Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Every Thought I Have While Cleaning Up After My Kids (aka Rearranging the Piles of Junk)

I have spent the morning cleaning my house.  And by cleaning, I mean moving piles of junk from one place to another place, where they look moderately more organized.  So I suppose if we’re being technical here, I spent my morning tidying my house, but let’s just pretend I cleaned it because I want to pretend it’s actually been cleaned.   Here are my deep thoughts while cleaning:
  1. Could Greek yogurt also be used as chalkpaint?  I’m thinking yes.
  2. I’m never, ever buying bubbles again.
  3. I’m never buying Fruit by the Foot again.  So many wrappers.
  4. Can someone please invent a self-stacking book?  Now there’s a product I could get behind. Shark Tank is waiting!
  5. If I had a nickel for every crushed goldfish cracker in my house I’d be rich.
  6. Is that a snake?! WTH!  Oh, no, it’s just a faux hair braid headband snaked into the corner of the bathroom.  Lovely.  Well, that got my heart rate going.  Cardio for the morning, check.
  7. It’s time for a break, where is the remote?
  8. No the other remote, the more rectangular one so I can access Netflix and watch House of Cards.
  9. The next round of birthday parties will be strictly no gifts.  There will be tears, yes.
  10. Cups.  Cups.  Cups.  Cups.  Cups.  Cups.  Are we all that thirsty?  Is this house a desert?
  11. When can we have nice things? 
  12. Do I toss the whole baby bottle or try to clean it?  Toss, it’s now in solid form.
  13. Still no remote.
  14. I really hope that’s a Fiber One Brownie on the carpet.  Yes? Yes.
  15. Did each child wear five outfits yesterday?
  16. If I find one more string cheese wrapper…
  17. Oh, that’s where all the Band-Aids are.
  18. Why do they have to peel the satsumas into like 1,000 tiny pieces?  Why not, say, 100 pieces?
  19. Markers.  Toss.  Toss.  Toss.  They’ll be sorry when all they have left is gray and brown.  That book they love, The Day the Crayons Ran Away?  It’s happening, kids, today.  Right now.  Running into the trashcan.
  20. Did the stuffed animals go hide somewhere and multiply?  If they somehow come alive and stage a mutiny we’re dead because there’s about 500 of them.  
  21. The shoes.  Always the shoes.
  22.  Why is it so hard to put the Kleenex in the trash can?  Why?  I mean, it’s right next to the trashcan.
  23. Why is there an apple core in this toy bin?
  24. I’m never letting them eat in the living room ever again.  Never.
  25. Well crap, there’s no more cushions to flip, they’re all stained on both sides.
  26. I’m going to staple those little couch arm covers to the couch.  Add to grocery list—industrial stapler.
  27. If any toy has more than three pieces, I’m not buying it.
  28. Screw you, bead kits.
  29. So this is where all the printer paper went. . . . 1,000 sheets of paper with one random letter drawn on each one.
  30. Wow, there’s a lot of Starbucks cups in this play area.  Why didn’t anyone clean them up before now? 
  31. I think it’s time to call the carpet/rug/upholstery cleaning guy again.
  32. Why do I even bother?
  33. Never again, play doh, never again.     
  34. Awww, that toy has been used by all my girls!  So sweet.  Channel the Konmari method: thank you, toy, I’m setting you free, via the trashcan.
  35. Oh wow, that’s a chicken nugget on the floor?  We haven’t had that in like two weeks. 
  36. Thank God we don’t have a dog.
  37. Maybe we need a dog?  The dog could eat all this food.  But a dog poops and pees.  Nope.
  38. How much art of theirs do I keep?  Better hurry up and bury it in the trash under the petrified food items or I’m in big trouble.  They find it every time.
  39. Can I stop now?
  40. Shopkins.  Brought to you by the toymakers that want your toddlers to choke.  So many, where to begin?  I know, with you, Mary Meringue.  You’re mine now!! (Evil laugh).
  41. Can I just install a garbage disposal and drain under my kitchen table?
  42. Where is that smell coming from?  Where?  Oh.  The Hamster cage.
  43. Why did Santa bring a hamster?  Why, Santa, WHY?
  44. I need to hire a professional home organizer.  
  45. Random Christmas ornaments, lovely. Guess these have been here awhile.
  46. I wonder how long this room will stay “clean”? Minutes vs. hours, definitely not a whole day.
  47. FOUND THE REMOTE!  It’s time for a break.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Those Tiny, Beautiful Moments

On any given day, I want time to speed up or slow down about 376 times.  Fussy babies?  Hurry up, nap time.  Everyone is hungry and needs to be fed at the exact same moment?  Let’s fast forward thirty minutes to when dinner (some moderate semblance of it) is on the table and everyone is happy and busy eating.  An hour of bedtime routine and still everyone wide awake?  Come on, bedtime, I’m ready to throw myself onto the couch and watch (sleep through) Homeland or Top Chef

And then there are the moments were I want to time to stand still. 

You know the moments—those beautiful, tiny, unexpected moments where you step back and you see your children with new, clear eyes.  Those moments where life, albeit briefly, can’t get any better and see your kids for the beautiful little people they are (or can be, in these moments).   

I had one of those moments tonight.  I’d told the biggies to get dressed for bed about 14 times.  They were stalling, and if stalling were a sport, they’d be champions.  By a longshot.  The babies were all crying and frantically trying to climb up me, so I gave up and sat on the living room floor so that they could climb all over me.  Instead, they started hitting each other in the face and fighting over who would get the prime spot on my lap.  I was tired.  Really tired.  And really ready for everyone to march themselves to bed quickly and quietly. 

And then it happened. 

Mom, the biggies said, we have to do our show for you before bed.  Dad, sit down right there.  You have to sit on that couch.  No, the OTHER couch.  And watch us. And no talking at all.  [Cue me talking to the babies and trying to console them].  You have to watch us, Mom!  No talking!  [Now cursing under my breath because we’re long past bedtime.]  Me: Ok ok! Just do it already!  Do the show!  Go!  GO!!!

The show consisted of Lucy singing very energetically and off key, while all three of the biggies swayed and sashayed wildly around the living room.  Emily and Molly alternated jumping off Lucy’s back.  Lucy continued singing while directing the others, and their routine changed as they went along.  And then, amazingly, the babies stopped fighting and got off my lap, and started dancing and clapping.  All three were shaking their heads with excitement, clapping, giggling, and joining in the fun. 

I sucked in a deep breath between my teeth and paused.  I paused the endless to-do list in my head, I paused my frustration that no one was in bed, I paused my fatigue and I just sat on the floor, watching them all: All six of my daughters dancing and singing and clapping together.  The babies so thrilled to be with their big sisters.  The biggies swooping down to include the babies in their elaborate dance routine.  They were all so happy, and, even more than that, they were happy to be dancing and singing together.        

And so, for a few minutes, I completely abandoned my mission to get them to sleep.  I stopped what I was doing and gave in the laughter and dancing.  I put music on my phone and we all danced and sang.  I think the first song was something by Katy Perry.  And then it was that song Stitches by someone I don’t know but the biggies love.  I wanted to stop time and stay in that perfect moment.  And for a little while, I did.  We laughed.  We danced.  Everyone was content.  This—this moment—was what life and parenthood was all about, right? 

Eventually (ok, maybe ten minutes later), it was time to turn the music off and get back to real time and the daily drudgery of the bedtime routine.  But that tiny, beautiful moment gave me the boost I needed to carry me over the finish line of a very long day.  When I find those tiny, beautiful moments, I cling to them.  I know they are a gift, a reminder to slow down.  To pause.  To appreciate what’s right in front of me.  To be clear, I know that on many days, finding the tiny, beautiful moments is like sifting through mountains of dirt looking for tiny flecks of gold.  Other days, there is an abundance of tiny, beautiful moments to be thankful for.  Every day is different, and, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in parenting six kids under eight, it’s that there is no predictable day.  At all.  I can’t predict who will wake up happy or sick or mad or grumpy or generous. The only thing I know is that each day, there will be a lot of crying and schlepping and whining and pushing forward.  But there will also be those moments that take my breath away.    

So each day, I try to look for them whenever I can.  I pause when I say goodbye when I send the biggies off to school each day.  I hug them hard and tight.  I kiss the babies’ feet and make them laugh.  I notice Emily’s sparkling blue eyes and how they twinkle when she tells me a joke and I laugh.  I notice how Molly has suddenly nailed how to be perfectly sarcastic.  I notice how Lucy is more poised than ever.  All those tiny moments make the other ones fade into the background, and remind me to stay focused on the fact that the days are long but the years are short.  Those moments remind me that I’m not just getting through the days but instead we’re living and loving and growing with each day.  So today, and every day—especially the endlessly long ones—I remind myself of this: there is no ordinary day.  Only ordinary moments and tiny, beautiful ones.   Look for the tiny, beautiful ones.  They make all the ordinary ones worthwhile.
A recent beautiful moment: seeing my biggest girls walking and laughing arm in arm in the rain.     
Bedtime, what bedtime?  Let's dance instead.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Dreams Do Come True: My Conversion Van Is Here!

Y’all.  It is here.  My conversion van.  My dream vehicle.  Yes, that’s right, my dream vehicle, because when you have 6 kids ages 8 or under, you dream about an oversized, high roof van with aisle down the middle so that you can buckle each child in without contorting yourself into a pretzel.  You dream about convenience and making the drudgery of loading and unloading six little people easier.  You dream about a vehicle where you’re not packed in there like sardines and loading your big girls through the rear hatch.  You dream about not standing in the rain stretching yourself to the limits while trying to strap in the middle baby, who’s suddenly displayed super human strength.  You dream….BIG.

And so, I am happy to share that my dreams have come true and I have my new big van!  Meet our as-yet-to-be-named van!  It’s a high roof Ford Transit van that’s been converted to have nine seats with an aisle down the middle.  It drives easily and has already made my life easier.  And that, my friends, in the name of the game for me these days: making my life easier.  My days are filled with schlepping, carseat buckling and unbuckling, and loading and unloading kids, backpacks, groceries, etc.  The new van is easing those hassles already.  As a bonus, the big girls are beyond excited about cruising in their “limo bus.”  They love the tv, the overhead limo lights, and the sun shades.  They’re actually ready to head to Disneyworld this weekend.  Seth is not, so we’ll hold off for now.    

You know there are things you imagine for your life, and then things that you could never in your wildest dreams imagine happening.  This—wanting and buying an oversized conversion van—falls in the latter category, along with having six kids in six years, including triplets.  It is funny that one of the top questions I got when I was pregnant with the triplets was what I would drive.  That always struck me as kind of funny, because our mini van could hold eight people, so why go bigger?  At that time, I was in no hurry to get rid of my minivan, who was a steady, reliable workhorse who put up with lots of abuse at the hands of my messy biggies.  But now that we’re going places with all six girls more frequently, there’s just not enough room, and loading through the hatch is no longer working.  The big girls were constantly stumbling and stretching over the wagon and other things while trying to ferret their way to their seats.  In addition, with three carseats in the middle row, the third row was virtually inaccessible for me, and it quickly became a black hole where things went to die.  As of this week, those things are slowly seeing the light of day, since Seth has taken on the task of cleaning the entire van.   I’ve been praying for his safety and sanity.  So far, so good.  I mean, the sanity part has been a little touch-and-go but I think he’s ok.  He’s been letting it air out for days and stale milk smell is almost gone.  He’s found too many treasures to count.  The highlights include thousands of markers, lots of empty Starbucks cups (sorry-I’m-not-sorry, Seth), a delicious mélange of graham crackers, sour milk, Cheez-its, and goldfish, which formed a nice crust on the whole back seat, lots of school sweatshirts, and lots of random toy pieces. 

I am determined to keep this new van cleaner.  I may have let the kids eat in the van on day 2, but I am generally feeling lots of resolve, for now anyway.  Of course, tomorrow is another day so let’s take it day by day, ok?  Til then, look for me cruising around town with the six pack in tow!  After all, dreams do come true, even if they're not the dreams you've ever envisioned for yourself.        
Emily and I picking up our van.  Yes, it's that big.
Three rows in the back!  Woo hoo!  Happy big girls in their first ride, right after we picked them up from school!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

What It Means to Be a Preemie Mom

This essay is for all the fellow preemie moms who share this journey.  It’s also for the doctors, nurses, and early intervention specialists who know and love our preemies like their own babies.  We love you, and we thank you.

I never expected to have preemie babies (or babies, plural, for that matter).  With my older girls, I had easy full-term pregnancies, where I sailed past each viability marker without a care in the world.  I was, in a word, blissfully ignorant about premature birth and pregnancy complications.  All that changed with my triplets, who entered the world at 30 weeks and 4 days gestation (full term gestation is 40 weeks).  Today, my babies are achieving the bittersweet milestone of being done with early intervention, specifically, physical therapy.  As of last week, Abby is finally walking!  She has had the skills for a while, but finally decided to put them all together last week.  Abby is a very social baby, who’d rather visit and talk than crawl or walk.  So as a result, she’s been the last of the three to do those things.

In what seemed altogether too soon, their wonderful PT, Angela, told me that their last appointment will be this week.  Since I learned that news, I’ve felt a flood of emotions that I hadn’t expected—relief, happiness, and some anxiety at not having a friendly expert checking on their development each week.  It also has me reflecting on how far my babies have come, and how much you don’t know about preemies until you have them.  So here’s a glimpse into what it means to be a preemie parent. 
  1. It means always referring to the number of weeks and days when you refer to your baby’s gestational age, because, as you are acutely aware, every day in the womb matters.
  2. It means delivering your baby and holding your own breath while you wait to hear her cry, because you know that means that her lungs are strong and working well.
  3. It means meeting your baby for the first time in the NICU, where she will be hooked up to leads, monitors, and an IV.  Despite the equipment, you will see your tiny baby and know: she is mine, and nothing else matters.
  4. It means not holding your baby for a day, days, even weeks after delivery.  When you finally do, joy and relief surge through you in a way you hadn’t expected.  You snuggle in together and marvel at the fact that your baby is here, and, even though she’s small, she’s ok.   
  5. It means not taking for granted that your baby will know how to breathe, eat, and maintain her body temperature.  Each day when you arrive at the NICU, you hope for a good report and forward progress.  You know every step involved in your baby’s journey to exiting the NICU, and each day you hope they make baby steps towards the door as they remove one breathing device for another, take another bottle, or move to an open air crib. 
  6. It means helping your amazing NICU nurses dress your perfect little baby in baby clothes that would fit a tiny baby doll.   
  7. It means being intimately familiar with scary medical words like apnea, bradycardia, nasogastric tubes, heart murmurs, and cerebral bleeds.
  8. It means leaving your babies in the NICU each day and heading home without them.  For many moms, this is heartbreakingly hard. 
  9. It means pumping milk alone, in the middle of the night, and carrying it all to the NICU on ice in dozens of tiny labeled containers.
  10. It means cheering on your baby’s progress with your beloved team of NICU nurses and doctors, who truly treat your baby like their own.   
  11. It means holding your breath when your baby does her carseat test, because you know passing that test is the one thing standing between you and your baby coming home from the hospital.
  12. It means that “coming home day” actually involves going back to the hospital to pick up your baby when she finally leaves the NICU. 
  13. It means feeling anxious about taking care of your precious preemie baby once she's finally home with you, even if you’ve been a parent to full-term newborns before. 
  14. It means fiercely guarding your baby’s health, whether that means limiting visitors or using gallons of soap and hand sanitizer.  You know that RSV or the flu will land you back in the NICU, and while the doctors and staff there are quite lovely, you do not want to go back there.
  15. It means calculating everything according to actual and adjusted age for their first two years of life, and explaining these terms to others countless times over.  (Actual age is your baby’s actual age, whereas adjusted age is how old your baby would be if she were born full term.  So, for example, my babies’ actual age is almost 17 months but their adjusted age is 15 months). 
  16. It means understanding that your baby may not hit developmental milestones until her adjusted age or even later.  It also means worrying about when you’ll know she's ok, when she's "caught up."
  17. It means wondering when your baby will ever grow so much that they eventually get ON TO the growth chart, because they were born so small.  When she finally does, you smile and feel so relieved.    
  18. It means celebrating BIG when they hit each developmental milestone (see Exhibit A, me, this week). 
  19. It means instant solidarity with other preemie parents.  You may face different challenges, but they really understand your stresses and joys.
  20. It means knowing that you are one of the lucky ones.  You have friends whose babies arrived too early, who lost their babies.  You feel your friends’ pain deeply because you know your friends’ fears, wishes, and dreams for their babies, and you know it’s simple luck that your babies are here and theirs are not.  You know that life is unfair that way so you mourn their losses with them. 
  21. It means being moved to joyful tears when you hear a fellow preemie mom delivered her babies and they’re doing well in the first few days of life, which are so critical.
  22. It means never taking for granted that your baby is here, and is a truly a miracle.  Every.  Single.  Day.
  23. It means staying friends with your NICU doctors and nurses, who share your joy in your baby's progress.
  24. It means being a little nervous when your team of specialists and pediatrician look at you and smile, and say: “they’re all caught up, and they’re exactly where they need to be,” before telling you you’re officially on your own with your “normal” toddlers. 
  25. It means forever referring to your babies as preemies because you can't forget what they looked like when they were just 3 or 4 pounds (or less), and you can’t help but get teary thinking about how far they’ve come. 
And for me, today—right now—it means cheering and clapping for my Abby as she toddles across the living room.  Way to go, Abby.  We love you.  You’ll always be my precious preemie baby B.
Abby, on her birthday

Abby (far right), and her sisters, with their PT Angela.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

On Losing a Parent, and How to Help a Friend Who's Grieving

Preface—My dad died two years ago this week.  I could write numerous essays on the things my dad has taught me, but for today, I chose to write about grief.  Two years out, it can still be hard, and grief comes and goes.  I hope this post helps you or a friend who’s recently lost a parent or a loved one.  I listed specific info for things you can do at the end of this essay.

I sat on the outdated comforter and sobbed, staring at it vacantly, memorizing the details of the chintzy burgundy print and the slippery feel of the polyester fabric.  You never prepare to get bad news, especially outside of the comfort of your own home.  And yet here I was, at a condo near Disney, aka the happiest place on earth, receiving the worst news of my life from one of my brothers: my dad went to bed at home with my mom and did not wake up.  In the midst of my frozen disbelief, I stared at the comforter for a long time.  It wasn’t supposed to happen like this.  But it was.

That day was March 2, 2014.  I would like to say it was the worst day of my life, but the days and weeks that followed, when the grief really sank in, those were harder.  Each day, before I was fully awake, I knew there was something I was forgetting, something devastating that made my chest and heart physically hurt.  Then it would hit me, so hard, new, and raw, each day: my dad died.  I will never see him again.  He will never see my girls again.  I will never hear his laugh again.  Grief surrounded me like a heavy fog, enveloping me at times, making it hard to see more than a few steps ahead of me.  So in those early days, I told myself to literally just put one foot in front of the other—right-left-right-left—and get through the day.  I kept marching on, right-left-right-left, because really, was there any other choice?  You have to keep going because life keeps going. 

In that regard, I think that Robert Frost quote sums it up perfectly: “in three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”  And so, with the days, weeks, months, and years since my dad passed away, I’ve learned to live life without my dad here.  Now that two years have passed, grief pops up at unexpected times.  Grief is a funny thing like that; not ha-ha-funny, but surprising-funny.  It sneaks up on you and surprises you when you least expect it, like a sad surprise party you never wanted; it pops up and yells SURPRISE! and then stares at you, waiting for a reaction.  To be clear, yes, I am sad on days like his birthday and on Father’s Day, but more often, I am sad at completely unexpected times.  And when it does happen, there’s no controlling the sadness, you have just feel it all and be sad and let it out.  Here are two recent times that happened. 

I was recently shopping at the Dollar Tree when I saw an older man who looked exactly like my dad from the back—same silver hair and balding head, same careful walk.  And I wanted him to be my dad so badly.  In my irrational mind, I was so excited that he was randomly shopping at the Dollar Tree.  But then I remembered—he is not here, as much as I want him to be, and he will never be here again.  And then I missed his laugh and voice and everything about him.  So I stood there in the party section of the Dollar Tree, between the pink plates and birthday pendants, choking back tears and trying to appear normal.  After I paid for my purchases and made my way to my mini-van, I let it all out and sat in the car and cried.  I texted my husband.  He understood.  He said he was sorry.  He knew he couldn’t fix it.  I texted my sisters.  They understood.     

Grief surprised me again last week.  We were in the middle of meat section at Costco when Lucy declared “it smelled like Grandpa.”  Which was rather bizarre because, first of all, we were in the Costco meat section.  Second of all, Lucy was only six when my dad died—did she remember what he smelled like?  What did she think he smelled like?  As I bent down to pepper her with questions—I smelled it.  The familiar scent of Skin Bracer aftershave.  It was the same after shave my dad had worn for decades.  Lucy had remembered his smell.  It felt like that moment at the end of Lost where everything comes together and they all realize they know each other, you know?  It was like you remember!  And it was so happy and sad and poignant.  And it was happening smack in the middle of the Costco meat aisle, which also made it a little hysterical.  My mom was with us, so I relayed it to her.  We agreed it might be a bit creepy if we all trailed the Skin Bracer shopper, sniffing him.  So we both smiled, and I think she consciously stopped herself from being sad, and we carried on.  Because two years into my grief, that’s what I do—I pause, acknowledge my sadness, and keep on keeping on.      

