us to do it ourselves, but he just thought it would be helpful and showed up. Another family raked our leaves. One friend, after asking if it was okay, came by and planted 100 tulip bulbs in our yard while I was at work! Mulching, powerwashing, or cleaning someone's gutters could be other outside jobs a grieving family might not feel able to tackle. You can include your kids in some of these tasks. I remember Tim taking Jack to spread mulch at a newly widowed friend's house and it was a meaningful experience for them both.

10. Drop a gift in the mail. We received grief books, devotionals, inspirational Cd's, fruit, sweets and more in the mail. Every day of the week I now wear special, meaningful jewelry that represents Jack and was sent to me by people all over the world. These touching gifts took time and effort and are so special to us. Margaret has received small gifts and even a care package from France! Consider mailing a gift card to a restaurant or the movies for a family to use later when they feel up to it. Sometimes a gift card provides the motivation to get out of the house.

11. Make a contribution to charity in the name of the deceased. Consider writing it on your calendar now to do annually so the family will know you have not forgotten. These donations help a family see that something positive can come out of their loss. If you feel led, spearhead a scholarship or a charitable event in the person's name.

12. Mention the deceased person's name when you see the family. It's hard. Do it anyway. The family will cry. Do it anyway.

13. Invite a family member out for coffee, a meal, a walk, or a sporting event. One on one time with a friend, sharing the story and processing it, is a valuable form of therapy. Don't worry if they say no; sometimes they are not ready, or they may need to spend time with someone else right now. Ask anyway.

14. Use texting, email, blogging or Facebook to reach out to the family. You can do this anytime of day or night. I have one friend, whom I did not know very well before the accident, who is committed to praying for us and sending us messages when her baby gets her up at night, which is often. Don't worry about saying the same thing again and again. Your friends are not looking for words of wisdom, just the reminder that you are there.

15. Do not feel offended if your phone calls go unreturned. Just leave a loving message. I have found returning phone calls, or even picking up the phone, to be daunting and difficult, but I still appreciate hearing messages.

16. Send photos or videos of the deceased. Even if you think family members might already have photos from an event, send whatever you have. A new facial expression or a different angle provides them with another glimpse of the one who is gone. The photos on today's post were sent to me by a reader I've never met who realized Jack was in the background of some of her photos from the LEGO store in 2010!

17. Use your special talents to show your love. A poem. A knitted prayer shawl or blanket. A painting. Handcrafted jewelry. We have been stunned by the way people have shared their talents by making us gifts from the heart.

18. Get creative! You have heard how our community tied royal blue bows around trees and mailboxes so that we would feel loved when we drove around town. Then our blogging friends tied ribbons at their homes around the world, and even put them on their Christmas trees. Now, we have made blue ribbon magnets with Jack's Bible verse on them for our cars. Who knew how the simple act of tying a ribbon could bring us so much comfort?

Maybe there is a special color associated with the deceased, or a symbol (dove, butterfly, rainbow) that reminds you of him or her. For Jack, friends and neighbors made LEGO crosses to wear at the funeral. These incorporated 2 of Jack's greatest loves! Maybe YOUR idea or kind gesture will be the one that will most resonate with the family, whether it is tying bows, lining their driveway with luminaria, setting up a Facebook memory page, having a card signed by a Sunday School class, or organizing a tribute such as a balloon release. If you are feeling led to commemorate the deceased in such a way, it could be a big blessing to the family.

19. Even if you didn't know the deceased, consider sharing what the deceased means to you NOW. Eternal life is, well, ETERNAL. Jack's life is affecting people in ways we could never imagined, and we are blessed that so many people are making the effort to let us know, through emails, blog comments, letters, or person. This helps ease the sting. Have you had a dream about the person who passed away? Tell the family.

20. You may want to drop by during the day, or at work. While this not be appropriate for some people, because of their job settings, it has been nice to me to be surprised by friends bearing smoothies, hugs, or a cup of tea at my tear-friendly workplace.

21. REMEMBER. Take note of the season, the day of the month, the day of the week, even the time of day that the deceased person left us. Reach out at these times as you feel led-- through a quick email, text, or note.

22. Write the person's birthday and death day on your calendar. Send a note or an email on those days.

23. Memorialize the loved one by planting a tree, erecting a cross, making a stepping stone, donating a book to an elementary school, starting a scholarship, or installing a bench.

24. Visit the cemetery. I have only been to Jack's cemetery 2 times, but I know others have gone FOR me. Maybe a face to face at visit at the family's home isn't your thing, but saying a prayer in the quiet of a cemetery is.

25. Follow promptings. If you feel a prompting to reach out, it could very well mean that the family needs your support. Do not get bogged down thinking about how close you were or weren't before the death. A reality of death is that relationships change during difficult times. The grieving person may not have the support you think they do. YOU may be the one who can best relate, or listen, or connect with a hurting person. It may feel awkward at first, but it's worth it. I think of how blog readers have felt prompted to write to me, share their own experiences, and offer prayer. If they had gotten bogged down about our not knowing each other "in real life," they would never have reached out.


Okay, so this is a VERY long list, and if it weren't after midnight, it would probably grow longer. I hope it doesn't sound entitled, or like I think other people should take care of every aspect of our family's life, just because we lost Jack. These are just some of the incredible ways people have reached out to us, and I hope by sharing them others can be helped similarly.

Of course, NO ONE can do all of these things. But someone did do EACH of these things. And more.

Love is a verb.

145 comments:

Kaylee Sullivan said...

"Love is a verb"

thank you for the reminder. Thank you for reaching out on how to help others. thank you for sharing your story.

thank you.

Angela Schwab said...

Thank you for writing all this out. It is so helpful for us to have clear instructions of what we can do and what not to do (or say) when a person is experiencing grief.

So many of the points you made came up at our house before I came out for Jack's funeral. Should Zach come? - he's not particularly close with my cousins, and he felt uncomfortable coming to what he considered a very private time, yet I really wished he had been there, to show his support to you all and also, selfishly, to be my support. So I really wish I could have answered differently to that one on your list, among others.

I remember when we were talking at Thanksgiving, about sharing stories about Jack in the Remembering Jack Facebook Group, that I expressed that I wasn't sure any of my stories were "good enough." I guess I wanted to have some sort of mind-blowing story that would be absolutely incredible, but you're not just looking for those (and I don't know any of his other beautiful first words!). You're interested in the small details about him that I treasure and remember; sitting at the kitchen counter counting ladder man runs; building the wooden blocks into marble tracks, and how cool it was to witness the kids all playing together, since I only get to see you all once a year and not even yearly in the last couple of years. I loved when he performed the poem he had memorized in class one year (and I think he did the other kids' parts too because he'd memorized the whole thing!). I loved the jokes he told at dinner, even if I didn't quite get them, because he was just completely charming.

Thank you for your list, Anna. I've got a whole slew of stories and thoughts and ways that I remember Jack that I'll send your way. I delight in any connection I find to him. I really do have a coffee table filled with LEGOs, and I like to think that Jack might have thought I was cool because of it. :)

Love you so much, and I'm thinking about you, Tim, Margaret, and Jack daily.

The Bipolar Diva said...

Anna, you've made an incredible list. Those things are so very important after a loss. We found that people were uncomfortable, not knowing what to say, but only to hear "I'm sorry," would have meant the world to us. I think of you often.

Teri

Franny said...

I think this list is so helpful. It really hurts when it seems like people you consider friends don't acknowledge tragedy in your life. I have experienced that with my father's suicide.

