What to tell a friend when their child dies.

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Sculpture Image Via The Midnight Orange

This is a post I hesitate to write because it’s not about me. It’s about a beautiful friend of mine who lost her precious daughter this morning. She would have turned two in just a few weeks. It is not my place to write about her loss, but my heart is so broken for her, and this is where I come when my heart is breaking.

As the “resident expert” on babyloss I feel like I am expected to know what to do more than the average person on how to “be there” for her. I don’t feel like that, but in some ways, I suppose it’s true, if only because most people are so clueless. When I visited her this morning she asked me through tears “What am I supposed to do?” and I numbly said “Nothing. I didn’t do anything for weeks.”

That was a painfully stupid reply. It is I that can do nothing. 

I want plan to go back and tell her…

“You should think about your daughter. Talk about her. Remember every little thing about her as vividly as you can. Speak her name. A million times. Write every word she’d learned in her two short years. The way she spoke her brother’s name. The way she said Mamma and Daddy. The foods she loved, and those she hated. Write every memory, every story, every laugh and giggle and smile and hug, every time her eyelashes tickled your cheek. Feel her spirit and presence surrounding you and feel her arms around you.  Cry as loud an you can, as hard as you need to. Write down every word her doctors spoke, though they will be etched on your heart like stone forever anyway. Love her. Grieve her. Celebrate her. Mourn her. Make everyone tell you what they remember about her, what they love about her, how she made them feel when she smiled at them or reached out her arms to be held by them. Soak in every fleeting thought and comment…. and breathe. Second to second, minute to minute. … and don’t think beyond that.”

And then I will ask her to tell me everything about her little girl. I will sit with her in her pain. I will sit in her memories and confusion, in her fear and isolation. I’ll sit as long as she wants, or I’ll leave as soon as she wants.

I went this afternoon and brought journals for them. One for my friend, one for her husband and one for their family and friends to write their memories of my friend’s daughter. One thing I do know is that after a baby is gone every single memory becomes the very fabric of that person’s existence. For moms whose babies died before they had a chance to live, it is the morning sickness, the stretch marks, the hospital visits, the words the doctors spoke. Those few memories equal a baby’s whole life. This child was almost 2 years old. My friend is entitled to every single memory created in those 700+ days. I hope her friends and family fill that journal cover to cover with all the beautiful things – big and small – they remember about this sweet little girl. Not to fill it with condolences, but to fill it with moments of blessings and sweetness and laughter and joy, because that is what this little girl brought to the world.

Love & Muchness, Tova


12 Replies to “What to tell a friend when their child dies.”

  1. Julie

    Yes, Tova. All of what you said is valuable for your friend. She will have crappy days and days that are less so. She will be the one that most vividly reminds the world of what was lost. My thoughts are with her and I wish her a modicum of peace.

    Reply
  2. Allegra Stein

    This is beautiful, Tova, and brilliant. Your advice around the loss of a child is unlike any other I have ever read. I can hardly imagine the pain one goes through at the loss of a child – what you suggest is in some ways celebratory, allowing for some moments of joy around the memories even within the pain of the loss.

    Reply
    • Tova Gold Post author

      Thank You Allegra, when I went to the cemetery to see where my girls had been buried, it was so sad and pitiful. A neglected corner with shitty little plastic plot markers that were broken and neglected. I came home and felt compelled to create ‘headstones’ for my girls- Large painted rocks with color and glitter… part of me wanted to make one for every little baby buried there… to make it look like a colorful garden, “appropriate” for babies. I don’t know why, I just feel like the sadness and grief is overwhelming and will always be there, but it is not morbid, and tiptoeing around like it is, hiding it in the corner, avoiding and neglecting it… doesn’t really help anyone cope or heal. If you want, you can see my stones here, it’s the final entry on my pregnancy blog. omgwerehavingtwins.com xoxo

      Reply
  3. Brandy

    Tova, this is beautiful! I’m sorry about your losses. You are such a beautiful person
    and I’m so honored to be a part of your life. I believe you are an angel on Earth here to help
    others….never in a million years would you think it would be your
    neighbors daughter. You are here to help her family through this journey.
    The journals are perfect and everything you wrote above is great! Keep up
    the good work!! Hugs my friend!!!!

    Reply
  4. Karen Yankovich

    Tova your friends are lucky to have such a compassionate friend. You took the time to go BACK and make sure you did everything you could for your friends in this unreal time in their lives. Thanks for sharing this story, your thoughts on this topic are always interesting! xoxo (And somehow I missed that you had a pregnancy blog. I’m gonna go get a box of tissues and read it)

    Reply
    • Tova Gold Post author

      Hi Karen,
      Thanks so much for your comment. My pregnancy blog… I printed it out and expected to take it down but can’t bring myself to. I don’t go there often but it’s like glimpse into the mind of this girl I used to be. It recently got hacked and my header got messed up. :-/
      xox

      Reply
  5. Natanya

    This is wonderful, Tova. It feels like diving into life amidst a grief which I only imagine is all-consuming. You provide direction at a moment when all direction is lost, and permission to become saturated in love when all feeling is numbed. Your words, are a gift.

    Reply
  6. Beryl

    Tova – My heart is breaking for your friend and this post is beautifully written and rings true for me on SO many levels. “After a child is gone their memories become every fabric of their being” YES YES YES. I hear that loud and clear. It’s why I blog, why Bella’s memory is now etched into my every action. Thank you beautiful friend for sharing this. xo.

    Reply
    • Tova Gold Post author

      Thank You Beryl.. You’re words mean a lot tome, and I know that our fuel is so similar in so many ways.
      I’m very thankful for our connection..
      xo

      Reply

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