Grief Support Doesn’t Have to be Expensive

by Emily · 24 comments

in Money & Spending

This week marks a very special, heart-wrenching day for our family.  Friday was my beautiful daughter Leila Mae’s 1st birthday.   A year ago, I had the incredible honor of giving birth to a very special little angel.

Caring for someone in the depths of grief doesn’t have to be a costly endeavor.  It feels like the more money we throw at grief, the more it should be relieved.  But it’s really quite the opposite.  When we lost our baby girl, it was those thoughtful little things that people did that really meant the most to us.

The kind woman who, instead of picking out a card and let Hallmark do the talking,wrote me a note from her heart on some generic stationary.  Cost?  Under a dollar.

Two different families brought bags of groceries for us. Cost?  Varies.  I would advise you know the family’s eating habits if you’re going to go this route.  At the risk of sounding ungrateful, one friend bought us junk food and sugary drinks.  My son was thrilled…DH and I, nonplussed.  But we still love that she cared enough to try.

A friend who supplied a much-needed bottle of wine.  Cost?  Under $10.

Another friend who cooked a full meal for us when I was too incapacitated to be bothered with cooking.  Cost?  Can be done very cheaply.

Cards and notes of encouragement.  Just someone dropping an email to tell us they’re praying for us.  One of my favorites was from my sister-in-law, who wrote me at 5am her time to let me know she was lifting my broken heart up to God right then.  Cost?  Free.

A few weeks ago I brought a meal to a family from our church who had lost their daughter at 24 weeks gestation.  I was struck by the amount of cut flower arrangements slowly dying on their kitchen table.  Thinking how hard that must be, to watch something else die on top of their complicated emotions.  I had brought her a pot planted with forget-me-not seeds, hoping that watching something grow would lift their spirits a bit.  Cost?  $15.

If it’s someone you’re close to and know well, offer to take their children on an outing.  Grieving in front of your children is hard, we mommies tend to suck it up and paste on a smile when we really need some alone time to just fall apart.  Cost?  A few hours of your time.

Run some errands.  Grab a book of stamps from the post office and some thank you cards from the store.  Even better, help mom and dad write out those cards. Cost?  Under $10.

Make a donation to a charity in memory of the person we’re missing.  A friend of ours in Arizona made a donation in Leila’s name to her local Children’s Memorial Park.  I love that she takes pictures of her kids playing there and emails them to me.   It means the world to us that someone remembers our little girl.  On the flip, I’ve made donations to March of Dimes for others going through this.  Cost?  Your choice.

Don’t be afraid to talk to us about her.  Ask to see her pictures.  Acknowledge her presence and absence in our lives.  Sure, we’ll probably cry – but that’s a good thing.  Cost?  Absolutely free.  As a side note — don’t try to console – most things you would think to say will hurt more than you could imagine.

Don’t be that person who says “if there’s anything I can do, please let me know.”  There’s no more definitive way to make sure your phone doesn’t ring.  Call or email and ask what you can do.


Always thinking of you, precious little girl, and loving you with all my heart.  Until we meet….


1 Jenna May 24, 2010

I’m so sorry for your loss. Definitely heartbreaking no matter how much time has passed.

I’d like to add one more thing to your list of suggestions. A lot of photographers do pro-bono work for families dealing with loss. This looks like something you did, but didn’t write about it. It’s a great way to capture memories, especially for families who have young children to help them remember their brother or sister.

2 Emily May 24, 2010

Jenna, we were very blessed with the hospital that delivered Leila. There is an organization out there, Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, but they don’t photograph preterm deliveries before 25 weeks (Leila was 19 wks 5 days). Thank God, there is a nurse at this hospital that does this as her ministry for ALL babies born sleeping. You’re right, I should have acknowledged Anita, but I was gearing more towards anyone who is grieving for any reason, not specifically stillbirths.
.-= Emily´s last blog ..Happy Birthday, Little Angel =-.

3 Jenna May 25, 2010

Gotcha. Then another suggestion for cheap ways to help those grieving. Free baby sitting and house cleaning. Just coming over and scrubbing counter tops and vacuuming at a home can be helpful. Offering to take small children to the park while family deals with arrangements is always helpful.