You and your family have given me reasons to just be happy that, for now, all my kids are safe and sound. I do now look at my brown-eyed beautiful boy with fear in my heart sometimes because of how easily I know our children can go. But when I hug him at night I am so happy that he is snug in his bed. My heart aches that your Jack is not in his bed.
Since my father has died, I have thought a great deal about "signs" from deceased loved ones. Your blog has helped me believe in them more. The signs almost make some things ok, even if just for a second or two.
My heart aches for your arms that want to hold Jack again while you smell his hair. I love to smell my children. My heart ached as I watched the video of the balloons and I saw your husband's face. Dear God, Tim misses his son. I pray that God will somehow make this all ok someday. And by ok, I don't know what I mean. But somehow ok.

Anonymous said...

It was moving to read about guy friends dropping by just to visit with Tim. I understand that you keep the focus more on yourself than on Tim or Margaret, to respect their privacy, but they are in my prayers. I remember you wrote that your normal ways of coping changed after this tragedy; you, the more outgoing one, wanted to go inward, while Tim, the quieter one, enjoyed being surrounded by people. My heart goes out to both of you, and lovely Margaret.

Traci said...

Anna,
You have singularly just helped countless untold people--those that are grieving, and those that wish to help the grieving. THANK YOU for taking the time to do this.

I only discovered your blog a couple of months ago...and now, I literally cannot hear a bird chirp, or see a "rare bird"' without thinking about Jack and praying for your family (and I live in the forest, so the birds are always chirping!) :).

I am truly sorry for your loss of Jack. You have made him so real to us, your readers. Keep pouring out your heart, your anguish, your pain....by doing this, you are healing others, giving them permission to grieve, and preparing others with the tools to grieve in the future.

It boggles my mind how thousands of us, who never knew Jack, will be rushing to hug him when we get to heaven. How many people he may welcome into heaven on a day to day basis...people that he never knew, but people who fell in love with him through the amazing woman that is his mother.

((hugs))

Anonymous said...

"Love is a verb". Thank you.

You are all amazing.

Thank you for helping me to help others, in advance.

Thinking of you all so often
Millie x

p.s. you should set up a PO Box or something so that us faceless (?!) internet people can send you post, without it being weird...! xxxx

spedhead said...

Thank you Anna. This is so enlightening. Of course I did not know Jack, but I can say that he would be so proud of you for helping others as you help yourself through this blog. You continue to be such a great mother to him. Jack is so special to all of us. Now I can be a better friend in the future and will always think of Jack and your family when doing so. Thank you again.

Mrs. E said...

This is so helpful. Thank you for reminding all of blog world how to love someone through such a difficult time.

Anonymous said...

This is TREMENDOUSLY helpful as I often find people don't know what to do OR SAY!!! when a loved one dies. I'm not sure why this is because, doesn't everyone die? Why have we forgotten these things as a culture? But I have a question for you. We have some neighbors (we were not close, just very casual acquaintances) who incredibly, lost BOTH of their children (aged 10 and 12) in a house fire a couple years ago. They have no other children. Hard to imagine isn't it. We did several of the things you mentioned but the father especially -- a very good man -- cannot seem to express the slightest about of grief. It's like nothing happened. I know that he's devastated but his affect is so disorienting that it's hard to know how to interact. It's been a few years now, and I know how dearly he loved those boys, but still -- nothing. He acts like it's strange that people still try to reach out to him and he reacts in a totally neutral way -- occasionally in a discouraging way. Should we do it anyway? Anyway, you don't have to answer this. It might just be something to think about.

Kate said...

This is very helpful. I have been struggling with doing something for a family that went to the same daycare we did. I only knew the mother as we would pass at the door. My heart is breaking for the boys but I didn't know how to reach out to them. Thanks for some great ideas.

NanaDiana said...

What an amazing outpouring from your heart. Having lost a granddaughter we know firsthand how hard it is for people to just BE THERE..to say that little girl's name. It changed our perspective on what was the "right thing to do" in that situation. We now call, and visit, and offer support with a smile or a hug...or a just "I remember when". It does get easier as time goes on, Anna. Easy to say here-harder to live- xo Diana

Japolina said...

Thanks so much for posting this.

Anonymous said...

I am drawn to your blog daily. I am excited when there is a new post. Thank you for today's post. Although I haven't experienced loss in the same way as you, my family has suffered a lot of trauma. You inspire me. I wish I knew you personally. I can't imagine having to walk in your shoes. You are an inspiration to so many. I think of you daily and pray for you often.

Cassie @ Primitive & Proper said...

i love that you shared this because so many people feel so crippled... they don't know what to say or do so they do nothing. i think these are fabulous ideas.
i wish i did know jack so i could share stories, but i have really enjoyed getting to know him through you.

Laura said...

Wow! So many good suggestions that I wouldn't have thought of. I'm so glad you have had all this support! Thanks so much for sharing these ideas!

Ellen Stewart (aka Ellie/El/e/Mrs. Seaman) said...

What a far reaching, all encompassing gift. It's a thank you note in itself for all those near and far who have worked to reach out to you.

Hear hear on the funeral attendance. I get that having been stunned by those who showed up for my mom's and for my dad's (during a blizzard.)

There are too many others to comment on, but I AM going to look at our birthday books at school on Monday to see which one I can purchase in Jack's memory.

Tear friendly. I love that about your work. I think many job places would be the same if we just allowed ourselves to cry while there...

Anonymous said...

Anna,

I have been following your story and praying for your family ever since I got the Great Banquet email that Jack was missing. I was wet and tired and stuck at a friend's house because the roads were too flooded for me to get home. My heart broke when I read that email, and then the second email. I realized how lucky I was, and how unlucky you were... and how senseless the whole situation is.

I haven't reached out to you before because I barely know you. So thank you for this blog posting! You helped me in the book store once, several years ago. I was trying to pick out a devotional book to read and discuss with my young children. You recommended the 5-minute devotions which was--as you predicted--perfect for us. That's about the extent of my contact with you, at least in person. But I have been praying for you and Tim and Margaret and your extended family regularly, and seeing Kim Jackson's photo posts on Facebook.

I am so sorry for your loss. I wish there were more comforting words to say. I have an older brother and we were best buddies growing up, and I can't imagine losing him in the middle of our childhood together. So I pray, and sometimes I cry. I take great comfort in Jesus' promise of eternal life and the knowledge that Jack still exists and that someday you will be reunited with him. In the meantime, I pray for your family--as you navigate how to live without him here on earth.

Your sister in Christ,
Abby Gwaltney

Amy McC said...

Wow...what a wonderful list! I have often thought of this topic when reading your blog. And how much the meaning of this changes once you become a mother yourself.

I lost a childhood friend when we were both 17. After not seeing her parents for the last couple of years, I recently saw them at church. As her mother sat down in front of me, I saw tears running down her cheek. I understood those tears so much more (because of your blog and me being a mother). After the service, we had a chance to speak. As "hard" as it is, I brought up her name and changed the conversation to her. I also shared with them how their daughter was remembered at our recent 20 year reunion. Thank you for sharing with us!!!


Always praying for you!!

Megan said...

What a lovely list. I think a lot of people don't know what to do and the fear of doing the wrong thing keeps them from doing anything. I am going to share this link so everyone knows that doing something, acknowledging the family and their loved one can never be wrong.

Megan said...

What a lovely list. I think a lot of people don't know what to do and the fear of doing the wrong thing keeps them from doing anything. I am going to share this link so everyone knows that doing something, acknowledging the family and their loved one can never be wrong.

Kathleen Fisher said...

What a great and useful list. When my dad died too young, someone left a letter in our mailbox expressing their sympathy. Though she had never met him, she frequently saw my dad in church and admired his faith. I will tell you that 21 years later that was the loveliest, most unexpected gift at such a sad time.

When it comes to life and loss and pondering should I shouldn't I......I think of that letter.

You always should.

molly said...

