Thanks for all the feedback I've been getting from these posts. It's hard to know sometimes what to say and to say it in such a way that's encouraging and grateful but yet also in a way that truthfully conveys what does and doesn't help best during a time of sorrow and change. And this has been MY experience, we are all so different and needs will vary with some people.
But here are some of my favorite ways practically that people have served and loved on me by doing!
- They Celebrated Life! This first one is for those who find a friend in a situation where they don't know if they will be experiencing losing a child but have been presented with the possible reality of it. CELEBRATE LIFE!!!! So, those of you who have friends with difficult pregnancies or have been given grim diagnosis… give them something that screams life and normalicy. Buy clothes the child may never wear. Buy stuffed animals the child may never hold. Make quilts that the child may never need the warmth of. Those are so precious to me to this day! Have showers! Don't ignore the difficulty and even include a time of prayer at that shower. I can't tell you how blessed those times of prayer were and still I know are seeing God answer and fulfill even months later. If you don't know what to say, that's okay just be there. God will often have women who have experienced loss or who have the gift of encouragement there as well and let them say words that God wants the hurting mommy to be to hear. Friends have different gifts and just let God use your gifts where they fit best in this time of hardship.
- They came to the hospital. That was probably really hard for some because what do you say? what do you bring? there is no baby to see and awe over. It can even be downright awkward. But COME anyway! The first few days I don't remember much. But I know there were friends there to talk and laugh with Dan and even relieve family members from having to stay all the time. Some might say not to stay long, but I say just play it by ear. If you're needed and conversation is flowing stay! but if they seem tired and preoccupied and decisions are being made then love on them for just a bit.
- They prepared for my coming home. Oh, those dear friends who cleaned my house that week for me. We left in a tizzy when going to the hospital so I know it was a mess. But it was sparkling when I got home and the front entrance was decorated with bright yellow mums! I love mums in a special way now because I had a cheerful front door to go into those first few weeks!
- They brought meals. This was a little hard for me especially after having the recent experience of finding out what it's like when there is a new baby in the home. But while it was such a blessing not to have to cook or figure out what to have for dinner, it was difficult because there was no baby to show off when people dropped by and sometimes I wanted to talk and sometimes I didn't. Mostly I didn't. Also, Dan and I had requested healthy meals as we were trying to eat better.. but we found out really fast we wanted comfort foods as well! It was nice to have a balance of casseroles that were so amazing and fresh foods that were great for us. Here is a MUST READ when it comes to bringing meals to friends!
- They got me out of doing dishes! One thing that a friend did was bring us paper goods. Paper plates, plastic cups, napkins. SO HELPFUL! because I did not want to be doing lots of dishes.
- They helped start my day off right! My mom made meals and froze them for us and we are still eating them. She also bought breakfast stuff for us. I had weeks where I had yogurt parfaits every morning (that I made in the plastic cups) yogurt, granola, and frozen berries, so easy and good for you. She kept those three items stocked for me for a few weeks. I never would have thought to make those or buy that stuff but she did and it was very helpful to start off my day right.
- They just came over! Okay, I know I just said I wanted to be left alone. But if you are a Best Friend of someone and feel like they can be honest with you about their needs, Then go over all the time!! Every night for a while three of my best friends (who just happen to live next door) came over… And often due to the generosity of the meal makers we were able to share dinner with them as well. The good thing about going over often is that you'll be there in moments when they need to cry and fall apart and you'll be there when they just want to talk or vent and you'll be there when they laugh and need something to watch. (because this was a regular happening it wasn't inappropriate when they wanted us to see a funny you-tube video they had seen that day. those moments were so needed!)
- They put Scripture before me! A few friends wrote out scripture verses out and made them decorative and gave them to me to put up around the house. Those are still verses I see daily and are still claiming their promises in my life.
- They did the little things that nobody thinks of. From returning videos to getting me stamps for letters to seeing if I needed anything at walmart, friends included all the little things that needed done into their daily errands! It was so helpful!!!
- They took care of my dog! Having a dog during this time was so healing because he was so sensitive and loyal to my side those weeks of being at home. He knew something was wrong but just stayed close to me. I had a friend send him a care package. (thanks sara) Yes, I know, maybe that's over the top to some of you. but I hadn't had the chance to get him something to play/chew on in some time. And then add to that friends who wanted to walk him and get him out of the house and give him attention. (kids coming over during that time was great for him) It was a blessing to have them care for a dog who was in a way caring for me
- They wrote thank you notes! Okay, this has never been my strong point and leave it to family to pick up where you lack. My family showed their gratefulness on my behalf to those who served us endlessly and without much notice by writing them cards. I often have wondered how I'm ever going to personally thank everyone who helped us during this time and please know that my heart has captured you in special places and I know some many of you deserve a hand written note from my heart and I hope that I have the opportunity in the months/years to come to tell each of you how much you mean to me. But if I don't know that you are treasured in my heart. Know that!
- They remembered Asher. During special day or even just random days they would call or email and just in tears say they were missing him then. Oh beloved that meant the world to me… still does. Sometimes they sent/gave gifts that had his name on it or his birth information displayed for me to remember. Memorial gifts were so special. I have pieces of jewelry that whenever I wear I remember him and it's strangely healing.
- They cared for my well being. Even though I had no baby to care for I still found it hard to get a shower and fix my hair. The last thing I was thinking about was getting a haircut or having my nails look nice. But ladies, it's all connected! I was taken to get my nails done right before Asher's service. what a blur but that was an element I didn't have to think about. I was treated to a haircut and afterwards I wanted to fix my hair and at least try to look nice. It was helpful in the process of starting to feel a little more normal. I've had friends who have had miscarriages and this element is really important. Giving them a basket of body washes and beauty supplies I know blesses during this time of just bodily pain and discomfort and allows you to be a part of this very personal and often private pain and loss in their life.
- They loved my husband and let him grieve! I asked him the other day if he talks about asher much at work and he just really said how God has blessed him with co-workers who aren't afraid to talk about Asher and his birth and death. He said that the people God has put in his life there have been so encouraging and just have been his friends through this. A lot of my best friends are some of his closest friends as well and they really loved him well and laughed with him! I think all the funny you-tube videos did him the most good. As a teacher, nothing makes him more proud than to see growth and God in his students. They have showed so much maturity through this and have gone the extra mile in taking care of their Mr.Chappell. Thanks guys! I know Dan is blessed to have you in his classes. Thanks NRCA parents, for letting your children go to the memorial service knowing that you might have difficult questions to answer afterwards.
- They took me away. At six weeks some of my closest friends decided I needed to get away and planned a trip to Washington D.C. and made it clear I was to go with them! I agreed to go and honestly up to about an hour before I was in constant flip flopping over if I was going to really go or not. I kept telling Dan I'm not going to go… but I should go… I just can't… but I want to… ughh! But I did go. And I'm so glad I did. It was beautiful and it was an easy trip that didn't overwork my body but still made me move and get out! Here is the slideshow from that trip! Thanks Girls!! I'll never forget that weekend.
- They gave me books and movies! Movies and books were a great mental stimulus and getaway for me and I was given some great books that were great reads but also encouraging. many of them are in the side panel of the blog in book recommendations. And some gave us movie gift cards that let Dan and I get out of the house and escape into worlds of spies, romance, heroes, triumph and so many more. It was helpful for us both!
As you can see there are SO MANY ways to help and serve and love! These are just some of the countless ways that I have been blessed by those in my life. THANK YOU SO MUC to all who made this list possible!
I hope this inspires you and prepares you for when God brings a hurting family into your life next.