This is the story of our precious baby boy, who was diagnosed prenatally at
17 weeks with a fatal chromosome disorder called Trisomy 13. Although
Jonathan's condition is considered "not compatible with life", we desired to give
him every chance at life. Our prayer is that those who are touched by our story
are drawn to God, who is Life Himself. John 14:6

To start at the beginning of our story, click here.


how to help a grieving friend

i recently came across an awesome blog series on this topic written by molly piper, john piper's daughter-in-law. molly and her husband lost their 2nd baby unexpectedly at 39 weeks. her series about it, if you visit it, is a very indepth and insightful how-to guide for helping a friend after losing a baby. i was reminded of three things in particular after reading it:

1. i have the world's greatest friends.

2. everyone who desires to be a friend to someone who has suffered such a loss could probably use some tips on the best way to do this, especially if they have not had a similar experience.

3. even though i have been at the receiving end of such kindness, i still need to be reminded how i can help someone else.

our situation was a bit different from molly's, having known jonathan's diagnosis for almost 5 months prior to him being born.  we knew with the condition of his heart and kidneys that he would most likely not survive without a miracle.  we also knew deep down in our hearts that it was part of the Lord's plan not to heal him on earth but in heaven.  therefore, we grieved for him even before he was born, and again after he passed away.   so in collaboration with molly's post, i've taken my own experiences as well as other ideas i've come across while reading books and other blogs, and written my own post about it.

***please note, my goal in writing this is not to be critical, but to offer some encouragement to those of you reading this who are friends or loved ones of someone who has suffered a great loss.

how to help a grieving friend:

1. saying something is better than saying nothing at all. there are still a few people we know who have yet to say anything to us about jonathan, even though they were fully aware of his diagnosis in june and his death in october.  it's quite awkward, understandably, for both sides.

it's been a little hurtful but i'm trying to be understanding about it; mostly because i, too, have been on the other side of this, wondering "do i say something or will it make it worse?" additionally, since i have been in that situation before, i know that it's not black and white. there are all sorts of factors i thought of when trying to decide what, when, and how to say something to someone who had experienced a loss. only now, being on the "wrong" side of this awkward situation, can i assure you: if you're not sure what to say, saying "i don't know what to say other than i am sorry for your loss" or "i just want you to know we've been praying for you" is a great place to start. if face-to-face contact is too much for you, send a card or an email, even. grieving parents want their child to be acknowledged because he means the world to them, even if he is yet to be born. and we want to know that our friends care about us and are praying for us. to not say anything at all might give the impression that you don't care.


2. use scripture carefully and avoid flippant greeting card-type responses. it may seem in conflict with #1 above, but it's true: even the most well-meaning scripture reference or famous (infamous?) quote can be hurtful. they can minimize the person's loss and undermine her feelings of grief. thankfully, we didn't hear it much, but occasionally someone might say to us, "everything happens for a reason", "God won't give you more than you can't handle" and "jonathan must have been so special that God needed him in heaven." whether the scripture or quote is true or not (i'm quite sure that the God of the universe does not need anyone or anything), sometimes such a response can make the person's suffering seem like an open and shut case. as if by saying something like this will fix everything and help the grieving person to just move on with her life.

again, i am talking to myself here.  in the past, i might be the one to say something like that. my condolences were always genuine, but i admit, probably sounded a bit flippant to my friend. honestly, i don't like knowing my friend is suffering and there's nothing i can do about it. so i offer a verbal band-aid. and i have come to realize that the band-aid was more for me than for my friend. what my friend needed was for me to empathize with her, not offer words lightly. of course, i understand it's all completely well-meaning when these words are said to me too, but i just want to emphasize that there is nothing you can say to make it all go away for your friend. once this is understood, i think that the pressure to say something to "help" will be alleviated and it will be easier to understand what she really needs to hear: "i don't know what you're going through, but i'm here for you."

as far as scripture is concerned, the ones that spoke most to my heart and brought me great encouragement were ones about God being near to me and providing peace, love, and comfort. it was far less about His will, His purposes, the ultimate good, etc. because, quite frankly, i was not ready to embrace those truths for awhile. God's Word is living and active and has amazing power to heal a broken heart. but just be aware that your friend's heart may not be in a place where she can receive it yet.

3.  it's OK to ask questions after your friend receives a poor prenatal diagnosis.  however, it is important that the questions are sensitive to the situation.  while i was pregnant with jonathan, we welcomed questions because we understood his disorder was so rare.  it's just natural for people to be curious about the disorder, why we made the decision to carry him, what the doctors say about it, etc.  we wanted people to know, especially so that they could anticipate and discern how to pray for us.  however, avoid asking your friend when she is going to have another baby, especially while she is still pregnant with a baby not expected to survive.  unless she is a super-close friend, this question is more appropriate several months after your friend's loss.