I love this list. Thank you! I am one that typically shies away from seeing a bereaved family. I don't know why. I've just always been that way.

Death scares me. But it is no excuse. And I know as I grow older I'm going to have to get used to losing people.

The biggest regret of my life involves not seeing my former best friend until she was in a coma and on her death bed. I will NEVER forgive myself for that. There was so much to say and I never got the chance to say it.

But I promised her (without her knowing) that I would go to the cemetery and visit on her birthday. It was a commitment I made because I felt like I need to do something.

Beth from Vienna said...

you are an amazing woman Anna. your insights and ability to communicate with such passion and reason is beyond words. i lost my father-in-law two months ago and it has been incomprehensible to me how many people simply ignore that when they see me (including some family). people need to understand that death doesn't erase a person, in fact it magnifies that person and ignoring their life hurts in the opposite magnification. i don't know you, but i've said before that i find myself looking for you - just to hug you and let us know that not a single day passes that i don't think about you and your family and your jack.

Stimey said...

Anna, thank you for this. Everybody needs this. Sometimes it is hard to know what to do that will help. I hate that you know what helps, but I love you for sharing.

Michelle said...

My daughter is going through cancer treatment now. She is six. This list is great for people who are dealing with illness too. Thank you for writing it Anna. I am encouraged by your strength and think of you and Jack often even though we have never met.

Anonymous said...

Anna, thank you for this. I tell you again and again how much I am learning from you.

love,
jbhat

Leslie said...

ourI cannot tell you how much I treasure this post. Thank you, Anna. Thank you SO much for taking the time to, once again, reach out to US. To speak to us and let us know what to do - and to let those of us who didn't know Jack personally know what to do. I have to sometimes remind myself that I haven't met Jack yet (I will!) I feel as though I have. Back in 2008, I met him through your blog.

The prayers will never cease. And you've changed my life, my thinking, the dynamic of my family, my ability to see how to help others more effectively. I see everything differently now. EVERYTHING. That just means that Jack is big - he is important and far-reaching. What a guy. Again - I can't wait to meet him. (It's not just a cute thing to say, I really mean it.)

ALWAYS praying.

Katie said...

Love is a verb. May you be surround and covered in love!

New Mom said...

I love that you've shared this! I'm finally back online after 4 weeks and I've had a hard time jumping back into commenting here because I just keep thinking there is nothing I can do! So many of your friends and readers are probably like me and are desperate to "fix it" and take away your pain. I know this list won't tackle either of those ideas and it's a constant struggle to realize it's not my job to fix it. But now we know how to better reach out. You are so amazing to shed some light on the grieving process for those of us who haven't experienced this degree of grief. Not a day goes by that I don't think of your family - you have taught me so much.

M. said...

Anna,
Thank you for this post. One of Lionel's classmates lost their dad on March 18th(I know, Jack's birthday. I only know her mother becasue she is the room mom, however your post is a gentle reminder to continue to reach out to them.

IrishRN07 said...

Anna this is so incredibly valuable informatio, thank you so much for posting! I had often wondered about many of the things on here and worried about intruding since we haven't spoken since high school and of course I never knew Jack. In fact, I walk through the cemetary almost every day as I live in that neighborhood and it's part of my 2-mile loop. Some people may think it's weird but it's my favorite part of the walk, I think of it like heaven's front yard. I feel the love all around that place. I have wondered if it would be ok with you if I left some flowers by Jack's grave, now I know it's ok and I will do so!
-Maureen

IrishRN07 said...

PS: Will leave flowers for your mom too.

Raegan ~ FrillyLittleDetails said...

This was so wonderful! I always appreciate knowing new and different ways to love people... and your words were the encouragement I need! Thank you so much for sharing.

I was on my honeymoon when the most terrible day occurred, I happened to get on my ipad at breakfast for a little blog reading and saw the precious picture you had posted of Jack. Know that tears were shed for your family and prayers were sent all the way from beaches of the Dominican Republic that day.

Nichole@40daysof said...

Thanks so much for writing this. It's something we all need to know. I think about you a lot and pray that you are doing well. :)

Jana said...

You're awesome. Thank you for sharing. The tears are streaming for many different reasons...the mere fact that you're writing this post/the event that put you here, my own friend I've told you about, the LOVE of SO MANY people! Oh yeah. I'm cryin'.

Katie @ Cayenne Paper said...

Thank you, Anna, for your wonderful words with every post. You are an amazing mother, wife, friend, and woman and I thank God for having me stumble across your blog months ago.

Oh, I have seen the ribbon magnets around town and wonder how I can get one, too! Do you have them on a website somewhere?

Meredith Self said...

This is an incredibly helpful and insightful post, Anna!

I'm so very appreciative of you, in so many, many ways. You AND Jack.

I look forward to sharing in so many different kinds of ways as our lives have reconnected.

Love.

Lisa said...

What a perfect collection. I am sorry that you have the knowledge...but so very grateful that you shared it. I will use this going foreard. Thank you.

Karen said...

Thank you for writing this list. So many of these ideas can be used when someone is having a really tough time, not just suffering a loss. I've often felt paralyzed when it came to knowing what to do for someone in pain. I guess the lesson is to just do what moves you and not be afraid of getting in the way. Thank you.

Debby@Just Breathe said...

You know I have been stuggling with going to a funeral tomorrow but now I have my answer. I must go! Two dear friends of mine of bowling lost someone close in their lives. The brother of one, the cousin of the other lost his wife last week along with their unborn first child. I will bring handkerchiefs for them and one for her mother.

I love this post. I have read several help articles from different organizations but reading yours, knowing first hand how these things have helped is very informative. I am going to link this point in my For Your Tears blog.

Keeping all of you in my prayers.

Anonymous said...

Anna or other readers-I had considered going to see Jack but I don't know which cemetery. Can anyone provide the name. I live nearby in Falls Church.
Thank you.

Lisa Allen said...

Anna,

Lisa Murray Allen here.....You may not remember me. I was a classmate of your sister's. My sister, Erika Johnson, shared of your loss a day or two after it happened. I have been following your blog ever since. I continue to pray for your family and grieve for you. I have hesitated to contact you, as it has been so very, very long....but after reading your current blog entry, I was encouraged to let you know how much the loss of Jack has impacted our family here in Nashville, TN. And more importantly, that we have been praying for you ever since.

Salvimom said...

I love your writing. I love your family. I love you. Love IS a verb, and one I am glad I can share with anyone. Anna, I am continuously in awe of your strength. It will carry you through, I believe. Thank you time and time again for sharing. I ALWAYS cry, and I am glad I do because it makes me know that I am human and I have empathy. Your story has helped me become a better mommy, especially being a single one of four who gets BEYOND irritated with her little ones, but knowing that I should be grateful instead to have them, often turns that irritation to thankfulness. God Bless you!!

Ury
Seattle, WA

Anonymous said...

This is a great lesson and reminder for all of us. I remember many, many years ago when our son only lived two days. We were in Texas with no family close by. When we returned to the East Coast 3 months later where family lived no one mentioned the loss of our son - it was like it never happened. I still grieve to this day - it never stops - just gets easier. I think of you, Tim and Margaret every day and send hugs and prayers.

Pam Priester said...

You have taught me so much, Anna, and you just keep doing so. On a few occasions, when friends have asked about "my friend Anna" I've tried to express what I've learned from you about grieving and about loving - and I never do you justice. This list you have compiled here is a gift to all who read it, to those who will be courageous to act, and to those who will receive those actions. Thanks for being real and for breaking it down to "bite-size, "you can do this" pieces for all of us. We are called to do these things and what a privilege it is.

Sending you a whole bunch of prayers and love as we enter this Holy Week. May God's presence be ON you each day!

DawnGes said...

