When to Help a Friend After Her 4 Year Old Son Died?

Updated on June 08, 2012
M.H. asks from Dallas, TX
19 answers

Hi moms, one of my good friend's 4 year old son just passed away about a week ago from a deadly form of cancer. We have been so saddened by it. It killed me at the viewing and funeral to see my friend hurt so much. I cannot imagine going through what she is right now. Losing a child is the most stressful thing any mother can go through. I hurt for her.
Hearing her painful cries at the viewing and funeral in itself was hard to bare. She passed out before the funeral. She said she "wanted to die". It has been almost a week since the funeral. The thing is she is grieving now and has shut herself off from the world (hard to contact). Her family is still in town and I am not sure when they are leaving. I am not sure when is the right time to go over and visit...do I wait a week? Do I give her space? Do I try and contact her before or do I go over unannounced? I am not sure what to do. One of our other mutual friends took a gift over the day after the funeral and was only there for 2 minutes. Should I do that as well? I think she needs space and time to grieve but I don't want her to think I am not there for her. She will need support and love now more than ever but my question is, when should I go over and visit? What is the best way to help my friend out? Anyone been in this situation and want to offer any advice and what has helped get through this tough, sensitive, and sad time? Thanks moms!

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So What Happened?

Thanks everyone for your responses! They were helpful. I dropped by the day after I wrote this and she was on her way to bed but I dropped off some goodies and she was grateful. I offered to help more but she said she needed time to grieve by herself. her bday was last week and I took some gifts and we talked for an hour. That was good. She is taking everything hard but is seeing a grievance counselor soon. I will continue to visit her.

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answers from Chicago on

I had a still-born in 2007, lost my 19 year old niece exactly a year after my loss. She died in a car accident. In my case I wanted to have people around me, I wanted to talk about my loss, I needed to vent, I needed to cry. I was fortunate to have supportive people around me all the time. The one thing I really hated to hear was, you will have more kids. Well one child is not going to replace the other. The most kind words I received were, I may not call or visit you everyday but please know that I'm thinking of you and If you need to talk Im here to listen. Really all you can do is show her support, call her, write her a letter, cry with her. Show her you care. Time will heal her pain (just don't tell her that), mean while you need to be there for her.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

I would make a nice meal for her and her family and take it to them. Have enough time to sit and talk if she will talk. Start helping out, if she is anything like me when I'm sad dishes can pile up, laundry left unfolded ect... Start loading her dishwasher, or do a sink full of dishes, toss a load in the washer ect.
Let her talk and talk and talk.
Tell her when she is ready you will help her to put away his things---- not get rid of. Some parents are unable to get rid of their children's things for a long time.
Remind her of how sweet he was or a funny thing that happened or a special day you spent with him.
It's so simple but also so difficult ---- just be her friend.

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Seattle on

Oh sister. I am so sorry. This sounds so hard.

I've known a few women who have lost their children. Some were many decades ago. Still, when they talk about their child, their eyes become distant. It's like, for a flash, they remember their little baby, that baby they rocked to sleep through illnesses. That baby they chastised for mischief. Their hope. I mother's hope is such a powerful thing. Their first time seeing them. All of it. The grief, I think, never quite goes away. They can be happy and hopeful people; transformed. And too a part of their body still aches for their baby, that little person who they would give their own bodies for.

My friends say they had to go down into it for a while. They became lost to it, broken by it's weight. My mom was like this for a while when my sister first went away. She was crazy with grief. Some people around her acted like it's contagious; like she could have been doing it better; that she should be doing better than that. Or, reluctant to offend or suffocate, or feelings hurt by her unavailability, they stayed away. Grief can be a lonely place, I think.

At first, I think many people find it hard to talk. Answer the phone. Have company. It's overwhelming to feel like one needs to be a host, or be On.

It can help to give full permission and unrelenting love to someone who is in deep grief, I think.

When my friends are in grief, I try to check in with them regularly. I don't expect them to pick up, or to call me back. I just call to let them know that I am still here, still loving them. Just, I'm thinking about you and I'm here, take your time. Feel free to call night or day.

I offer childcare so that they can have the space to loose it. Just be totally non functional, because that's a natural human reaction to have. People can't hold it together in grief. Or, if they don't have kids, I'll go grocery shopping for them. I'll try to grab easy snacks. It's normal to loose an appetite while in crisis. Bananas, little Greek yogurts. If they're beating themselves up about using a crutch, like smoking, I remind them that they are human and that it's okay to be messy. That's it's most important to survive through while it's absolutely unbearable.