4 Emily May 25, 2010

Truer words have never been spoken. Though I don’t think I’d ever let anyone clean my house for me, I’d hand over my kid in a heartbeat (to someone I trust, of course).

Thank you for your comments, Jenna. 🙂
.-= Emily´s last blog ..Happy Birthday, Little Angel =-.

5 Carol May 24, 2010


You have my heartfelt sympathy. I have always felt that most sympathy cards didn’t begin to accomplish their goal of comfort.

A friend of mine lost her husband last week, and I was again confronted with the problem of trying to get the likes of Hallmark to address my needs. Most of the cards seemed so insipid! I finally found one that said, “May you find comfort and support from those around you during this difficult time.” It was closer to what I felt, but I added a a personal message. I think many people don’t take the time to do this because it is so difficult–and in the end words seem inadequate. People with losses just need to know that their friends are there for them. A shoulder to cry on is worth more than anything in the world!

The loss of a child has to be the worst that one can experience. Kudos to you for turning your grief into this helpful post.

I’m not that religious, so I won’t send prayers, but I do send my very best wishes to you.

6 Emily May 25, 2010

Carol, you're absolutely right. Your support will mean more to your friend than anything in this difficult time. Just knowing someone was there to have your back can be such a comfort. You're a good friend for recognizing that!
.-= Emily´s last blog ..Happy Birthday, Little Angel =-.

7 Amber Shah May 24, 2010

I just stumbled onto this blog from a “Thesis Blog Design” showcase and wow, was not expecting this heavy of a story. I am so sorry for your loss.
.-= Amber Shah´s last blog ..What is a MS in Computer Science worth? =-.

8 Emily May 25, 2010

Sorry about that, Amber. 🙂
.-= Emily´s last blog ..Happy Birthday, Little Angel =-.

9 Leigh Ann Kopans May 24, 2010

I’m so, so sorry to hear about your loss. It is so truly heartbreaking. Thinking of you this week.
.-= Leigh Ann Kopans´s last blog ..Frugal Lessons from the Field – Taking Advantage of Free Stuff with Little Ones =-.

10 Wende May 24, 2010

I just lost my mother and the best gift I received was from a friend that sent a blanket (hers), a box of herbal tea, and a blank journal for those sleepless nights. Excellent post, thank you.

11 Emily May 25, 2010

Wende, it sounds like you have a friend who understands. That’s a beautiful thing!
.-= Emily´s last blog ..Happy Birthday, Little Angel =-.

12 Emily May 24, 2010

Leigh Ann, thank you for your well-wishes. We took the time to remember Leila with a balloon launch Friday night. And I have to say, I feel better now than I have this whole last year. Like I may be done with the grieving. I’ll still remember her, always, but my heart feels like it may be healing (please, God!).
.-= Emily´s last blog ..Happy Birthday, Little Angel =-.

13 brett May 25, 2010


i sit here, crying for you, and for little leila mae. your little angel baby will be in my prayers. as will you. i have friends who have lost their babies as well and its simply devastating. i hope that time brings you some solace, and that the tough times pass quickly. i don’t often send a card not right away- i kind of wait, and send one later- my friend lost her sweet baby in january to cancer and i only a few weeks ago brought her a perennial for their yard. it felt to me like they might need a little extra love now, with mother’s day and father’s day around, than right when jamie first died. another friend i met after – a year after- her daughter’s death, and when it was her daughter’s birthday i dropped a card in her mailbox. there simply will never really be the ‘right’ words, not for me- i just try to speak from my heart and let those who are grieving know that i’m aching with them and there if they need someone.

thank you for sharing leila’s story. next year when i do the march for babies i will also walk for leila.

14 Emily May 25, 2010

Brett, you are absolutely correct. In the beginning, when things are fresh, the support is overwhelming. A few weeks later, when the shock wears off and the grieving really begins, people have already moved on to the next thing. Sending a card a few weeks later, when we feel so forgotten, is just very precious. Trisha Larson wrote about this very thing with such meaning and poise – if you get a chance, check out her post.
.-= Emily´s last blog ..Happy Birthday, Little Angel =-.

