Birthday flowers and cinnamon roll

5 Ways to Support Bereaved Parents around a Milestone Moment

Earlier this month, we celebrated a major milestone: the first birthday of our son, Travis Jr., who was stillborn on July 1, 2022. We were grateful for the family members, friends, and pastors who remembered our son’s birthday and took the time to reach out. 

 

On the other hand, we realize that well-meaning family and friends often fail to reach out not just due to indifference or forgetting, but also because they don’t quite know what to do or say. If you are someone desiring to support a loved one who has lost a child during a milestone moment such as the child’s birthday, below are some suggested ways to do so. 

 

  1. Send a birthday text message. This is perhaps the simplest way to show support. The fact that you acknowledged the child’s life, remembered their birthday, and took the time to reach out can make a world of difference for the bereaved parent at this time. Examples of simple but meaningful text messages are below.
    • “Happy heavenly birthday to [child’s name]. Thinking of you all today”
    • “Thinking of you all today on [child’s name] birthday. Sending much love”
    • “Keeping you in prayer during this time as you celebrate [child’s name] birthday”

 

  1. Ask in advance how to support. Given the wide variety of emotions that may surface on the milestone day, many bereaved parents may not want to spend the day navigating questions about how to support them. Therefore, taking initiative to offer support in the weeks leading up to the milestone can be helpful because it will allow parents more space and time to think of a response. Asking how to support could take the form of a message such as:
“Thinking of you as [child’s name] birthday is coming up. Please let me know if there are any particular ways you’d like me to support you leading up to or on the day of. I’m here for you!” 
Two notes: 1) Sometimes the bereaved parent may not know what support they’d like from you, but the fact that you asked means a lot. 2) If the bereaved parent provides a way you can support, be sure to follow through (or explicitly let them know if you won’t be able to for whatever reason). 

 

  1. Write a poem honoring the child’s life and share with the parents. We asked family and friends who offered support to write a poem, letter, prayer, or song about our son as a way to pay tribute to his life and to encourage us on his birthday. We were particularly touched by a beautiful poem that one of our friends wrote. We took turns reading the poem out loud at our son’s birthday celebration and we plan to print it out and frame it. 

 

  1. Do an act of kindness in the child’s honor. We also asked friends to help us celebrate our son’s birthday by doing an act of kindness in his memory. One of our friends donated a children’s book to her hometown church’s library “in hopes that his legacy will bring other children to experience the love of God.” What a beautiful way to honor our son’s life. 

 

  1. Send a gift. Sending the parents a gift with a note is a thoughtful gesture to show that you care. Gift ideas include flowers, picture frames, journals, and various gift cards, such as food delivery services, spas, etc. 

 

What are some other ways you’ve shown support for bereaved parents around a milestone moment for their child? Or if you’re a bereaved parent, what are some ways you’ve particularly appreciated being supported around your child’s birthday or other milestone moment? Comment below. 

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