If they are shutdown, I'll give more space and try to up the amount of physical support. I'll try to phrase things in a way that doesn't leave her feeling obligated or guilty. I am going to be in town on Monday to run errands. I was thinking I would go grocery shopping. Can I pick anything up for you? If you're not up for company I could drop the bag on your back porch?

If it's something I haven't been through, I don't try to compare it to my own stuff. I don't say things like, I understand or, it's like this other thing. I don't try to make it better, more simple, or smaller than it is. I try to say things like, that sounds hard/_____(applicable feeling here).

Later, and only if they are open to it, I might call around and see if I can find an applicable support group. The only thing that really helps, is to be around people who get it. Who've been there. I try not to push it on my friend. She always gets there when she's ready, or finds her own path through.

I try to do some of her busy work. Calling bill companies, cleaning, errand running. It takes a while before the mundane becomes manageable again. If she cries, I try not to fix it. I try to just hold her and hold her and hold her. Let her cry until she's all empty. If she's up for it, I'll tuck her into bed. Pet her head. Just take care of her like she's my own sister.

And when I'm at home, I pray and pray and pray.

Biggest hugs to you. I'm so glad your friend has a friend like you.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

A good friend of my just lost her 18 year old daughter in December 2011 to cancer. She had been diagnosed in May of 2011 and she went down fast.

It is so heartbreaking. The only thing is call, send messages. She may not call back but know that she will know you are there. When she is ready, she will reach out to you. She needs to get through the initial trauma of the loss. Does she have other kids? I ask because that could help her pull through.

This is so hard. Most of us are thinking "I'm so sorry for her but I'm so glad it wasn't my child". She didn't just lose a child, she lost the possibilities and potential. His first day of school, everything.

I sent text messages to my friend letting her know I was "stalking" her. She would sometimes text back and say "thank you"! I tend to use humor it shitty times.

You can't push her. People grieve differently and she may never get over it. Be there for her husband as well. He is grieving too and everyone may be focused on her. I'm praying for her and her family and for you.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

If I were you, I would go over there while family is in town and drop off your contact information.. Let them know you are her friend and if they need anything, they can contact you..

Also leave a note for your friend telling her you are sorry for her loss and you are also devastated. You are never going to forget her child..

Mark on your calendar his birthday and the date of his death so in the future you can send her a thinking of you and remembering.. her son.

I would also suggest for a few weeks you suggest she either come to your home for a meal or you go to her home and take her a meal.

Offer to go with her to the grocery store or whatever she needs. When you are alone with her.. Let her know you would really like to help her, but do not want to be in her way, so to please be honest with you about what she needs.

The Hospice there in Dallas should have counseling and support groups for parents of children that have died. See if she will give it a try..

I am so sorry for all of you. I am sending you all peace.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Almost a year ago my son became seriously ill, he thank God is fine now, but we didn't know at the time what was happening. My best friend was really awesome, she called every day without fail, but what was great was she let me know it was ok to not answer. Most of the time when she called I did not want to talk, but seeing her number pop up on my caller ID was such a comfort, especially knowing I didn't have to pick up and rehash all the doctor's stuff. Just knowing she loved me and thought about me and checked on me everyday, without expectation really helped get through a very tough time. I hope that helps, I know it's very hard to see someone you love in pain.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I lost my son 4 years ago. He was 3 1/2. I would offer your home to her. I could not stand to be in my house for 4 months and would go to my mom's house every morning and stay all day and sit on the couch. She is probably just laying in bed all day long. I would go over there and just ask her what she needs. Take her food. Every day if you can. I would forget to eat and could not cook for myself. Good luck!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I would drop off a note on her front door just saying "I'm so sorry. I am here for you for a shoulder to help bear your burden whenever you are ready.".

The only slight consolation is that when people pass it is harder on those left behind and sometimes the one that was suffering is just that.....no longer suffering.

Just offer a hand via note and let her dictate when she is ready.
I will say prayers for her. I'm so sorry.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Colorado Springs on

If your friend has secluded herself, e-mail. Text. Write snail mail notes. Do something like that every day if you can. Be brief, but just let her know you're thinking about her. Right now those are the only ways you can visit. She will need people soon. Let her know you'll be there, and then BE there.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

This is so tough, especially as a mom.

When my daughter (now 17) was 4 yrs old, her 4 yr old best friend died suddenly.. No sickness, nothing... she woke up from a nap crying with a headache and as her mom was comforting her, she looked at her mom and said I see heaven and she passed out. She died a couple days later.