Anna, thank you. I will pass this list on to others; I agree with those who have said that this list will help all those who avoid people who are going through hard times.

I wonder whether Tim might want to share his list with groups of men at church?

You are beautiful--a gift to many.

Love, prayers, hugs.

Anonymous said...

My friend is about to lose her dad from cancer, she's already lost her brother, she's 24. When she's moody or distant I all too often find myself wondring if it's something I've done - then I realize that it's 100% not. about. me. She's going through something that I couldn't imagine in a million years, and all I can do is let her know I'm there. Thanks so much for giving some extra suggestions for how to help. She's on my mind all the time, but I just sent her a text to make sure she knows that she is.

Kelley said...

This is a really good post to help those who don't know what to do. When my mother died, I had a friend who talked with me every Sunday evening, because she knew the weekends were hardest. First, because I was single and lived alone. Second, because my mother died on a Saturday. Every weekend, my goal was to survive until I cold talk to Jenn. Jenn kept this up for over a year. I remember another friend telling me that how hard it was when people think you should be "over" it after a week or two. That's exactly what I experienced from most people I knew. Early on, I asked a coworker who had also lost her mother at a young age, when do you get over it? She told me me you never do. You just learn to go on. I still absolutely love when someone talks of my mother fondly. Also, the thing you said about giving the person a hug or whatever, even if you don't know them really well, that's true. AT te memorial service, one of my mother's coworkers gavce me a hug and whispered in my ear "sleep will come." I'll never forget that.

I live in Virginia too, and I emailed you once to tell you that I think of you every time we have rain on the same day and time as that one awful day. I still do.

Mary Ann said...

My heart breaks for you. I have no idea what you are going thru, I can't begin to fathom it. Just know there are those who feel your pain and care for you.

Jamie said...

This is a great post, and much needed. It seems sometimes the support stops at about the same time the shock wears off and you're left floundering a bit.

I love the part about the pictures! I can not tell you how much joy it brings to find a 'new' picture when you are out of new pics. Thank you so, so much for sharing

Laura said...

You. Are. Amazing.
I loathe, so much, the painfully sharp turn in the path that put you on the road you now travel - but I am in awe of your grace, your beauty, your honesty, and your willingness to share so much. You are helping, beyond measure, countless people through your heartfelt words. Most importantly, I have to believe you are helping yourself and those most dear to you most of all. Having grown up with a Mother who took the "Don't talk about it." approach after the death of her firstborn son, I sometimes wonder how different her life (and ours) would be if she had been encouraged to mourn, to talk about it, to share, and to honor him rather than making him a taboo subject. Don't get me wrong - she is a wonderful Mother and I love her dearly . . . but still, I often wonder. You are doing great things, Anna. Love IS a verb - and you've helped to put it in action and continue to gain momentum with each person who is fortunate enough to read your beautiful words. Praying for you, Tim, and Margaret daily.

Sharon @ Elizabeth & Co. said...

What wonderful tips Anna. So often we hestitate because we just don't know what to do or say and we certainly don't want to intrude on a family. Thank you for sharing! ... And as always, sending love and hugs to you!

Sharon M. said...

Dear Anna,
Thank you so much for letting us know how to help people who are grieving. No one wants to make things worse or say the "wrong" thing so, I think people tend to shy away because it is so difficult.

You are so generous and so brave to continue to put yourself out there when you are still grieving and in so much pain.

I think of you and Jack daily. I pray for you daily and I send you virtual hugs and much love :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the list. One of my closest friends took her own life a few years ago. I wanted her mother to know I was thinking of her so I sent her a card once a month around the date my friend died. I sometimes wrote a note or a story about my friend. Or I just signed my name. After the first anniversary, my friend's mother told me how much the cards meant to her....when she thought everyone had forgotten, a note would arrive. Anyway, your list is powerful and I appreciate it so much.

Annabelle said...

This list is wonderful. I have been so blessed by you since I found you linked from another blog.

Item 25 is so true - Follow Promptings. That still small voice really is God.

After the stillbirth of our daughter, a friend tucked a note into a church hymnal and left it inside my screen door. She thot it was weird but already knew to obey The Voice.

I had been looking for the words to a verse of a song from church to include in the funeral brochure. So when I opened my front door -- there flopped the hymnal with her note.

I am happy that Jack is with our Isabella, and I can't wait to see them. Thank you for your courage to get out of bed day after day.

Much love to you, Tim & Margaret
from Indiana

Anonymous said...

I grieve everyday for you, Tim, and Margaret. I have only known of y'all for a month now (from momastery) and I cannot stop thinking about and praying for y'all as if I've known you all if jack's life. My heart aches over your loss and I wish there was some way to ease your pain. Yall are being covered in prayer and people you've never met care more than you know. Love, Kathryn Monsour meridian, ms

Anonymous said...

This is such a great list! I am like you, I was never "good" at talking to a grieving person because I never knew what to say. I remember in high school, when a friend's older brother died of a drug overdose, I didn't do anything. Didn't go to the funeral. Didn't send a card. And then the first time I saw her, a week after the death in gym class, I tried to crack jokes as if everything were normal. In my mind, I was TRYING to take her mind off things—as if you CAN just return to normal, just like that.

Ever since my mom passed away and I've experienced it firsthand, I know there's almost nothing *wrong* you can do—unless it's the above example, which is to not acknowledge it. You're right, no one is parsing out the exact words, and if something is spoken from the heart, it'll be right. I still love hearing about how my mom has affected people—even today, I told a coworker an anecdote about something my mom had told me, and she said something to the effect of "your mom sounded awesome!" and it made my day.

And I want to say: Jack is effecting (I think that's the wrong affect/effect, sorry, English teacher Anna!) big change in so many ways. I was so psyched to donate $$ to Jack's Lanterns and loved getting the thank you from the org—not for the acknowledgment so much as, wow, here's this cool org I never knew existed, and now not only do I KNOW about it, I'm somehow involved! I saw a blue ribbon on one of my Brooklyn streets and thought of Jack. And I think of your family often, as do so many others. Thanks for not thinking it's creepy :)

xo,

a NYC—based-twenty-something-single Anna

Marathonmom said...

A mom in a small hick town in Washington reads your blog during her early a.m. feedings, sheds tears, prays, and sends her love.

Deb said...

Wonderful wonderful...thanks so much for putting all of those thoughts down. I have no doubt it will help many!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this, Anna! What a great resource. My mom is visiting now and we were just talking about you guys, and how you are making it easier for people to understand the grieving process, and how to help our loved ones who are grieving. In her case, she was seated at a wedding with a friend-of-a-friend whose daughter died in the Va Tech shooting. She was saying how hard it was to say something about the girl to her mother, but when she did, the mother was so grateful. It's one of those things that is so hard to do, but so appreciated. What I love about your list is how you've given a number of options for people to choose what works for them. It's not easy for some people to give hugs and just drop by the house, but they can bring a meal or do some yardwork. Thank you again.
Beth

Marley C. said...

Thank you, thank you for this list. Like so many people I never know what to do to help. I worry that I'll do the wrong thing so I often end up doing nothing or a small thing.

I also want to thank you for pouring your heart out in this blog. Jack's death is now so much more than just a name in a news article. I feel like in a small way I know him, and your whole family, and think about all of you a lot in my prayers.

Chin up, young one.

karen gerstenberger said...

What a great posting - so accurate, and helpful to those around us who simply don't know what to do or say. I included an appendix on this in my new book, "Because of Katie."
It has surprised me that, even though I am a bereaved mother myself, I can STILL feel awkward in the face of someone else's grief. It takes mindfulness and the desire to SHOW UP, even through the discomfort. And to do any one of your suggestions really will help. Thank you for posting this!

Stefanie said...

