In the days immediately following Ginny’s death and birth, our lives stopped. That time was full of grief and emptiness and churning hearts and not much else. I couldn’t fathom how the world was continuing to turn and how the explosion that was our lives really only impacted our sole townhome. Everyone else was going to work, seeing friends, fixing dinner. We felt isolated and a little crazy. The only things that connected us to the rest of the world were condolences. And how I treasured every single condolence!
The walk to the mailbox got me outside in the sun and moving my achey postpartum body. I smiled as I counted the pastel colored envelopes. These sympathy cards not only brightened my day, but gave me something to do. Daniel and I slowly opened each one and poured over the encouraging words. These words showed us that we weren’t actually alone, that the impact did affect more than just us, and that Ginny was not nearly forgotten. The words validated that this experience is truly tragic and difficult. We felt all the love, and it helped lift our hearts a little.
As time went on, the cards came less frequently which actually made them even more meaningful. Some friends even sent more than one card in the months following Ginny’s death. How insightful to know that we would continue to need support and reminders as the condolences started subsiding! We were thought of again on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and again on Ginny’s 1st birthday. We needed each one of those cards and care packages, and they were all so much appreciated.
I had never been good at condolences. I don’t think anyone thinks they are good at it; it’s a hard thing that no one teaches you. People don’t like talking about death and are afraid to say the wrong thing. I don’t know how many times I’ve thought of sending a sympathy card but didn’t because I thought “They don’t actually know me that well. It might be weird.”, “Too much time has passed. I missed the window.”, “I don’t even know what I would write.” Now I know I was foolish to think those things. I should’ve 100% sent a card. As I mentioned before, the cards that came later – even weeks or months later- were even more special because it showed that people were still thinking of us and of Ginny. In the same way, cards that came from acquaintances or friends of friends who we’ve never met were so meaningful. It showed that Ginny’s life and death impacted more than our little circle. Those cards blessed us so much. I vowed to always send a card or a gift anytime I hear of a loss. I haven’t been the best at that, but I want to get better and better. It really is important.
As far as what to say, I now have many examples of messages that encouraged and supported us in those early days. I want to share a small sample with you in hopes that it will inspire you reach out to those who may be grieving around you.
Below are a few of the most common, most encouraging, and most thoughtful parts of messages people sent:
“I’m so sorry.”
“There are no words strong enough or big enough to ease the pain, but you have been on my mind.”
“I’m thinking of you and praying for you.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“My heart is broken for you.”
“I’m here for you if you need to talk or sit in silence.”
“I think of Ginny often.”
“No one can replace her.”
“You are amazing parents.”
“Ginny has changed all of us.”
“I’m proud of you.”
“Ginny’s life was a gift from God.”
“Ginny is blessed to have you as her mom.”
“It is no fair and we don’t understand, but we cling to the promise of a new day and joy to return.”
“Ginny will always be yours, and she will always have a special place in your lives.”
“Everyone who loves you, loves her.”
“Ginny will always be part of us.”
“Jesus grieves with us.”
“You are not alone.”
“Your memories will stay with you.”
I also so appreciated messages that included memories of my pregnancy, scriptures or poems, brief stories of their loss, and anytime someone spoke of Ginny by name. Everyone is different so these may not be as encouraging to everyone, but they sure were to me.
In addition to cards, we were blessed with flowers, donations to nonprofit organizations in Ginny’s honor, gift cards for food delivery, gift cards to movie theaters, meals, books about grief, handmade blankets and shawls, ornaments, and care packages with treats & self-care items. Any of these would be a wonderful gift to give someone grieving. We also received some very special personalized gifts. One was a stuffed bear made out of one of Ginny’s outfits and weighted to the exact weight she was at birth. We received a Bible with her name on it. We were given handmade baby blankets and hats. Even though we couldn’t wrap Ginny in those blankets, they were still so meaningful. We treasure all these thoughtful gifts.
We were also sent a special care package from the One Wing Foundation. I know there are a few other organizations that do similar care packages such as Hope Mommies and Kindness for Kaysen. I also love Laurel Box for bereavement gifts and custom care packages.
We’ve kept all the condolences we were given, and they are still a comfort to look back on. I hope this has given you some good ideas for supporting someone who is grieving and inspired you to reach out even if a lot of time has passed. It really does mean a lot to a grieving person!