A note from Kelly King: Last week, Kaye Hurta began a series on ministering to women who have experienced the loss of a child. Whether it’s through miscarriage, disease, or an accident, there are various ways you can encourage women who continue to experience this form of grief. If you would like to hear Kaye teach on helping women in the midst of crisis, she will be teaching at six different You Lead events in 2019. You can find out more here.
Everything I learned about helping someone through loss, especially child loss, I have learned by watching and doing. Two friends in particular have been my “guides”—Marie and September. Marie’s daughter Leah died from cancer at the age of 14. September’s daughter Katie was 19 when she had an aneurism that took her life within hours. Both women have found healing in part through the writing process. Marie writes in the form of a blog called, God Wins…but can I? and September has written a book about her loss called, Colors of Goodbye. Both women have also found healing through the loving care of others. What does or what should that care look like?
Here are a few things I have learned from them and from my own experience about helping someone through the unspeakable loss of a child:
- Say Something: Tell her you care; don’t assume she knows it. Tell her through a phone call, email, text, or snail mail. However you choose to do it, say it. What is her love language? If you know, speak it. Saying something is not a one-time event. Say something early on as well as the months and years ahead. What you shouldn’t say is as important as what you do say. Please NEVER say, “I know how you feel.” You don’t. Please NEVER say, “You have (or could have) other/another child.”
- Remember: Make a note in your calendar of the date of her child’s death, funeral, birthday, or other important dates and then remember them. Send a text, card, or call acknowledging the date. Mention her child by name; as painful as it is, a mom loves to hear that name and to know that it is not forgotten.
- Listen: Please listen more than you talk. Invite her to tell you anything about her child’s life. Perhaps you could say, “I would love to hear about the day she/he was born if you feel like talking about it.” Whatever she wants to talk about, be willing to listen. Please do not follow up with a story or anecdote of your own; just listen.
- Be present: Sometimes this means just sharing space with someone and being physically present. Sometimes this means being actively present by doing something or serving them. Some ideas include: offering a shoulder to cry on, going for a walk together, running errands for her (a trip to the store perhaps), doing chores around the house, and providing gift cards or other financial help. Perhaps she would appreciate hearing Scripture read. Look for ways to help and be present physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
The weight from the grief she is carrying is too heavy for her to carry alone. By saying something, listening, remembering, and being present, you are helping her carry that weight. She will need space, grace, latitude, forgiveness, and prayers, as we all do! She may also benefit from other supports such as an online community, counseling, or reading resources.
Here are some of the resources that September found helpful:
- A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss, by Jerry Sittser
- A Grief Observed, by C.S. Lewis
- And Life Comes Back: A Wife’s Story of Love, Loss, and Hope Reclaimed, by Tricia Lott Williford
- Choosing to See: A Journey of Struggle and Hope, by Mary Beth Chapman
- I Will Carry You: The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy, by Angie Smith
- Swimming with Maya: A Mother’s Story, by Eleanor Vincent
- The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life’s Hard, by Kara Tippetts
- Where is God When It Hurts? by Philip Yancey.
This is simply a suggested list, not an exhaustive list or an endorsement.
If you are walking with someone who has lost a child, walk carefully. Walk prayerfully.
If you are a mom and have lost a child, please accept my deepest, deepest love. There are no words.
Kaye Hurta has a Masters Degree in counseling from Liberty University and is a crisis counselor for Women’s Events through LifeWay Christian Resources. Whether speaking, singing, or listening, Kaye’s passion is to help others find intimacy with Christ and soul transformation through the living pages of His Word. Kaye met and married her husband Chris in Austin, Texas in 1987. They have two daughters through the miracle of adoption, Madison and Cami. They live in the Chicago burbs where they are both on staff at Willow Creek Community Church. Kaye is also a contributing author for the LifeWay resource, Women Reaching Women in Crisis.