Anna, thank you for this post -- I don't comment often because although I think of you and your family almost every day, I don't "really" know you, and I don't want to be some internet stalker. But you continue to be in my heart and mind, and I continue to wish you peace. I love your writing, and I love the lessons you are teaching us all about facing an impossibly situation with grace and dignity. You give me hope that I too might be able to cope with unthinkable things.

As long as you continue to write, I will continue to read, and to follow your saga. Peace.

Annie said...

Anna. What a wonderful list. I think the need for a point person to coordinate meals and other help is vital. People don't want to intrude on the grieving family and this avoids the problem. One note to others out there. Think about who your point person might be if heaven forbid you need one someday. Try to think of someone organized and friendly. The friendly factor is important. A dear friend who experienced a tragedy had her neighbor be the point person. After a short time help dwindled. Why? The point person always made people feel they were intruding on her time when they called. Finally some of us took the initiative and 'fired' her. But it was not a great situation and added unnecessary difficulty to a tragic situation.

Princess Kate said...

This list is amazing. After seeing my sister through the loss of her sweet daughter, I was clueless with how to treat her and the awful situation. I ended up being there just to sit WHENEVER she needed it and we talked of Madeline WHENEVER she wanted to talk about her (we still do 12 years later). Thank you for putting this down on paper. You amaze me that through all your pain, you are teaching us all something. Blessings, prayers, comfort, a time machine, and hugs to you today and every day forward.

Jenny said...

So sorry for your loss. And thank you for the great reminder. I never know how to reach out. My words can never compare to the messages I receive from music, so I hope you can find a moment of peace in this song a friend of mine wrote when her dad died. If you go to the link, there is a free download. It's a beautiful song.

Peace and light,
Jenny

http://mightykate.bandcamp.com/track/epitaph

Vodka Mom said...

You are an incredible woman - who has an incredible message. Yeah, it SUCKS, but you are the ONE who can do it so well.




and yes..



I know from whence you speak...

Beth from Vienna said...

i just came down from putting my two sons to sleep. the five year old fought me and fought me - 45 minutes in to the "struggle" I found myself growing angry that he was "stealing my night", 60 minutes in I was absolutely fit to be tied. then he turned his back, wiggled into me and we spooned and then....you and Jack popped into my mind. I immediately settled down, held my boy tightly and thanked God for that moment knowing full well that you would do ANYTHING to do that with Jack. Anna, you gave me that peace and that moment. I wanted you to know.

anymommy said...

It brought me to tears to read all of the beautiful things that happened as people reached out to you. This post is lovely, Anna, and I will think of it and act on it with those grieving in my life.

Kate said...

I keep repeating - verb, verb an action word. Love is a verb indeed! Thank you for sharing. You are amazing!

Jenny said...

Thank you for this post, the one about the bereavment camp for kids.. and well all of them really! My cousin recently passed away leaving 8 and 11 yr old daughters and it's helpful to hear what things are helpful to those who are grieving. I sent their mom the info about Camp Comfort Zone, perhaps it will be something that could help them deal with the loss of their father. I don't know you or your family, but I live in the community and found your blog through another that I read. I'm so sorry for the loss of your Jack, he seemed to be a wonderful boy that brought a lot of light into this world.

Thank you for sharing your journey and knowledge.

Lesley UK said...

I know losing Jack has made you question your faith, but may tell you my story. Many years ago I didn't feel I could go along with the Christian doctrine. I decided to follow the Pagan way..and I will never say a word against this , as I still believe in this philosophy, but when I started reading your blog, I began to think about Jack and all of your family. A few days ago, after reading about the clouds, birds etc on your blog. I asked to be shown a sign, and within a minute. a bird came to my window and hovered there We don't have hovering birds in the UK, but it visited several times in the next few days. I'e never seen anything like it.I know you've suffered an enormous loss. but, please know that through you, and Jack, I am finding my way back to God.Blessings Lesley

Lesley UK said...

I know losing Jack has made you question your faith, but may tell you my story. Many years ago I didn't feel I could go along with the Christian doctrine. I decided to follow the Pagan way..and I will never say a word against this , as I still believe in this philosophy, but when I started reading your blog, I began to think about Jack and all of your family. A few days ago, after reading about the clouds, birds etc on your blog. I asked to be shown a sign, and within a minute. a bird came to my window and hovered there We don't have hovering birds in the UK, but it visited several times in the next few days. I'e never seen anything like it.I know you've suffered an enormous loss. but, please know that through you, and Jack, I am finding my way back to God.Blessings Lesley

Lesley UK said...

I know losing Jack has made you question your faith, but may tell you my story. Many years ago I didn't feel I could go along with the Christian doctrine. I decided to follow the Pagan way..and I will never say a word against this , as I still believe in this philosophy, but when I started reading your blog, I began to think about Jack and all of your family. A few days ago, after reading about the clouds, birds etc on your blog. I asked to be shown a sign, and within a minute. a bird came to my window and hovered there We don't have hovering birds in the UK, but it visited several times in the next few days. I'e never seen anything like it.I know you've suffered an enormous loss. but, please know that through you, and Jack, I am finding my way back to God.Blessings Lesley

Anonymous said...

This post is a wonderful resource, and it caused me to grieve for you. I am going to save it for when people in my life experience the loss of loved ones. Thank you, Anna.

TerraD said...

What a wonderful list. Thank you for that. I am so sorry for the loss of Jack. Terra

Anonymous said...

I didn't take my daughter to her classmates funeral this winter. I figured the visitation was enough and i was " to busy to miss work that day", i have regretted it from that day! So selfish inlight of what it could have done for her and for his family! Thank you for the reminder?

Jenn Marshall said...

Thank you so much Anna for this incredible list. I'm sure a lot of people (myself included) struggle with what to do when a friend has lost a loved one. I know this post has helped me to realize that the simple things you can do for someone who is grieving can show them you love them and are thinking about them and the person they lost. I think of your dear Jack often. Sending prayers and hugs.

LC said...

Hi Anna,

Thank you so much for this. I came to this post via Momastery, but I am familiar with Jack's story. I am so incredibly sorry for your loss.

I lost my 5-year-old niece six years ago. She drowned in a backyard swimming pool. Today is her birthday; she would have been 11. Her parents are my ex-husband's sister and brother in law, and since my ex is remarried, we have not been as close as we were; I stepped aside so as not to get in the way of the new wife.

But today, thanks to your post, I just sent an email telling my ex-husband's sister that my niece is not forgotten, and that all of them are in my thoughts and prayers. Thank you so much for giving me the idea. Hugs.

Melissa said...

I did not know Jack, I started reading your blog after he passed away, but I think about him a lot, and every time I read your store, I hug my 9 year old son a little tighter, a little longer. You and your family have touched my life in a way I can never explain.

DonnaLinn said...

Anna -- What a great reminder. Thank you. There are many times that I want to reach out and then come up with the excuses listed among the helpful tips. This will encourage me to help when my inner dialog starts coming up with excuses.

Donna

Heiss Family said...

I have only 'met' you through your blog, but I am praying for your family. I lost my younger brother 9 1/2 yrs ago ( he was 28) so I especially pray for your daughter as I know the pain of losing a sibling and the pain of watching my parents grieve.
I hope that she always cherishes the memories of her brother and that her future kids will know Jack through the stories and photos that are shared with them.

Vodka Mom said...

I am constantly reminded about how AWESOME you are. You (and my sister) kick ass.



And I mean KICK ASS.


And isn't Jack so proud right about now.

Mrs4444 said...

These ideas are really great, Anna. I wrote a post about another one this week, and it lead me to this blogger, who takes my idea to another level. I think you'll appreciate it. Here's her blog:
http://wwwforyourtears.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

Anna

I hope you don't mind, I just linked this blogpost on a TwoPeas post from someone asking how to help their grieving neighbours.

