How can you help a bereaved parent

(12 Posts)
prufrock Mon 28-Apr-03 19:15:30

My Mums friend J had her baby at 26 weeks. He died when he was 4 weeks old, having never come out of hospital. Mum really wants to help J, but doesn't really know how. She has left a message on the answerphone and sent a card, but has had no response. As she used to work with this woman, she has also had lots of enquiries from their professional contacts wanting to send cards etc but is not sure whether to give out J's home address to people or not.
I know there are Mumsnetters who have been through similar ordeals, and just wanted some advice on how my Mum can best help.

OP’s posts: |
Clarinet60 Mon 28-Apr-03 20:30:52

A quick message - she may not feel able to respond yet, but will value the letters and cards, perhaps sent to her work address by people who don't know her socially. I think the lack of any acknowledgement at all (often due to well-meaning uncertainty) would be the worst response.
A friend lost an older child and I am still not sure how to help her best. She has, however, said that comments such as 'it must have been for the best' or 'God must think you're really special to let you suffer so much' or 'are you going to try for another baby' were particularly hurtful and unhelpful.

Lindy Mon 28-Apr-03 21:25:54

I second Droile's comments, it is so important to make contact & acknowledge what has happened. My best friend's first baby was still born & she says she was amazed by other people's responses - she actually used the experience to work out who were 'true' friends and who weren't. Your mother might not get an immediate response, but I am sure her friend will be pleased that people show they do care and are prepared to talk about what happened (without making trite comments). If she feels uncomfortable about giving out her home address she could always have the cards & letters sent to her & then forward them on.

Marina Tue 29-Apr-03 10:17:58

Agree with other posters. Your mum is already on the right track by just persisting with making contact, Prufrock, in my experience some people are just too spooked by infant death or pregnancy loss to even do this.
My advice would be for her to act as the receiving point for all the work cards and then forward them to J. Those cards may not be opened immediately but will become part of a very special treasure box for J's little ds. I have never yet been able to open Tom's, but knowing it is there and brimful with kind thoughts (and a printout of his Mumsnet thread) is so vital to me.
Your mum should also not be put off by the fact that her message has not been replied to. I'm afraid there were days on end when I just felt unable to even pick up the phone to return calls without bursting into tears. The best sorts of friends to have are those who are uninhibited about keeping ringing (not hourly obviously!) or dropping a little line. I will be eternally grateful to them and I am sure J will too.
Given the circumstances of J's son's death I would guess that the hospital already put her in touch with SANDS. If they didn't for any reason, I would very much recommend contacting them. The people at SANDS HQ are fantastic and would be more than happy to advise your mum on how she can support J as well as extending compassionate support to J herself. Here's their website . They also have a network of UK branches, some busier than others, which offer befriending and group meetings. J can go along to these when she feels ready, SANDS is there for people whose baby died yesterday or 50 years ago.
I am so sorry J lost her son but pleased to hear she has such caring former colleagues thinking of her at this time. She and her family are in my thoughts too.

cazzzz Wed 30-Apr-03 20:52:59

Hi there - I'm so sorry to hear about J's situation, it must be awful. I went through a miscarriage earlier this year so a few suggestions stemming from that are: You feel exhausted after these things and daily tasks seem very wearing. If J has another child (as I do) I would suggest her husband takes some time off work / a relative or friends help out with the child care for a while - you need to just be able to crawl under the duvet. Also ask people who would like to send cards / help out to make a meal and drop it round (but not stop and talk) - it really helps to not have to think about these basic things. Best wishes.

Metrobaby Wed 20-Aug-03 12:19:34

Has anyone got any advice how I can help my sister ??? She had a late miscarriage with her first ds when she was 35 weeks. This was 3 years ago. Since then she did go onto have her second ds who was born healthily. She is pg again, and this baby's due date falls at the same time as her first ds. She is beside herself with worry once again. The worry is just as much as her last pregnancy, and I can't even begin to imagine how hard it must be with this one due on her ds anniversary. Is there anything I can do/say, or shouldn't do/say ? I don't know even whether or when to bring up the subject of her ds1, or leave it to her to bring up. Either way I don't want to appear insensitive. Having read Marina's advice below, I'd suggest SANDS to her, but both her and her dh would be un-willing to talk about this to outsiders - they are pretty shy people.

Marina Wed 20-Aug-03 21:24:54

Metrobaby, I'm really sorry to hear about your sister's loss and the coincidence that means she is expecting another baby on the anniversary of her first son's death. I've just had a dd within a fortnight of the first anniversary of losing Tom so can well understand how your sister is finding the pregnancy very hard going.
Although I got some written information and some kind e-mails from SANDS HQ shortly after my loss I did not feel ready to talk about Tom with "strangers" either, so although I had the details I did not contact my local branch until months later - when I was expecting dd and almost insane with anxiety about my ability to cope with the pregnancy. I found the people in my local SANDS branch VERY supportive once I plucked up courage to make the call. Several of them had gone on to have a healthy baby after losing one and they basically kept tabs on me during my pregnancy in the kindest, lowest-key sort of way. So you *could* contact SANDS on your sister's behalf and get her local branch details from them.
You sound like a loving, caring sister. The main thing is that she knows she can talk about the son she lost and this pregnancy to you if she wants - a lot of women don't have that kind of support from within their own family.
Specifically, I'd say that she will possibly *not* want to hear, from anyone, however kindly meant, that "the end is in sight", "it'll be worth it when you are cuddling your lovely baby", "it's too much of a coincidence that anything will go wrong this time", or "lightning never strikes twice". I had all of these said to me at 36 weeks plus and they made me want to scream. Maybe you, as a sister, could ensure that older family members DON'T come out with any of these, or that if you are out and about together, you deflect any bonkers intrusive remarks from complete strangers.
From what you have said about your sister and BIL being shy and preferring to keep their feelings private, I guess offering to correspond with them via Mumsnet is probably not something they'd like. But they can get in touch with me if they want. HTH

Jemma7 Thu 21-Aug-03 12:08:42

Marina, i really don't want to offend you or cause you unneccesary hurt but i would love to read your story regarding Tom.

I haven't been around on mumsnet very long but have heard lots about this and i would love to read about how you pulled through from your experience and how it changed your views on things.

Basically, if you wouldn't mind me reading your story and wouldn't be put out by my asking, would you be able to create a link.

Reading back over this message it sounds awful - i honestly don't mean it to be - and geuinely interest but am not very good at wording things accordingly.

Bozza Thu 21-Aug-03 12:28:00

I hope Marina doesn't mind me answering for her but I guess you're probably fairly busy at the moment Marina. Here is the link to Marina's thread.
\linkhttp://www.mumsnet.com/Talk?topicid=1365&threadid=3825&stamp=030109214841{}

Bozza Thu 21-Aug-03 12:29:16

Sory obviously did that wrong. I'll try again but if this doesn't work paste it into the address bar.
Thomas's story

Jemma7 Thu 21-Aug-03 12:45:29

Thanx Bozza - i hope Marina doesn't mind

Metrobaby Thu 21-Aug-03 13:51:30

Thank you Marina. Tom's story really did touch me, and brought back memories of my sister's ds for me. My sister also found that after the birth of her ds, people avoided her refused to talk about it. It was heartbreaking for her and her dh. My sister has no internet access so I'd like to print out your Tom's thread, and show it to her as she felt at the time that she was very much alone with her feelings.

Thanks once again, and thinking of your family at this time.

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