Claire – friends far away
Hearing the news from a distance that my friend had lost her baby, my first thought was to get on a plane and be with my dear friends who had suffered this unimaginably sad loss. I knew how loved their baby was and how excited they were to be becoming parents, and the fact they had suffered earlier losses made this news all the more heartbreaking.
While wanting to be with them was my knee jerk response, I also knew that they had family visiting soon and many friends close by, and that going to the UK might not actually help all that much, and was perhaps more a reflection of wanting to be close, than of their actual need.
In New Zealand we do have something of a culture of food as comfort and friends over here were aware of how low our friends in the United Kingdom were and how they would not have energy to cook or think about food. So another friend and I got online and organised two or three weeks of meal deliveries from a local ready meals supplier in the United Kingdom called ‘Cook’ which meant they would not need to cook meals for themselves.
I also wanted to recognise their daughter’s links to New Zealand so we sponsored a Little Blue penguin at the Auckland Zoo, which we visit and always look out for “Lola’s penguin”. The zoo provided a certificate in Lola’s name which I sent to my friends along with a toy blue penguin. This also gave some connection to Lola to my own children.
I was aware that our friends were not up to phone calls much of the time, and would often not feel like answering the phone so I tried to keep in touch checking in by text message and called when that was appropriate.
Given today’s world with loved ones living far and wide, we were aware that others would also be feeling too far away, so a few of us got together and circulated an email, opening a bank account for people to donate to, the response was immediate and positive, many friends echoed our feelings of helplessness and mentioned how glad they were to have a tangible way in which to offer their support. In NZ the giving of money or “koha” is often a response to family bereavement. We thought it would enable our friends to either have a break when they were ready, take a bit of time off work, or to create a memorial for their daughter. We gave the donations to our friends with a card, with the names of all who had contributed on it, and I will always remember that our friend said it felt like she had been hugged a thousand times.
In terms of challenges, I felt my friend’s hopelessness and grief very strongly, it was difficult to know what to say that didn’t sound like a platitude. I didn’t want to intrude but wanted her to know we were thinking of her. I was afraid for the future for them. So in a way, doing a tangible thing by helping to organise a koha was useful to me, too. I also reconnected with a number of people who lived close by our friends, and we all kept in touch about their visits in person and how they were doing so we could feed back to one another, which we all found helpful.