Thinking of you often, from England

Anonymous said...

Good and thoughtful information, absolutely. We found it helpful to link up with The Compassionate Friends as well. Now, nine years later, we have a new family circle that extends far beyond what we could have imagined after tragedy hit. www.compassionatefriends.org.
Hugs of hope, Jim and Jessie's Mom

Harmony said...

Thank you so much. It's so helpful to hear from a grieving family about how best to help a grieving family. It can be so hard to figure out what the right thing to do is in such a difficult time. This post will help so many people.

Amy said...

Thank you for this. Thank you for sharing your stories about Jack. I pray for you and your family daily.

doseofreality said...

What a beautiful post and one that EVERYONE should file away and refer back to honestly.
I cannot tell you how much I wish people would pay attention to the fact that despite time passing for them and life getting easier for them, it often gets harder for the grieving. This is kind of mixing into your other post about the 2nd year being harder, but I have to say I won't be surprised to find out that is true. I think shock is a pretty strong protector.
I have often thought that like with "storking" for new mothers, friends should set up a grief schedule for friends, so that the attention is doled out evenly over time. Because honestly, nothing is worse than hitting that 9 month mark with no real support.
Thinking of you today and always Anna.
And interestingly enough, whenever I think of you especially intensely, I stop and come here.

Melissa said...

I have a 12 year old son, Camden. I like to think he and Jack would have been friends. Since finding you a couple weeks ago after Jack's birthday posts {And reading your blog from the start to your current posts}, I have developed a new patience for his "tween tantrums". I hug him a little longer. Tell him I love him ALL the time, so much so he asked if I was sick. And have carved out more time for all 3 of my great loves {I also have 10yo b/g twins}. I have stopped worrying about the dishes sitting a few minutes longer than normal and I have started lingering with my children and being "present" in each moment with them.

Love is a verb is my new Mantra. Thank you for your honesty. Thank you for your bravery. Thank you for being here as a beautiful reminder to hug those you love a little tighter. Thank you for the selfless act of sharing your grief with us so that we may grow with you.

Sending you peace for your heart from Indiana.

~ Melissa ~

Lyndsay said...

I pray for you. I'm just a stranger in another country, but if it helps you to know that strangers everywhere pray for you, then here I am. Letting you know that your sweet family is in my prayers.

Beth Zimmerman said...

I came here by way of Barb, Mrs. 4444, and just wanted you to know that I will be praying for your family as you heal!

I think ... that later when you have time ... you might consider making this a small e-book. To give away or sell. Offer them to churches and funeral homes. They could do their own printing. And by doing so the things that you have learned could be multiplied to help so many more. I'd be happy to help you figure out the logistics if this is something that you'd like to try.

Praying peace and healing .... Beth

Nezzy said...

This Ozark Farm Chick hopped over from Mrs. 4444's, gotta love that woman!!!

You sure gave some head on advice here girl 'cause love is certainly an action word for sure!

Have yourself a blessed and beautiful day from the happy hills and hollers of the beautiful Missouri Ponderosa!

heather said...

This gives me some solace. I sent an email to the parents of a friend whose life was tragically cut short nearly 6 years ago. I hadn't reached out to them personally at the time of the accident, although as a group of friends/classmates we put together a nice memory book. Her parents told us to contact them, that they would love to hear from us. On Christmas Eve this past year, I had found myself thinking of my friend, and I had to email them. All the things I thought about her, and memories of her. I debated and debated, and eventually hit send, and it was off into cyberspace.

I didn't want to upset them, but I know the holiday season can be a tough time without loved ones. They never wrote back, but hopefully it was well received. I had recently been wondering if it was the right thing to do. But I followed a prompting in my life, and I'm glad I did. I just wish I hadn't taken so long, thinking that I would give them their space to grieve.

I wish and hope and pray that there won't be a next time that I'll have to be prepared for, but I know there will be, and at least I'm better prepared to handle some of the old and new loss my family is experiencing now and will in the future.

And I'm sorry to hear about Jack. I just saw your post about the cicadas--what a wonderful memory.

Thank you for sharing, and thank you for your words of wisdom.

Mandy said...

This was very helpful, encouraging & inspiring. Thank you for sharing. I think of you family often & am so blessed by your willingness to share your grief & your healing/coping journey.
God bless you Anna, Tim, Jack & Margaret!

Ellen said...

I ran a 5k this past Saturday for an organization called Annie's Hope (annieshope.org). It's an organization that helps chidren with the grieving process after they've lost a loved one. It was a quiet morning in St. Louis and the race wasn't too crowded. And I prayed for you and your family and for Jack the whole way. Thank you for sharing your story. I wish I had been a reader before you lost Jack, but another blog asked for prayers for you when he died, which led me here. I pray for you often. Thanks for the ideas of how to help grieving families, too. Too often we do nothing because we think that our 'something' isn't enough or isn't right. Nothing is right when a family suffers a loss, but being encouraged to reach out - even in a small way - helps us all. God bless you.

Jaime J said...

Anna,

I'm a devoted Momastery reader and heard about your loss through Glennon. I haven't reached out mostly b/c it hurts. We almost lost our son to heart disease (he's still dealing with the disease) and thinking/talking about the loss of a child rubs that part of me that is just starting to scab over.

I just read your list of how to help and I realized that, really, I think about you and your family a lot and I should probably tell you. I say this all to say that the Fitch-Jenetts are holding you in the light out here in California.

Suburban Correspondent said...

That is an awesome list.

mosey (kim) said...

I love the idea of having envelopes ready for 3/6/9 months out. And my friend, you are never far from my thoughts although I don't make my way around the blog circuit much at the moment. Jack's sweet face and how much you are missing him are a constant reminder to whisper a little prayer for you. x

Heather said...

I came across your blog from pinterest today. In the last two years our family has lost three precious children before they were born. If people don't know what to do after someone has lost a living child they certainly have no idea how to support a family who never got to meet their children. Thank you so much for your post. I will be sharing it with others when they approach me on what to do when they've heard of someone's miscarriage, stillbirth or other loss. I shed some important healing tears this morning over my anger and disappointment in the lack of support from those close to me and the acknowledgement of those few who did reach out. Thank you again.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anna,

Grief, for those standing at a distance, seems too sacred to approach with common hands, and comfort a priestly duty. Consoling is utterly impossible, and surely a job for some expert who knows the flavor of agony, or some close family member who has a right to speak. That is how the outsider feels; but grief is a lowly, deep, and violent wound, and the pain so exquisite that every kindness has the potential to be, not consolation for such loss, but perhaps a cushion against the writhing.

I'm so sorry. I wish there was more.

Thanks for what you teach, what you share.

Love,

A Sister

Maureen Hunter said...

Anna what a wonderful list, though I am so sorry that it comes from deep understanding after the loss of your beautiful Jack. So many people have little idea what to do, what to say or how to act when a family loses someone so precious and loved. When my son died I remember very clearly one friend who called in to see me and in her love and honesty said "I have no idea what to do or what to say but I'm here for you"

Anonymous said...

Anna,
Thank you so much for writing this beautiful post. I've been reading your blog for a few months now, and have been blown away by your eloquent, heartbreaking, searingly honest words. Your list was perfect; number 25 hit me and I realize that I'd not followed a couple of promptings: to reach out to an old high school friend whose brother is dying ( I just finished talking with her on the phone), and to reach out to you--I have never commented on a blog.

I want you to know that I think of you and your family every day, and send prayers your way during my daily commute.

Sharon @ Elizabeth & Co. said...

