Every grieving parent is different so there isn’t an accurate guide on what to do or say when a baby dies. One of the biggest comments can be “I don’t know what to say” – in my experience, be honest and say that, better than saying nothing at all.
When my son died, I had so many people come up to me and just hug me, so many messages to say how sorry they were but it’s the people who crossed over the street to avoid me that stayed with me and the occasional comment which was meant well but which caused hurt.
Some of the things that helped me when my baby died are:
- let me talk about my baby. If I am talking about my baby, please let me and please do also talk about my baby. Don’t ignore their existence because that hurts.
- let me cry – I need to fucking cry, it helps to get rid of some of the hurt. And sometimes I will have no choice, I will have no control over it. Please don’t tell me to shush.
- please don’t make me try to feel better – you can’t, my baby is dead, there is no feeling better, there is no snapping out of this.
- please don’t have any expectations of how I grieve and heal and how long it takes – there is no plan for this, each day will be different, the pain is raw and physical
- think before you speak – yes I could have another baby, yes I am lucky to have my other children, no I don’t think it’s God’s will, no I don’t think it was meant to be, etc, etc…
- please do send a message, a card or a text – it is a lonely place when a baby dies. I treasure the cards and messages sent to me after my son died.
- please ask me what I want – please don’t assume anything
- sometimes all I want is a hug
- please don’t ignore me, please don’t cross the street because you don’t know what to say – that hurts so much and I hurt enough already!
- I may be low, I may be angry, I may be tearful, I may be resentful, I may not want to see you, I may not be kind, I may not be able to handle your emotions – please try to understand
A bereaved parent will be all over the place, trying to make sense of this devastating and painful loss. At times, there will be physical pain, aching arms and a broken heart. It can feel like living in a bubble – the rest of the world is continuing on as normal but it is difficult to connect to it.
Please be sensitive, communicate as simply and as honestly as possible and please also be kind to yourself – loss can affect a lot of people.
Janine Smith | a specialist in pregnancy, birth and parent support
mum to 2 teenage girls and a baby boy who couldn’t stay