4. there is no timetable for grief. i've found that some people tend to think of losing a baby as not as difficult than losing an older child, parent, etc. perhaps they feel that way because the time spent with the baby is much more brief and therefore there is not as strong a bond.

however, a loss is still a loss, and people grieve differently. i feel that even though i only had 32 weeks, 4 days, 19 hours and 40 minutes with jonathan, there is also the great loss of not being able to experience life with him; to not see him grow up over the years, get married, have his own family, etc. there is much anguish in "what could have been." there is certainly an empty hole in our hearts and in our family where jonathan should be. it's not something that is easy to recover from, or that someone ever can.

therefore, the best way to help your friend is to understand that she is still grieving, whether it's been a day or a year or 10 years. she will have up days and down days. judging her by her depth or length of grief, or putting unrealistic expectations on her will only cause more harm than good. grieving is a hard place to be already and the last thing your friend needs is added pressure to "get better." instead, come alongside her by praying for her and letting her know you remember and you care (Romans 12.)

5. understand that grieving is hard work. whether she's expecting a loss or has just experienced a loss, just know that your friend is tired. scatterbrained. unorganized. possibly not her fun-loving self as much anymore.

the week that we got jonathan's diagnosis and the week after he was born and then died were obviously the hardest two weeks of my life. i couldn't sleep at all, and had to take sleep aids for those two weeks. for the six months or so that followed his diagnosis, i couldn't focus at all because my thoughts only revolved around one subject. thankfully, i have not had to take any other medications, but keep in mind that your friend might also be exhausted from pain meds, antidepressants, and more. there is just no way a normal person can function the same as before after experiencing such devastation. sure, your friend might seem to have it together just fine in public. but privately, she may have experienced a moment of grieving, and only by the grace of God was able to still make herself presentable in public. and that might just be her major accomplishment of the day.

6. offer specific help. when we first learned of jonathan's diagnosis, greg and i were zombies and could barely function outside of walking aimlessly around the house or vegetating on the couch. my mother immediately came to stay with us and help us with kate for a few days. my friends demanded to bring meals and we had plenty of offers to keep kate for us when necessary.

it was not just wonderful, it helped us survive that first week.

throughout the rest our journey, we continuously had offers of help. my friends did something for me that was invaluable: think for me. they put themselves in my shoes and anticipated what i would need before the need even arose. by the time we learned that i would be induced with only a couple of hours notice, kate had a place to sleep that night, emails were sent out and phone calls made on our behalf, food was brought to the hospital, and friends dropped everything (including work) in order to be available to us. one of my friends bought a head of cabbage for me (some of you know what i mean by that) and the day before the funeral, one of my friends even went out and purchased spanx underwear for me so that i could squeeze into my funeral outfit. seriously. (now those are good friends!) so anticipating your friend's needs and preparing for them in advance is something that is incredibly helpful, especially for someone who can barely think for herself.

7. meals are the way to a friend's heart. we were blessed with meals for more than a month after jonathan died, and they were some of the most amazing gifts to us. i don't like to cook much anyway, and especially not after experiencing such a devastating loss. i just don't think i could have processed the steps necessary to complete a meal. i am so, so thankful i didn't have to! it was a wonderful ministry to our family.
some tips on bringing meals:

i. first see if there is someone in charge of a meal list (from church, etc.) speak directly to them so that you don't make your friend think more than she has to. if not....

ii. don't just ask if you can, insist on bringing a meal. if given the choice, she might turn it down so as not to create a hardship for you. if you really want to, then she really won't mind if you do.

iii. ask ahead of time what type of foods to bring or not. there may be allergies to certain foods, or there may be too much of a certain food (ie, lasagna) that has already been brought. i'm not picky about this, and thankfully my family will eat about anything. but just something to keep in mind for your friend.

iv. bring meals in containers that don't have to be returned, ie, aluminum pans, ziploc storage containers. a grieving friend is too tired and scatterbrained to try to remember what dish goes to who. it's also less work for the meal preparer, in my opinion.

this reminds me of when we brought a meal to friends who had lost their baby almost a year before we lost jonathan. i brought everything to them in disposable pans, etc. except for the bamboo tray i carried it on. she kept trying to remember to bring the tray back to me. then, after jonathan died, she offered to bring a meal and told me she even had a "special tray" to bring it on. "keep it," i told her. "or better yet, burn the tray!" because we joked how the tray was cursed and we didn't want to keep passing the tray back and forth or give it to anyone else.  sometimes you just have to make light of things.

v. when you bring a meal, keep in mind that it may not be a good time for visiting. you'll just have to feel out the situation yourself whether or not your friend desires company. again, people grieve differently, so don't take it personally if you get the vibes that you need to drop the meal off and leave. greg and i didn't mind people staying and visiting, but we didn't feel like crying with anyone. so a friend sent an email out to those on our meal list that our house was a "no-cry zone." and thankfully we didn't have any violators. i say that with a smile and appreciation.

vi. tell your friend not to worry about thank-you notes. the last thing she needs to worry about is writing more thank-yous. she has probably already written a hundred by now anyway. it's not that she's being rude, because trust me, she appreciates you and the meal very much. you probably already know this, so why bother her with a piece of paper?