15 Shauna May 25, 2010

Emily, thank you for an article that must have been so hard to write. I also lost a daughter, Grace Sophia, at 19 weeks, 6 days on May 19, 2007. The pictures of your sweet girl reminded me so much of her that I had to comment. I agree about the flowers; we were inundated with them after Grace died and watching them die was difficult. One of the most meaningful things for me has been our loved ones who have continued to remember Grace as time has passed, sending us a card each year or even just an email letting us know that we are being thought of on her birthday. We also had several people make donations in her memory to the local pregnancy care center. One special lady in our church brought me a handkerchief on my first mother's day without Grace and I keep it in my purse to this day. It probably cost $1 but meant so much to me.

16 Emily May 25, 2010

Shauna, ((hug)) I'm so sorry. ((more hug)) Thank you for you comments. Something I noticed was that people just don't know how to approach an "early miscarriage" – they think it's something we just "get over". So those that acknowledge our daughters (especially over the long term) are just that much more precious to us. If nothing else, I pray that people take away from this that loss is loss. Whether it be a 90-year-old grandmother or a 9-week-old embryo. In one case, you have memories, in the other, only dreams.

I'm so grateful you have supportive people in your life!
.-= Emily´s last blog ..Happy Birthday, Little Angel =-.

17 May 25, 2010

I’m so very sorry for your loss, Emily. I read your post on Mumblings from Troy Ohio on how you put forget-me-not seeds into the balloons on Friday. What a beautiful idea.

Your grief support suggestions here are absolutely wonderful. Like many people, I’ve never known quite what to do when something tragic happens to someone I know. Your suggestions are simple and from the heart. I thank you for taking the time to write such an honest post.

Thinking of you.

– Shayna from

18 Emily May 27, 2010

Shayna, writing this post was absolutely my pleasure. I was exactly in your shoes before Leila died – I’d mouth the words, but never really felt too much empathy. Oh, how God teaches us! I’m grateful for the lesson, but I wish He’d have shown me a different way.

Thank you for your well-wishes.

Oh, and one of those balloons? The one my son wrote on, was found a few houses away the next day. Still partially inflated. Apparently Leila wanted us to keep one. 🙂
.-= Emily´s last blog ..A Brand New Year =-.

19 Pam McCormick May 26, 2010

I was a NICU nurse and I can tell you we ALWAYS remember our babies no matter how short on this earth…..

20 Kyle May 26, 2010

wow, what a powerful post Emily. Thanks for sharing. I often fall victim to the “let me know if I can do anything to help” mentality. I really like your attitude of actually doing something rather than just saying those words. Because the fact of the matter is I rarely follow thru and actually do something and as we all know actions always speak louder than words.

21 Emily May 27, 2010

I think we understand that people “move on” without us, but that doesn’t stop it from hurting. Or making those few who remember shine brightly in our hearts. Something as simple as doubling your cooking one evening and taking a dinner to a hurting family would be appreciated more than you’d ever know.
.-= Emily´s last blog ..A Brand New Year =-.

22 Donna Freedman May 27, 2010

I'm so sorry for your family's loss. How caring of you to want to reach out to others despite your grief. In writing this piece you are helping others in several ways:

Reminding us that parents don't just "get over" such a loss,

Offering concrete, heartfelt gestures of kindness for those of us who don't know what to do or say, and

Reassuring parents that it's OK to grieve.
.-= Donna Freedman´s last blog ..Tania and Catseye: Where are you??? =-.

23 Emily May 27, 2010

Donna, thank you for your kind words. But I don’t take any credit – when someone else gets impacted through this, it makes the blow a little softer. Because if no one ever learns anything, then to what purpose was Leila’s death? So it’s purely selfish that I share – it helps me make sense of losing my little girl.

You touched on a nerve. We don’t “get over” something like this. It becomes part of our persona. Thank you for recognizing that. We grieving parents struggle with a “new normal”. And, as much as we’d like to go back to who we were, we’re forever changed.

Thank you for bringing that up. 🙂
.-= Emily´s last blog ..A Brand New Year =-.

24 Nicole May 27, 2010

What a beautiful post. I am so sorry for your loss but am so glad you are finding the strength to share your experience. I know someone else will benefit!

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