But what does that mean? What does it look like in the present and in the future? Here are some solid ways to "be there" for them today and tomorrow.
"Be there" for them now.
1. Listen. Without judgment or advice.
2. Cry with them. Don't be afraid of tears. Yours or theirs.
4. Literally be with them. At the hospital. At the funeral. At the follow-up doctor's visits. At a support group meeting if they choose to attend one. In their home. The first time they go out in public, or back to the moms group that you are in together, or to church, or to the grocery store.
5. Look at their pictures. Don't avert your eyes. Gazing with admiration on the pictures of their beloved child is a precious gift.
"Be there" for them in the future.
Remember all of the important dates with a card. Write them in your calendar NOW so you won't forget. At a minimum:
- The due date
- The loss date
- The birth date (if it was different from the loss date)
- Your friend's birthday
- Your friend's anniversary
- Religious holidays such as Christmas and Easter
- Mother's Day
- Father's Day
- Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day (10/15)
Be there with them next October for pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. Here are some practical ideas for that when the time comes.
Be there with them in the second year (by remembering the same dates as you did for the first years) when everyone else thinks they are done grieving. Only they aren't.
Do this all over again if the unthinkable happens and they have another loss. Because even though "they've been through it before", they haven't been through this loss of this child before, and they will need a friend who understands that.
Be with her when and if she gets pregnant again, and this time has a living child. Because that will bring up a whole other bunch of mixed emotions and she will need you again when no one else understands.
Be there with them when their child would have begun kindergarten, and middle school, and high school, and when he or she would have graduated. And when their other children, or yours, get married and they are thinking of what might have been. And when their, or your, grandchildren are born.
Wait, you might be saying, this is a lot to remember, and to do. It's a lifetime!
And because you are a friend who understands, neither will you.