8. pursue her. include your friend on group outings, playdates, etc, just like before. i know from my experience that i was usually too exhausted or overwhelmed to initiate any get-togethers with my friends. i practically depended on them to invite me and then remind me of any gatherings before they happened. i didn't always return phone calls or emails. but i did appreciate each and every one of them. also keep in mind that she may turn you down, but don't take it personally. it takes a lot of effort to "re-emerge" into life as she knows it after a loss. things are different and that's just the way it is. for me, sometimes there is guilt in having too much fun. or, it's almost a burden to go somewhere where there will be a large group of people and wonder if i have to tell someone new about what happened to jonathan.

for example, i just joined a large women's bible study at church.  at first i worried about participating in a group icebreaker exercise, like having to tell the group what my name is and a little bit about me such as how many kids i have and what their names are. because my name is lauren and i have TWO kids, kate and jonathan. kate will be the only one you see though, because jonathan is with Jesus.'s just not fun to say those words even though they are true. i know i don't have to always mention jonathan, but for now it seems as if i am dishonoring him if i leave out that detail.

my friends have done a great job (without even being asked) of gently informing new friends and aquaintances about jonathan so that i don't have to.  that's right, i am glad they are talking about me behind my back and i invite them to continue to do so. :)  i definitely feel more comfortable in large group settings because of this.  this might just be me, though.

9. after a loss, talk about and remember their child.  i truly believe most grieving parents want to celebrate the memory of their child long after a loss, and they like to do it by talking about him/her.  

i have to talk about jonathan to someone at least once a day.  most of the time the conversation is only between God and me, but his name has to be said or it feels like my heart will explode.  this is also why i continue to blog about him.

with my really close friends, i feel completely free to bring up jonathan, and i think that they also feel free to bring up jonathan. that's what makes them so special. they get it.

so don't hesitate to talk to your friend about her baby.  ask how she's really doing, and spend a few moments remembering him.  it doesn't have to be a cry-fest or anything.  but it only takes a few minutes to lift your friend's spirits the rest of the day. 

something else that means a lot is knowing that friends and loved ones visit jonathan's grave and sometimes even leave flowers. it is such a wonderful, thoughtful gesture. i also have a sweet friend who lets me know each month when the 8th rolls around that she's thinking of me, praying for me, and she takes the time to encourage me on that day.

10.  there is enough grace for all of us.  my final thought is that, after saying all of the above, i know it's not all about me, me, me. as much as it hurts to lose a child, i know i'm not the only one who is experiencing some sort of pain. therefore, i work hard on remembering that just because someone does not do or say something i think they should, doesn't mean that it's wrong or that they don't care. God is very generous with grace for those who are suffering. that grace, being a gift without expectation of recompense, is something that we should be willing to share freely with others, specifically when dealing with people and situations that are often not easy or pleasant. i am very thankful for this, having been on the receiving end much more often than the giving end of grace. 


of course i'm no expert, so i'd love it if you left a comment with any further ideas, thoughts, or introspections to add to this post.


  1. Great advice! I would just add that saying "God will bless you with other babies" does not make a grieving mother feel any better. You can never replace a baby with another one. Yes, God might bless us with other babies, but we will always miss the one we weren’t able to see grow up.

    Christopher’s mommy

  2. Good words my sweet friend. I am reposting this one. =)

  3. This is a great post. I am one of those who are afaird to talk to you. Thank you for your honest posts. Praying for you as your family walks this walk.

  4. Thanks for posting this...It really is good advice.

  5. This is such specific and helpful advice. Thank you my lady, for bringing wisdom to our lives.

  6. Beautifully written and very helpful. Thank you!

  7. Thank you so much for this entire blog. I have not stopped reading it since you e-mailed me with all of the RIGHT things to say. When I miscarried in June, I remember being so hurt by the things that people said to make me feel better. I just felt like they were trivializing the devastating loss that I felt and were trying to make me "get over it already". Even with my latest complications, I've spoken to people who mean well, but say flippant things. All I really wanted during either situation was for someone to be willing to listen and empathize with my grief, not to make it better. God bless you Lauren, you have such a way with words and are an inspiration to us.

  8. Also, perhaps adding that the mother did not "do anything" to cause the loss. I know after my newborn died of SIDS at 8 weeks old I felt as if I had done something wrong and there's huge shame and guilt in that. He slept on his back and we do not smoke. But when there's no answer to why a miscarriage happens, the mother may feel that way. My best friend just found out today she lost her baby at nine weeks gestation. I immedialty thought of how each "milestone" may make her feel. Surely her due date will be tough. You make hopes and dreams and for them just to be taken away like that can be very confusing and frustrating at times.

  9. your words are lovely. i have miscarried my little baby and even though i was only 8 and a half weeks pregnant i still miss my baby so much.your page has helped me alot, your little boy is a little angel, god bless you. x