So much has happened since my dad died that I would love to share with him, but of course the biggest thing is the birth of my three babies.  I could hear his words when my babies were born; he would’ve said, “yes sir, you’ve done good, Chrissy.”  My dad was, at his core, a huge family man.  If he were here, he would be telling everyone he knew—and those he didn’t!—about the babies.  He would’ve been so proud.  I am not someone who generally thinks that things happen for a reason, but I feel like there was some cosmic influence or act of God in having spontaneous triplets just seven months after he died.  They have brought so much joy and happiness to our family, and you cannot be too preoccupied with grief when you’re busy entertaining three giggling babies.  I treasure the text videos he sent to my big girls, where he laughed and smiled and told them silly things, and I look forward to showing my babies those videos when they’re older.

In the end, even though I know he’s not here in person, I know he’s here.  I see him every day in my babies’ bright blue eyes.  I feel him at baptisms and family celebrations.  I see him in the cardinal that perches outside my kitchen window, entertaining the babies while they sit and eat breakfast.  I hear him telling me to fill up my tires with air and go the cheaper gas station to get the gas (he had a thing about cheap gas).  I feel him when Adele belts out her latest love ballad and every time I hear a patriotic song.  I hear him laughing when we have to spend hours building Christmas presents.  And I know that Lucy is right when she tells me so confidently that my dad is watching us from heaven.  After all, if she was so certain we were having triplets (see my first blog post, she was psychic), it would make sense that she has some connection with my dad too, right?   I think so.  And there have been so many times I’ve felt his presence so strongly, I know she’s right; he’s with us, just not here in person.  He’s right here, and he’s also everywhere: in the way I parent my children, in the way I love my spouse, in the person I try to be.  He’s left a beautiful legacy of love.  And that makes me smile.  

If You’ve Recently Lost a Parent

If you have recently lost a parent, I’m so sorry for your loss.  It is so hard, raw, and new.  Please let yourself grieve and be sad, and know that there is no handbook for grief—it is different for everyone and manifests in different ways.  And, as you will learn, there is no timeline or expiration for grief either.   However, I want you to know that it will get easier, and, one day, the fog will lift and you will be able to laugh and smile without crying when you remember your mom or dad.  I know it’s not a club you ever wanted to be a part of (i.e., the I’ve-lost-a-parent club), but everyone who’s in it is incredibly compassionate and understanding, so I would encourage you to reach out to them and lean on them.  They know your grief and they share in your sadness.  I also wanted to share that one of the hardest parts about missing your mom or dad is that life will go on without them.  It will be hard, but you will eventually feel happy.  And you will feel them with you.  Be gentle with yourself, friend.

If Your Friend Has Recently Lost a Parent

I wanted to share a few things that you can do if your friend is experiencing a loss. 
  • Call or text.  My friend Abby texted me throughout the week as we planned my dad's service, simply to say—I am thinking about you.  It meant a lot.
  • Offer a specific way to help.  A few dear friends said I will bring dinner on Tuesday night and Thursday night, will you be home?  It was so nice to have warm food.
  • Take your friend to have fun.  My friend Lindsey took me out for a pedicure and to go shopping.  It was a much-needed respite from grief, and it felt so good to forget about my sadness for a little while.
  • Show up to the funeral.  Two of my best friends showed up and stood with me during my dad’s wake and funeral.  I have no idea how much work was involved in squaring away kids, work, and everything else, but they did it.  They showed up when I really needed them.  They didn’t even have to say anything, but they stood there alongside me, bearing witness to my sadness.   
  • If you knew their loved one, share their sadness and honor their loved one by sharing your favorite memories of them.  My oldest friend Jessica grew up knowing my dad quite well.  With each call and text, her sadness was palpable.  She regularly sends me old photos of my family as she finds them.  They’re always a treasure.
  • Send a handwritten card to your friend. There’s something to be said for snail mail and seeing my friends’ handwritten expressions of sympathy.
  • Send a plant or flowers for the funeral in memory of their loved one.  If you can’t be at the service, sending a plant or flowers will make your friend smile and feel your presence.     
  • Just say something.  When you get back to daily living after having lost your parent, everything is the same and altogether different, too.  If you don’t say something, it seems like everyone is pretending this big, sad thing didn’t happen.  So say something very generic, like I’m sorry.  Or I’ve been thinking about you.  Or, I’ve been praying for you.  Generally any expression of sympathy is welcome except for any sentiment that “they’re in a better place.” 
  • Don’t forget.  Use their parent’s name.  Share your favorite memories.  Help keep their memory alive for your friend.  Understand that your friend may still be sad months or years later.
  • Finally, just be present and listen.  Your friend will appreciate that more than you can know.