This was SO hard to deal with because we were close to each other and at the same time, I felt guilty because here I was with the healthy child trying to help her feel better.

My suggestion is to listen, make sure she knows you are there for her when she needs you. She is in tremendous pain right now, I can't imagine the pain of losing a child.

To this day when we see these friends, not nearly like we used to, it is a memory that their daughter would be the same age, getting prepared for being a Senior in high school and going to college.

There are unspoken words between us. We can just look at each other and it is clear we are sending the message of I care about you.

Bless you for being a good friend to your friend. I wish the best for her family.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Send her a card; write your warm and caring thoughts in the card. Tell her you are there for her and to contact you when she's ready for company/friend/someone to talk to or just be there with her. She will in her own time when she is ready. God Bless this poor lady; I couldn't imagine losing a child and doubt one could ever recover from this sad loss.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I cannot imagine what it must feel like to lose a child, but from losing my father, I would suggest making contact now and then again over the next few weeks and months. People seem to forget you are still grieving after a few weeks and that is when it really gets hard-once the funeral is over and everyone goes back to their lives. I loved the idea of marking on your calendar the child's birthday and the day he died. Acknowledging those anniversaries without prompting will be incredibly comforting.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Just go over and hold her and let her cry. Don't leave after 2 mins. Tell her you are there to do whatever she needs...a shoulder to cry, someone to cook a meal, someone to clean. Just be there.

Don't offer any words of wisdom (you haven't experienced the level of grief she is in); ust offer her your love.

I'm so sorry for her loss.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I didn't read them all, but some of the suggestions are good. Additionally I highly recommend you go buy the book, "Meghan's secrets" by mike cope. You can find it at any Christian bookstore and probably on amazon or for kindle too. He lost his daughter and lost a nephew and writes about grief, what you can learn from it, and gives an excellent view of how loved ones and friends can be a support system in tragic times like loss of a child. Great story teller so a fast read too. Good for you to read, and maybe even pass on to her in a few months to read as well.



answers from Los Angeles on

if it was me i would make some meals that could do well frozen and reheated. i would call and if she doesnt answer tell her you will be droping by to see how she is doing. while you are there tell her that you are there for her and will help her if she needs it. just being a friend and getting her out in the back yard/front yard will do a lot for her.


answers from Norfolk on

Take her a meal every so often, every few weeks.
It's going to be a long long time before she can come to terms with her grief - years, if ever.
Her child just died, and she's got his things, clothes, toys, room and his absence is just so painful I'm sure she's raw with the ache of it.
She might eventually want a grief support group, or not.
People tend to cluster around her now offering support, but will they be there 6 months from now or in a year?
Other peoples grief is hard for those around them because most will have a sense when they feel they should be moving on and the supporters eventually become annoyed.
My Mom's grief when her significant other died was/is difficult.
For the first 3 years she would burst into tears just seeing a food he liked or going down a road where they'd traveled together.
It's been 10 years now and the crying has subsided, but she still wants to die and is rather pissed that she did not pass away when she reached the same age he was when he died suddenly from a heart attack.
She tells people "I should have died 6 years ago" and she's mad she's still here.



answers from Chicago on

Send a card, text, email, and make calls. Even if she doesn't respond, she knows you're there for her. When she's ready, she will contact you back. Send a meal over or have a pizza delivered.



answers from Dallas on

Call her, text her, email her, etc. But don't be upset if she doesn't reply. You could take some meals to her. Also, when my friend's 5 year old son died, she said this book really helped her: http://www.amazon.com/Heaven-Real-Little-Astounding-Story.... Might be a good gift idea.

Whatever you do, don't avoid her and don't stop talking to her even if she doesn't respond. Continue to let her know you are there and that you love her.



answers from Dallas on

When this happens you are broken you will never be the same. My girls died almost 4 years ago I am in no way the same person I was. I didn't want to talk but it was good that my friends kept trying. All this talk about bringing food over if anyone had done that for me it would have gone in the trash I stopped eating. I felt my children couldn't eat why should I. Please be careful of what you say so many people hurt me by their thoughtless words.
Offering her your place to stay is good the first thing I said when I came home was I hated my house because it was so empty.
Helping her clean is good but unless she ask stay away from her child's room and stuff. I wanted everything put away but most people want to keep
everything as it was.
Buy things you know she would like to put on he's grave like if he liked cars buy a hot wheels in his favorite color so she can put it out there ask if she needs help decorating he's grave. Some things I do for my girls I need another person to help.
Ask what she needs from you.

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