Hi Anna, I came back to read this post again. When I read it the first time, I had no idea I'd need your advice so soon. But sadly, an old friend just lost her beautiful 16 year old daughter in a car accident. I had an opportunity to get to know this sweet girl last summer. I will let her family know that she touched my heart. ... Thank you again Anna for sharing your heart with us. Hugs to you today and every day!

Christine said...

Wow, Anna, what great advice. I know I always find myself wanting to do whatever I can to help a greiving family, but never know what it is I should do. Would you mind if I shared some of your suggestions?

Emily Elizabeth said...

We have several families in our community grieving right now. We shared the link on our Saturday Sampling at stonewritten.com. I hope more people read it. http://www.stonewritten.com/?p=3766
Peace,
Emily

Rebecca Carney said...

Thank you so much for this great list. After our son died in 2002, it seemed incredible to me that bereaved parents needed to "teach" those around them to help...even though we, ourselves, scarcely knew what we needed and were overwhelmed by our loss. Since that time, there have been many wonderful and helpful books, blogs and lists written if only people will take time to find them.

Thank you so much for this excellent resource. I would like to refer to your list, if that's okay with you.

http://onewomansperspective02.wordpress.com/

The Empress said...

Thank you so much for an amazing list that I will print out.

To have this to go to, and no longer just sit and think about the family affected, without knowing the "right" thing to do, is another way in which you've given so much to us...when it's you who has had your life knocked off it's tracks.

Stacie@hometownperch said...

What Jack (and your family's story) has done for me--made me hug my kids tighter and remember not to take them for granted.

Thank you Jack and thank YOU for sharing your feelings so readily--even though they make me cry, every.single.time.

Anonymous said...

I have to say that I've never met you, but your blog calls to me on a regular basis. I find it amazing how you seem to be able to carry on through such tremendous loss and grief. Seeing your Jack at the Lego store tore my heart out. That human element, of him not being able to enjoy those moments here on earth again reminds me to hold precious every single day on earth. The same thing could happen to my Lego loving son. And I'm not sure I could handle myself with the grace and love that you've shown. Thank you for your example. You and your family are in my prayers.

Laura at Ms. Smartie Pants said...

I don't know how I missed this before. This info is amazing, and so helpful, I'm never sure how much to do although I feel like I want to do more, I won't hesitate any longer. I will say this, sometimes in life we get such a great peak of God's work we can almost feel his breath, I'm thinking you have experienced this over and over in these last few months. Amazing that in the darkest of times and deep sorrow you can be so blessed with that! xoxo

Orangies Attic said...

I was in junior high when my grandmother died... one of my most vivid memories was looking behind me at the funeral, and seeing my dad's 2 closest college friends standing at the back of the room. They lived several hours away, and at the time one of them was not on great terms with my father. It made such an impact on me that these two grown businessmen took their day to come quietly support my father and our family, regardless of the circumstances. Since then, no matter how inconvenient or awkward it may seem, I have always tried to make a point to attend funerals. Thanks for this list, it is invaluable.

Melissa Soeltz said...

This post brought me to your blog, and I read every entry about your tragedy. My heart hurts for you and your family, and I grieve for the loss of your beautiful boy. Thank you for giving these lessons that so many people need; I know that we want to help but often don't know the way. I admire your strength in telling your story and I hope that sharing is therapeutic. I pray that you can find comfort in knowing how your words touch others and that you and your family continue to heal. I can't imagine being so strong, but I thank you for your story.

Julie said...

Dear Anna, what a beautiful service you have provided by writing all of this out. Who knows how many grieving people, now and future, will be helped by your guide? Continuing to pray for you and your beautiful family. Julie

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

Dear Anna, I've visited several times since that awful day. Suburban Correspondent sent me here then. Every time I visit your blog, the tears roll down my face. I wish I could turn back time for you.
The most precious cards received after my mother's death were the ones with a short personal note about her. I *know* these are important, yet I have several waiting to be sent to friends right now... your post here has sparked me tonight to Just Do It.
Thank you for sharing, for reaching out. Your words here are helping me to be there for other people in pain. I wish I could take away your pain.

Shell Flower said...

This is such a great list. I wish it would have been there a few months ago, but it also reminds me that now is maybe the best time to reach out to my friend who has experienced the loss of a son, like you. I am sorry you have the wisdom to write a post like this, because I know you are still missing Jack, but this is really helpful to those of us who know someone who has lost a child.

We all grieve for those kids, and I've found that when I have made the effort to reach out to my friends in this situation, it helps me process my own sense of sadness, too. I felt great comfort going to the house of a "close but not best friend" kind of friend's house to deliver a meal. They had a little memorial to their son out on the front porch, as well as inside. Being there felt healing for all of us. It's so worth it to just force yourself to get over the fear of "intruding" and go help out. Thanks for the reminder.

Cathy Reaves said...

I really like your list. It is awkward and uncomfortable to reach out in circumstances like this. I've been following your blog since the accident and have left very few comments. I wondered if you could read them all for one thing! And then, I don't know, it's weird because I don't know you and never knew Jack. But my heart goes out to you. I've experienced profound grief. For me, one thing I like most are the people who reach out long after the immediate tragedy. Because we all know that grief can take eons to work through and just because someone might appear to be okay, they might just be good at hiding and going through the motions.

Polly said...

I was led to your post in a roundabout way, and I'm so thankful to find it. Our community is grieving the loss of 15-year-old boy. Though our daughter knew him, I didn't know the family directly. Your post was a beautiful reminder that expressing love and sympathy shouldn't be reserved for close friends and family. Thank you!!

Heidi said...

What a valuable and perfect list.

By the way, I missed this post. I subscribe to you, of course, for a long time now. And I somehow missed this. Today, when I was posting on my blog I saw your link in the 'dashboard' of my blog. Thank you for the kind words, Anna. I'm just sorry I didn't see it sooner.

Okay, back to you.:) It really is about those little things - the being there. I love what you said about phone messages. To not be offended if the phone call isn't returned, but know they are appreciated and welcomed. How true. Saying something, offering support is better than silence.

Love you, Anna.

Meg said...

Loss is part of the cycle of life, yet so many of us are so uncomfortable with it that we just don't know how to reach out to those who are grieving. Or rather, we *think* we don't know. Many of the things in your list are common-sense ways to show you care. Things we already know how to do. You do them with love and you bring comfort to a grieving friend.

And many of these things apply also when a loved one has a serious illness, such as when our 9 year old son had a stroke and was hospitalized and in inpatient rehab for 40 days. I remember thinking that I only *thought* I knew how to be a friend, but the many ways in which our friends buoyed us during that very trying time - that came with its own kind of grief - made all the difference to us, and really taught me what it means to be a friend.

Anna See said...

I would be honored!

Amy said...

Last Thanksgiving, a man I had known since elementary school passed away unexpectedly. A few days ago, his mom was in one of my dreams and I woke up with her on my heart. A year ago, I probably would have sent up a prayer and moved on. But today, I'm going to send her a card to let her know that I've been thinking of her. Thank you for showing us how to love each other better.

Anonymous said...

I know this is many many months past your original post but I had to tell you how helpful this post is. My niece lost her baby yesterday. He had been in hospital for a very rare bone disease and was getting better, nearly ready to come home when an unrelated condition brought an end to his short life. I remembered reading this post and frantically looked it up on my way to my sisters house so that I could offer as much support as I could to her and her daughter.

Thank you for sharing all the things that have helped you through your difficult time of grieving. I often think of you and check here to see how you are getting through it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. Love is a verb -- I'm going to print that on my heart. I'm struggling with how to be there for a student who just lost her dad to cancer. These suggestions help.

God bless you and your family.

Barbara said...

Okay, so as you suggested, I'm following the prompting of the HS and writing to you! I've been following your blog on and off for awhile now and love your insights. They help me as I remember the loss of my older brother at the age of 27 (31 years ago) and as I parent my own children now. I've also shared it with my fried who is the mother of the other man who died in the storm your son did. I want to share with you how I've made peace with the loss of my brother and how I respond when others question my God because He allows bad things to happen to good people. I say some family has to bear the burden of loss so others may know how fragile and unpredictable life is. If we all live 'til we're 99 and then die, imagine how different the world would be. We'd all know we have 99 years to get things right with the Lord. But He comes like a thief in the night, and we must be prepared. We must make a decision to follow Him now. So for the benefit of all humanity, that they might realize they need to make a decision about their eternity now, my family bore the pain. It has to be someone's family. It helps me to see how something good came out of my brother's death. Keep writing, Anna. You have a gift and you are a blessing to us!

Andrea said...

Thank you, thank you for this post. What a perfectly timed blessing. Our dear neighbours just lost their 4 year old little girl and I have been struggling how I can help, what I can do.

Amy Wood said...

Thank you Anna for writing this. Our friends daughter, Linnea Lomax, went missing months ago and her body was found yesterday. For the months that they grieved in the search and now as they grieve her death, I have not known what to do and have stayed away far too much out of not wanting to intrude. Your Blog has really helped me see that it is ok to text and Facebook Linnea's mom, to send her notes, and to keep showing her family how much we love them. Thank you, thank you, thank you for reaching out to help others even while you still grieve for Jack. You made a difference in my life.

Sybil said...

I just started reading your blog today and, when searching through older posts, this one caught my eye. I have a friend who recently lost her husband to suicide and I have been feeling at a loss in how to help her and her children. This was a great list! I have done many of these, but there are many more things I can do now. Thank you for sharing your insights and your grief. I don't know you, but I will be praying for you and your family.

jenlar3 said...

Dear Anna, I met you through Kelle Hampton earlier this week and I am so, so sorry for your loss of Jack in this life. We have a precious grandson, Jack Gray, who was born last August. From here on out his life will remind me of Your Jack, and I will offer up prayers of comfort and thanksgiving. Thank you for the list of suggestions. With your permission, I would like to print it and share it with my church family. I have lost my mother and my step-mother, and agree that any of those suggestions would communicate love and caring. I have always tried to remember my experiences when friends lose loved ones, but you have so many more ideas than I ever thought of, so thank you. God Bless You.

Jennifer

Unknown said...

Thank you for the list - and may God continue to bless you & your family. And of course that includes Jack, who remains cradled sweetly in God's arms.
-Ann

Terb said...

I lost my eldest brother years ago and I still remember the people who were just always around for our family during the first few days. They didn't have to say anything, they were just around doing things that needed to be done. Thank you for this lovely post, and I'm so sorry about Jack. He reminds me of my brother who I lost when I was in 5th grade and still miss 20 years after.

Kristin said...

Anna, this is the most helpful list I've ever seen for grieving families. The careful thought you've put into it has helped me immensely already; I won't forget it. You don't know me, but I've read your blog often, and I think of you often. I think of Jack often. And I am a little piece of the community supporting you, lifting you up, and praying for you and your family.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this. We experienced the death of a 3 year old in our community this fall. I have been thinking that I should write the family a note letting them know that, 3 months on, their sweet little boy is still remembered by his classmates, their parents, and the teachers at nursery school. Reading this post prompted me to write that letter and put it in the mail today. I was wondering if going to the cemetery would be okay or a gross breach of etiquette, so I'm glad you mentioned that. All action seems inadequate, so all I can do is pray for them and REMEMBER how sweet that little boy was and what a good friend he was to the others at school.

I am deeply sorry for your family's loss of Jack. Thank you for sharing your stories. You'll probably never know how much good you're doing.

Mama Mary said...

Oh Anna, this is brilliant and beautiful and so true. I particularly love #12. Say their name! You're so right that it's hard to do but it is so meaningful. And I also love the one about sending an email on the birth and death days. I have some friends that call me on both of those dates for my dad and I appreciate it so very much.

bernthis said...

I know how people gather around in the beginning and then fade away back into the flow of their busy lives. I think it's an amazing idea to reach out to the family down the road when everyone is gone.

Sending you a ton of love and hopefully some laughter. xoxo

J

Anna V. said...

Hi Anna,
How could I possible thank you for opening my eyes and heart to understand more the need of those that are grieving and a loving role that I could play in their darkest days.

I lost my uncle to brain cancer over 15 years ago, and still never knew how to reach out to my aunt or cousin on the anniversary of his death each year. It felt awkward and imposing. Like I was trying to drum up those ill and sick feelings that death at first surrounds you with.

After trying to process the horrific events that happened in Sandy Hook CT, I have found myself crying and crying, aching and throbing as I revisit the time of when my uncle died and how helpless I felt then and how still helpless I feel now. I have been reading your blog with one eye open (and the other somewhat squinting shut) as I try to read with great empathy your soul and pain without believing that reading your pain could bring me the same pain one day. (superstition).
After meditation, it dawned on me that for some reason checking back to your blog, God was leading me to the answers, the "directions" that I was needing to following so that I could be of use. "I want to help".
Your blog Post "What You Can Do to Help a Grieving Family" hit me like a pile of concrete.
It solved the unknown and fear that I abated all these years. I dawns on me tonight that I can still help. Even those in Sandy Hook, even from Toronto and all the way up here and so far away from you and those.
Jack's light is glowing in my heart at this moment as your kind guide will provide me and my family some peace forever on how to approach death, grieving, and most importantly how to be approached as we all will one day.
God Bless you and may you find something each day and night to give you peace and purpose thru Jack's lingering fragrance.
Anna V.
Toronto

jacquelyn said...

Thank you so much for sharing your life and tragedy. I love all your suggestions and thoughts. I googled "how to help a grieving family" and this came up. I just lost a friend to cancer yesterday and I am so heartbroken. Prayers go out for you and your family also who have had to handle losing someone. God bless!! Love Gwen

crazymiller said...

Our little town in Idaho is no stranger to grief.. Your story is so heartwarming and I am grateful for your advice. Some people that attend our church lost their 4 year old last night. His dad backed over him with a truck. The Young Women in our church wanted to do something for the family, we didn't know them that well but wanted them to know that we love them and are praying for their family. Your thoughts are exactly what we needed! Thank You for sharing your story .

Teresa said...

Thank you! I cried while I read this list as I think you might have cried whiile you wrote it. We lost my sister to cancer just over 6 months ago. I learned a lot about how to help people in grief based on what others did and did not do. Thank you for such a wonderful list. I will be sharing it! May you continue to be comforted by good memories and by the hope of Heaven!

Kat Biggie said...

This is a wonderful list. I wrote a similar post not too long ago about how to help a mother who has just lost a baby. You came by my blog and made a comment. I appreciated it so much. I knew who you were at the time, but I did not know Jack's story. I had not taken the time yet to get out of my own fog to learn about your story. I am sorry for that. You are a beautiful writer and Jack was blessed to have you as a mother. Thank you for taking the time to visit me and comment. I'm sorry it took a little while for me to get back.

ckboss said...

Thank-you so much for this post. Gives me ideas of what to do when I feel so stunned and empty.

Xxx

Anonymous said...

i was horribly bereaved a week ago. the words i can't bear to hear any more are "if there's anything i can do, tell me". it's really irritating because they all say it and it doesn't seem one bit sincere.

Deb Werrlein said...

Hi Anna,
just sent this link to someone asking for advice on twitter--so I took a minute to re-read. It really is so helpful! I still think of you, your family and Jack often. Hope things are still going smoothly in the new house & with the book!
deb.

Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms said...

I am so sorry for your loss. On the other hand,I am so glad your blog was recommended to me. Your words are a blessing. Ellen