Over the past year I’ve watched two of my friends–both amazing moms–go through unimaginable tragedies with their children. When your friends go through something like this, you feel helpless. You know there’s nothing that will take the pain away and you definitely don’t want to say or do anything that may be misconstrued or that hurts them. However, these are your friends and you want to help them. So, what do you do?
After watching and talking to my two friends, here’s what I learned about helping fellow moms in need.
One of things that can be difficult for a parent going through a tragedy with a child is the sheer volume of outpouring of help and love. While it’s amazing to receive, it can be taxing to relay the same story over and over or answer the non-stop ringing phone or emails. Ask if you can be the go-to point for your friend. One of the best ways to do this today is to set up a Facebook page. (Ask your friend if it’s OK first!) Then, you (or your friend) can funnel all the information and updates through that page and it will cut way down on the amount of personal responses.
A couple of days after my friend’s child was in an accident, I got real with her. I sent her a message that said something like, “I know this is really personal and you can tell me that it’s none of my business, but what’s your financial situation and do you mind if I set up a GoFundMe page for people who want to donate to you?” Your friends aren’t going to ask for financial help, but if you take charge of it and put it in place, my bet is that it will be a relief for them for the mounting costs and loss of money for missing work.
Our natural human inclination is to pull back from things that make us uncomfortable. When a parent goes through a tragedy, they need to be reminded that you are there for them, even if they don’t want to see anyone at the moment. Send an email, mail a note or even just a quick text to let them know you’re thinking of them.
Have you ever noticed that the majority of people will answer, “fine” when you ask “how are you?” Well, it’s clear that your friend isn’t fine, they’re going through a tragedy! So, instead, ask “what’s going on?” It gives your friend an opportunity to vent or even talk about another topic if they want.
The dates of the tragedy are super important to the family. It’s something that will be seared into their brains forever. So, write those dates on your calendar and acknowledge them when the dates come around. Also, be patient if your friend seems a little more sensitive on those dates.
Don’t pretend like nothing ever happened or that the child didn’t exist. Talk about them. Ask questions. Be genuine.
Your friend is going through something unimaginable. Both of my friends told me that they had trouble getting out of bed, let alone making any other decisions aside from the ones dealing specifically with the tragedy. Asking something as simple as, “How can I help?” is even too much during this time. Instead, say things like, “I have four meals to bring over. Is Tuesday at 10 a.m. good for you?”
It seems old school, but it’s more helpful than most people understand. Both of my friends told me that meals were super helpful during this time–one said for all of the people they had in from out of town and the other said it was one less thing she had to deal with or think about. Make some dishes that can be put in the refrigerator or eaten right away, and also some that can be put in the freezer and heated up quickly. Be sure to label what they are and the directions for cooking!
One of my friends told me that she vacillated between not being able to handle the other kid(s) and needing them near. So, ask if you can take the other kids for the afternoon and do something fun with them. Or, if we’re talking about a sick or injured child, ask if you can sit with them while the mom spends time alone with the other kids. I actually sent one of my friends dinner and game gift cards with explicit instructions on how to use them as a “date night” with one of the kids. It took out all of the planning and also all of the financial burden out. They just had to pick a date! And then, I did the same thing so that mom and dad could have a date night.
Something one of my friends said to me will stay with me forever. She said, “Continue to invite me out, even though I probably won’t come.” She couldn’t handle the physical and emotional part of being out with people, but our invites gave her a little bit of normalcy that made her feel better.
Are you a mom who has been through a tragedy with your child, or a friend who has helped a mom? We would love to have you add to this list in the comments!