To call or not to call...3 ways to help a grieving friend.
If you know someone, other than Steve and I that is, who is struggling with grief and loss, you may be asking yourself what you can do to help. Here is my quick guide to being a good friend. FYI, Steve and I still need these things too...
1. You have a smart phone. So be smart and use it. Reach out in whatever way you are comfortable. I have come to realize in the three months that have passed since we lost Vail, that most people just don’t know what to say. That is perfectly normal. But, Saying nothing is not an option! At least not if you actually care. We use social media for a million insignificant things every day, from watching silly animal videos to finding out what Kim Kardashian ate for breakfast. Use your social powers for good. Take a minute to post something thoughtful on Facebook or instagram. Send a short text or go old school and send an email. It doesn’t matter. Just let them know you are thinking of them and supporting them. I cannot overstate how valuable this is to the person who is grieving. One single text or post can change my day. Down here, in the dark depths of the pain and loss, knowing that someone cares can change my view on survival moment to moment. No amount of communication is too much. I know we all get busy, but please, don’t be too busy to support those you care about. Lack of communication can feel so isolating. Literally, some days it feels like we are completely alone in the world. That may not be the intention of your silence but it is the result, if you don’t take the time to check in. Now, no one expects you to check in every day or to make someone else's grief you main focus in life. Just remember that showing up can take many forms and no matter which form you choose, it really matters.
2. Don’t ask, just do. If you call me or see me out and you ask me what you can do to help, my answer will be “there is nothing anyone can do to help.” And there is truth in that. All the meals or coffee dates or invites to things in the world won’t bring my baby back. Nothing short of her resurrection can truly help me. However, it is in the little things that I find my humanity again. I have felt so lost and disconnected from the world. And still do, every day. Invisible, like the world has just gone on and left me behind. Left me. So something as simple as coffee can be life altering for me on that day. As I said, don’t ask. Chose your words wisely. Example: you could say “when are you available for coffee?” Give the griever some dates and times that would work for you. This forces them into taking action. Words like “let’s get coffee sometime” don’t help the lost. 'Sometime' means nothing when time isn't linear anymore--When you live in the past, where you loved one was alive. Be specific. Nail it down. Then follow up and make sure you are still on the day before.
Show up. I mean literally show up. Drive to their house and say “I’m here to run the vacuum” Or “I’ll walk the dog now, would you like to join me?” We had a lady from church, that we don’t know at all, call the other day to tell us that she was dropping off a bag of groceries for us at the early service on Sunday. She said that she didn’t know how to help but this is what she could do. It meant a lot. She didn’t ask, she just did it. When you feel like we feel every day, you don't have any energy to invest in making plans or helping people figure out how to help. I don’t know how to help myself. I don’t know what I need. And even if I did, there‘s a huge leap from knowing what someone could do to help to actually figuring out who could do that particular thing and then picking up the phone to ask. We know that we have people who would help if we asked. But we won’t ever ask. And it’s not a pride thing. It’s a grief thing.
3. Honor the person that they lost. This. A woman I met on Facebook market place, when selling Vail’s bedroom things, asked me about what had happened. This was early on when I couldn’t bear to offer up the reality I was living. She asked because she instinctivley knew something was wrong when she saw the posts of me selling everything from Vail’s room. I explained about Vail’s SUDC death and she was very compassionate. Months later, this woman, who was basically a complete stranger, messaged me on Facebook to tell me that she told some friends about Vail and they had decided to give donations to The Vail Project as gifts at their holiday party. The donations are great, and very appreciated. But what really means the world to me is that she talked about Vail. And then those people heard Vail’s story and retold it. That is the only way Vail will live on, through telling story. It is suffocating to think about the world never knowing my beautiful child. That her amazing spirit will be forgotten by all except those closest to her. Sharing her story, raising awareness and giving life to her name is one of the most amazing ways we can feel supported. Remember her, I beg of you. Take a moment, even in the smallest way, and honor the person that is lost. I promise that this is a true gift you can give the person who is mourning their loved one. It can be as simple as doing something kind for someone else, a total stranger perhaps. Making sure to do it in the name of your friends lost loved one. Share their story of loss. Or just share a memory you have of that person with someone new. It will mean more than any card or flowers. Not one person, other than my husband and Aspen, has shared a memory they have of Vail with me since she passed. I'm not sure if people just think it is too painful for us to hear. Well, heads up, it is painful. Everything is painful now. You know what's the most painful? Feeling like people don't remember her.
There are probably hundreds of ways you can support a grieving friend or family member. None of them are wrong. When you are lost, any life-line is a blessing. I am not a stranger to loss. I experienced it early in life, when my grandmother who raised me, passed suddenly when I was 18. Later that same year one of my close friends from high school was murdered. My sister's husband passed away suddenly less than two years after they were married. My grandfather followed my grandmother a few years later. I have lost special dogs and special friends along the way. My NHOR family can attest to the loss we have all experienced. Allen and AJ-just to name a few. Steve and I lost a baby before we had Aspen. Loss has been a steady shadow in our lives. None of these losses came anywhere close to the trauma of losing Vail. But what they all have in common is that they were losses and any loss is painful for the person experiencing it. If you know someone experiencing a loss, know that you can be the light in the dark for them.
As a side note, if you are looking for some way to continue to support Steve and I, have no fear, we will be asking you for your help shortly. The Vail Bracelet, a wearable alert and safety monitor for children over the age of 1 year (that Steve designed) is headed to the friends and family round of investment in the next two weeks. We are working closely with a start up advisory and venture capital raise firm called Nirvana Analytics. The owner at Nirvana believes that this device will potentially be worth half a billion (yes billion) dollars within 3-5 years. In the coming weeks we will have prospectus documents available for review and we will be reaching out to each and every person we know to ask them to consider investing in this ground-breaking technology. So get your rolodex's and checkbooks ready. It is through this bracelet that Vail will impact the world. Her life will save the lives of other children. And, God willing, the data from the Vail Bracelet will help us find a cause for SUDC.