How to Help When a Family Has a Loss


Maddie's Mark

When  a child dies…

A day will come when most of us will be faced with knowing, maybe being very close to, a family who loses a child.  Odds are, you will not know what to do, what will help, how to show that you care… how to make moving through life easier for that family… Odds are it will change your life, your future, and your views on life.

There are many things you can do, many ways to help… ways that will support the family and not burden them… things that will allow them to grieve and be alive.  In my experiences, people really thought and got together, people organized and helped.  There were so many that helped, that I never know how to thank them… but I know if I were in their place I would try to move all the mountains and make life as simple and livable as it can be.  I know I would want to know what is helpful… and I am writing this to share things that have helped us, things that made it easier in a way.

  • Find one central person, like an aunt, uncle, very close family friend… someone who can organize, express the needs of the family and keep the family safe, separate and comforted.  Groups can form from there… groups to raise funds for the family, to bring dinners or groceries, organize benefits or fundraisers, share the story, help with services… whatever the family needs.  Never be offended if you are not the ‘chosen one’ for collecting or organizing.  Life is in crisis mode at this point and it doesn’t matter if you feel like you weren’t chosen.  Focus your energy on the positive.
  • Be organized and smart about what you set up.  For meals set up and online site… leave a cooler outside the house – don’t stop to chat or check in on the family.  A warm meal is such a comfort… but there is a huge comfort in being left alone and not having to thank, entertain or talk…
  • Think outside the box… think of something other than flowers… think of what would help you?  Hire a maid service a couple of times… Shovel or have someone shovel their driveway and walks, set up a spring clean-up or leaf raking… all these things that a crazy, sad and full brain can’t remember to do but feel so much lighter when it is done.
  • Be kind and present for the long run.  There is no ‘getting over this’.  Be there forever… think of them often… think of their lovely often.
  • Follow their lead… if you attend the services, events, fundraisers, memorials… heck if you see them at work, school, or out-and-about follow their lead.  Keep yourself together if they do – let them live, move, breathe and be ok when they are.  Allow them to get out of the house without the world following them asking ‘how are you?’… you, most likely can’t handle the answer of how they are.  If they want to talk about it do, if not you don’t have to.
  • Do.Not.Ever Forget their lovely.  Remember and share stories and memories as time goes on.  Find ways to share their lovely and their story with others… Never forget to include their angel in some way… on a Christmas card, a birthday celebration.  Often and forever, do little things so they know… drop a card in the mail, drop off a meal, get them a little gift that reminds you of their person… it really helps to know that others carry our angels in their hearts, and will forever.
  • Know how thankful they are for you and your help.  It is CRAZY.  It is scary.  It is sad.  It is hard.  It is crushing… it is their new forever, their new normal.  Just to know that you and the other families and community members are there is something that truly helps… I will never know how to thank our ‘mountain movers’.

This is kind of a little ‘how to…’ when worst case scenario hits your community.  These were just some of the things that were helpful to our family, and I think can be helpful to other families.  The other things are obvious… pray.  Pray that the family is taken care of in many ways.  Pray that their needs are met, so the only thing missing is their lovely.  Pray.  Help raise funds and support the family… for the costs of life, living, and surviving… but also remembering and sharing.  Support their ways of sharing their lovely.

I hope this helps… I know as time goes on I learn more ways that help…

Read more of Erin’s story here: Living Without: Loss of a Child


Erin is wife to Matthew, mom to three lovely ladies- one of which just happens to be an angel, a real true angel.  Her daughter, Madeline, became an angel in February 2012 just 5 days after being diagnosed with DIPG, a rare inoperable brainstem tumor.  Most days she chases her lovely ladies, Amelia and Lucy, around as they grow, play and learn.  She loves running, being with family and friends and writing.

Her family has worked hard to create Maddie’s Mark Foundation to honor her lovely Maddie and to help other families faced with challenging illnesses.  In all of this Erin became the President of Maddie’s Mark and makes it her mission to share Maddie and her spirit forever.  The foundation has helped her family start to heal, meet families they needed to meet in this journey and remind the world to enjoy a life of ‘best days ever’.

Erin loves to write. She finds much therapy in writing her thoughts and sharing what she has learned.  She used to pride herself in knowing much about life and mothering… but feels that life and living and mothering have changed- that she has a bigger grasp on understanding life and living and parenting on her new journey accompanied with grief.




  1. 1
    Janet W. says:

    These are all great tips for a difficult time.

  2. 2
    Corina C. says:

    Well said. Nothing compares to the shock and loss of losing a child and the “grief attacks” will occur for years. While we have our own level of grief, the pain felt by our daughter and her husband after the loss of their precious son is unimaginable. The outpouring of support from friends and the community at large helped immensely. Those who stopped by simply for a hug or to see if anything was needed, The food, drinks and paper goods that were dropped off – sometimes we would go out the front door to find a bag left on the steps, the ladies group from a local church who prepared meals for several days, those who offered to take the other children for a play date for a little while, those from the community who gathered for a candlelight vigil, released paper lanterns and prayed. The Fire Chief’s wife who brought angel pins for the grandmothers to wear and remember. So many other acts of kindness, it’s hard to mention them all. Now, it’s been 3 years. We still have people who take the time to remember and who reach out. His birthday, the anniversary of his accident, just random times throughout the year when he comes to mind. Thank you for sharing your journey and healing and for this post.

  3. 3

    Thank you. Such valuable information.

  4. 4

    Having lost family members, your thoughts and suggestions are very helpful. When in doubt, follow the lead of the family.

  5. 5

    Oh my goodness, I can’t imagine… My heart goes out to those who have to deal with this. A good friend of mine lost her 1.5 year old to SIDS and her loss still bothers me. I am so thankful everyday for my kids and pray to GOD I would never need these tips… Thank you for sharing

  6. 6

    Wonderfully written. Around here it seems like the go to method is cooking a meal (or ten) for the family. It makes sense, who is going to want to think about cooking dinner during a time like this?

  7. 7

    Thank you Erin for sharing this information. You are an inspiration to all. The strength you’ve shown is beyond compare….I can only think of one other (LM) that I know who has faced such great loss, yet perseveres in spreading the word and the light of their lovely. We all need to be reminded of these ways to help and remember that the grief never goes away. Thank you for reminding me how to be a better friend and reminding me how to continue to reach out in support. xo

  8. 8

    Thank you, Erin, for sharing this information to help so many others. Hugs to you.

  9. 9

    I also wanted to say, it is important never to forget. Many people don’t know what to say in these situations but sometimes we need to talk about our loss.

  10. 10

    I hope that I never have to use this information, but thanks so much for sharing. Some of these I would have never thought of.

  11. 11

    Such great tips for a difficult time – I hope no one ever has to experience this and if they happen to or know someone that does, your tips will definitely help make it easier.

  12. 12
    Robin Wilson says:

    Thanks for the wonderful post. It is so hard to know how and what to do to comfort anyone who is grieving. A lot of these are important not just for the loss of a child, but for the loss of anyone. I know that when my mom died people were there for me for a week or two, if at all, and then they disappeared. But my grief didn’t disappear and it would be have been nice to have hard someone to talk to.

  13. 13

    These are all really great ideas. My husband and I had only been dating 6 month when his father suddenly passed away. It was a very difficult time for all of us.


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