Phone or Text: 856-656-6436

©2019 by Three Little Birds Perinatal - Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support (a FNC fiscally sponsored non-profit project).

SUPPORTING A FAMILY MEMBER OR FRIEND THROUGH LOSS

We understand how helpless you may be feeling.  A sweet little member of your family is gone and there is no way to fix or change what has happened.  While each situation is unique and each baby is special, there is no right or wrong way to support a family through this type of loss.  However, we offer the following suggestions to help you feel empowered to help your family through the days, weeks and months that will follow in their healing journey.

While there is no guidebook on how to handle these situations, we recommend the following:

  • Say their name! Saying their baby's name is not a reminder that the child has died, but instead validating gesture that reminds everyone the baby was real and an important part of their lives.

  • Do not be silent! In our effort to give people personal space we can inadvertently leave them feeling uncared for. Losing a baby is one of the loneliest events a woman might ever experience and she and her family need to know they aren’t forgotten in their pain. Send a hand-written note, make a phone call, or drop off flowers. At minimum send a text or write an email. She may not answer the phone or return your text straight away, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t appreciated.

  • Be available to talk or listen, or not. There is no way to know exactly what a parent will want or need as she deals with her grief moment-by-moment. She may want to talk it all out or she may not want to delve deep in that moment. She may find comfort in hearing your own story of loss or she may rather you quietly listen. Follow her lead as she sets the pace of conversation and continue to gently make it known that you are available for whatever she needs.

  • Give her permission to feel what she is feeling. Grief comes in waves – sometimes in the form of questioning or anger or sadness or blame or a thousand other ways. As she learns to navigate those waves, your friend might also struggle with comparing her pain to another’s (“but she lost her baby at birth” or “I only had one miscarriage but she had three” or “she was farther along than I was”, etc.) and then feel guilty because she feels worse than she thinks she “should”. Help her to know that whatever she’s feeling is normal and that her pain is just that – hers. It is what it is – no more or less than it “should” be. In the thick of grief after babyloss it’s important for parents to feel validated that the life and death of their little one was more than a “pregnancy loss” – it was the death of a child and the death of a future together. Grieving loss of that magnitude will take time and that’s okay – there’s grace for the process.

  • Refrain from giving pat answers or using religious cliches. A grieving parent doesn’t need to hear things like: “God will never give us more than we can handle” or “now you have an angel in heaven” or “at least you know you can get pregnant” or “that baby was too special for earth” or “God will give you another baby when it’s time” or pretty much any form of “there is a reason this happened – it must be for the best”. When a parent is grieving the death of a baby, it is more than we can handle. That’s why we need you and that’s why we need God to carry us. We cannot do it alone – it’s too much, too hard. And if that baby was “too special for earth” does that mean that we were not special enough for the baby? (See how that might unintentionally heap false guilt on a bereaved parent?) We don’t want an angel in heaven, we want a baby in our arms.  Although every woman is different, most need to grieve the loss of one baby before deciding she can face her fears and set her heart on trying for another one. Take care that you don’t try to minimize the pain by encouraging her that she can try again before she’s ready or not to worry because “time heals all things”. Even though all of these types of sentiments are well-intended they can be damaging for a grieving parent.

  • Mark your calendar. Anniversaries and other important markers are extremely difficult for bereaved parents. Mark your calendar with the baby’s estimated due date, the date they received a horrible prognosis, the date of the miscarriage or stillbirth, and/or the date of the funeral. As those dates approach, extend special kindness, send a card or flowers, drop by a meal, or make a purposeful phone call. Do something to remind them that you miss their baby too, that you are still sad for their loss, and that you want to support them any way you can. Knowing that her baby and her feelings of loss are not forgotten will be a special comfort during those ‘marker’ dates.

  • Don't forget dad/non-birthing parent! Although it’s typically different to the way a woman grieves, men have their own process to walk through after losing a baby. Often he’s busy with work and supporting his wife emotionally as she grieves (as well as other children) and so it may appear that he’s perfectly fine as he tries to maintain the status quo for the sake of his family. I guarantee you that he’s grieving too. Hugs, small gestures of generosity (like a coffee or a favorite snack dropped by his workplace), and heart-felt prayer can go a long way. In addition to caring for the mother, ask yourself if there are small ways you can ease dad’s load, validate his pain, or demonstrate your support to him in a personal way.

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES