For Families and Friends
The death of a baby is unlike any other. We are often at a loss for words and actions and believe that it's better to not say anything in the case we may upset someone. However, this seems to have the opposite effect, isolating the parents even more in their grief. Below are some suggestions that will help guide you in supporting your loved one, family member, or friend who has endured the death of their baby. Our Remembrance Items and Healing Projects page also has thoughtful and comforting ideas.
Suggestions for supporting your loved ones:
- Helpful things to say:
- I am so sorry
- I am at a loss for words
- I don't know what to say right now
- There is a connection between you as a mother and your baby that you carried that can never be broken and you will love him/her forever
- Arrange for meal delivery, meal gift cards, or grocery gift cards (2-4 weeks after the baby's death is helpful)
- Refer to them as parents - as they are, even if they do not have a living child - and acknowledge them on Mother's and Father's Days
- Make sure to remember, ask about, and care for the father, as he is also grieving
- Ask about the name of the baby
- Ask how the baby died
- Ask to see a photograph of the baby or to describe how the baby looked
- Tell them their baby is beautiful
- Ask them to tell you about their baby
- Be present, listen, and sit with them
- Ask what would feel healing or helpful
- If they have living children, offer to take the children for outings and let the parents have time to grieve alone or together
Birthdays, anniversaries (death, due date, etc.) and holidays are especially difficult. Let the parents know that you are thinking of them and their baby on these special days by practicing thoughtfulness (i.e., card, flowers, small gift, cake, balloons, candle). Be open and accepting of however they choose to celebrate these holidays.
The grieving process is never over and parents are always grateful for your thoughtfulness. Months after the baby has passed away, it can be helpful to continue to send "thinking of you" cards or thoughtful gifts.
Bereaved parents, Laura and James, started Give InKind, a website service that allows you to support and connect with loved ones during times of crisis or need. This service allows you to seamlessly coordinate care, learn specific ways to help, and find the most thoughtful and useful gifts and services for yourself or those you care about.
Don'ts of speaking with bereaved parents:
- Do not offer cliches
- Do not judge or offer advice
- Do not compare losses
- Do not say:
- Everything happens for a reason
- At least....
- Time heals all wounds
- It's going to be okay
- Let go, move on
- Have faith
- Be thankful
- God has a plan
- Keep busy
- You are young, you can have more children
- Be thankful you have other children
- Your baby would have been very sick if he/she lived
Visit Mommy Interrupted for links to resources and articles that will help you further understand the bereaved parents' experience.