We have some sad news to bring you about Dylan Hoffman, a sweet Wilton boy, who–just 4 weeks after being born in 2011–suffered a massive stroke and underwent heart and brain surgery. Since then, his family’s life has been filled with caring for their son who faced an uphill battle.

Last year GOOD Morning Wilton wrote about Dylan’s mom, Caroline’s work to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House of the Greater Hudson Valley, an organization that has provided support to the Hoffmans and so many other families in need.

Last Friday, Sept. 12, Dylan succumbed to his battle and passed away.

Losing a child is perhaps the most devastating loss anyone can experience and many people have asked how they can help. Exactly one month from Dylan’s passing, on Friday, Oct. 12, Dylan was to be the Grand Marshall at the 4th Annual Family for Footsteps Walk for the Ronald McDonald House of the Greater Hudson Valley.

While only here for three years, Dylan has touched so many people and Carolyn is committed to creating a legacy for him. The family is asking for our help in raising money for the Ronald McDonald House and helping other families in times of incredible stress and hardship. On October 12 they will be walking and honoring Dylan.

When Caroline held her bake sale, she told GMW.com that its readers had made such a difference once they heard her story. “I really can’t thank you enough, it was a huge success we raised $460.31! Some people mentioned they saw the article and a few just got out of their car bought somethings and left, so we know they came just for that! Thank you again for the article!”

We hope that the GOOD Morning Wilton community and the wider network will again let the Hoffman family know that we support and embrace them, by signing up or getting involved with the upcoming walk and fundraising effort. To learn more, click here.

Alison Jacobson is a motivational speaker, life coach and author, and is well known as the Safety Mom. She has written extensively about being a caregiver and about her own loss of a child. Here, we’ve reprinted, with her permission, a blog she wrote about How to Help a Grieving Parent, for the website Shared Abilities*.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that my son Connor died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) 17 years ago. Life gets busy with daily activities and time flies, but every now and then something makes me think of him or I look at my son Spencer and wonder how similar they would look. There are some minutes of the day he died that I can remember exactly and others that I think, out of self-preservation, my mind has chosen to forget.

There are a few friends still in my life who knew me back then. My new friends never had the good fortune to meet my beautiful baby boy and see his gorgeous smile. This doesn’t stop me from talking about my baby Connor or sharing how I dealt with such a tremendous loss. I also speak very openly about my other son’s intellectual disability. For many parents, sharing personal tragedies and challenges is difficult. But once they feel safe in doing so, the energy shifts and true healing begins. As a life transition coach, however, my work involves helping people get honest about the hardships they’re dealing with in order to create a life of joy and success.

While all of our losses are different, they are equally as painful. The grief of a parent is all-consuming. After Connor died I became very involved in the SIDS community and sat on the board of directors for First Candle. The group’s support was invaluable in helping me work through my grief. In those first few days, family and friends were constantly asking what they could do to help – I had no idea. They felt completely helpless and, to be honest, they were. But, over the years I’ve been able to help other parents and friends of grieving families with some ideas on what they can do and say when a child dies:

  • Parents are in shock when their child’s death first occurs. A suggestion that they might not consider is saving a lock of their child’s hair. For some this provides enormous comfort.
  • LISTEN! Many people avoid talking to the parents about the child because they feel it will make them more upset. Actually it’s just the opposite. Ask them to share special memories of their child and let them talk.
  • In the first few days after the death there is tremendous commotion. But then, after a week or two, everyone goes back to their daily lives and the parents are left with the realization that they can never go back to “normal.” It’s then that parents will appreciate the phone calls and even a surprise dinner brought over. The quiet, simple gestures mean everything.
  • A change of scenery helps. If they have other children, offer to babysit so that they can go out – even if it’s just a quick dinner or a movie. If they don’t, consider getting a group of people together to chip in for theater tickets or some other event. They’ll just be going through the motions but it distracts their thoughts, even for just a brief time.
  • Don’t forget birthdays and anniversaries. Even seventeen years later I so appreciate getting calls from family and friends just saying that they remembered the day and they were thinking of me. Some people think that by “reminding” the parents it makes them sad. Trust me, we never forget and the thought that other people also remember makes us happy.

For a parent who’s lost a child, life never will be the same. But the kindness a friends is invaluable in the healing process.

*Shared Abilities is an online community for sharing information about special needs created by Wilton resident Julie Steckel.