What to say to someone who has Lost a Child

This parcel arrived today and the postman said "Do you know what it is?" to which I replied "Yes". He then cheerfully tried to engage me in conversation by guessing "Toy box?" I believe in being honest with one's feelings and what you say, so I told him it would have been a toy box for my first born son's 6th Christmas, but instead, it is going to house all his precious things I want to keep to remember him by, because he has just died.

The poor man did not know what to say! Luckily I was feeling quite assertive today, as opposed to deadly silent, which is a state my family are getting all too familiar with at the moment. So I immediately protected myself from the common phrases I hear too often, and got in there first by telling him all the things NOT to say, whilst gripping hold of his handheld signature device so he couldn't escape!

"The thing is," I blurted out "I really don't see why people keep insisting that 'time will ease the pain'. It is true, I am grieving for my own loss, the loss of a best friend and a first born child, and in time, I will have to learn to live and function with a 'Skye' sized hole in my heart. I am however, also  deeply saddened for HIS loss, and 'time' will never make that get better. I am grieving for children with cancer in every part of the world, The ones suffering today, tomorrow and those in ignorant bliss, who will be hit with the news next year. Should I really be putting them out of my mind or helping them?"

"Putting the past behind me, which is another comment I have also been told, is quite honestly most unhelpful and just makes me want to scream right in the faces of those who come out with these statements. People who have lost a loved one, not only can't forget about the past, but don't want to as it is disrespectful. If I was to die tomorrow, I like to hope that I was not so insignificant to my friends and families lives that they would be able to 'move on' erasing all memory of me."

At this point, I realised the postman was shifting from one foot to the other, possibly because it was blooming freezing this morning, but also because he hadn't got a clue how to respond. He then said the best thing I could have heard today which was this...

"You see that is why I don't speak to my friend any more. He lost his child four years ago, a great lad who was full of energy and makes me smile every time I think about him.  My friend and his wife are still really struggling but I don't want to say the wrong thing so I don't call."  This got me thinking and as I finally handed the signature machine back to him,and I asked him for a favour. "When you get home tonight," I replied, "please give him a ring and say exactly what you have just said to me. Tell him you were driving along and X popped into your head which made you smile. Share with him a memory you had and tell him you think about X often and you will NEVER forget him. I promise you, it might make your friend cry but will almost certainly make his night too.  Our greatest fear is that our children will be forgotten and for people to act like they didn't exist for fear of reminding us about them and upsetting us. We did not forget they died you know, but desperately and fiercely want them to continue to have an effect on those who knew them, and always have a place in everyone's heart and mind just as the living do."

I showed him a picture of Skye and we may have even hugged(!) He seemed genuinely grateful and surprised with my advice but do you know, I actually think he might just pick up the phone tonight!