20 December 2011

For Friends and Family

I have been asked three times this month how to support parents who are grieving a pregnancy or infant loss. This little article from SHARE is the perfect place to start:

For many families who are pregnant with or have recently delivered a very loved and wanted baby, hopes and dreams are torn apart with the news that the baby has died. For the rest of the world around them, not much seems changed. Unfortunately, something very sad and life altering has happened that needs to be acknowledged. A baby has died.

Following are some suggestions on how to support a parent whose baby has died.

Say "I’m Sorry"
If you can’t find the right words, it is better to say, “I’m sorry,” than nothing at all.

Avoid Clichés
“Everything happens for a reason.”
“Thank goodness you are young, you can still have more children.”
“There must have been something wrong with the baby.”
“I understand how you feel.” (unless you have an experience to share)
“It was meant to be”
“You have an angel in heaven.”
“At least you didn’t get to know the baby.”
“You are so strong, I could never handle this.”
“I guess it’s good it happened now.”
“At least you have children at home.”
“God would never give you more than you could handle.”

What may seem comforting to you may be very hurtful to others. Clichés tend to minimize the loss and the emotions a parent has toward their baby.

Say “I Don’t Know What to Say”
If you are unaware of what to say, simply say, “I don’t know what to say.” Honesty can be more comforting than words with less meaning.

Silence Can Be Okay
Sometimes there is just nothing to say. Just be quiet, be with them, hold their hand, touch their shoulder, or give them a hug.

Apologize for Hurtful Comments
If you do say something insensitive, acknowledge it and apologize. These comments can cause hurt and future resentment.

Responses to Death
Do the same things for the death of a baby as you would if another family member died. Send flowers, sympathy cards, share special remembrances, phone calls, make/bring dinner. If you are a close family member or friend, it may be helpful if you ask to help maintain laundry, basic housecleaning or cooking, or watch other children at home (if applicable). Be sure to obtain permission from the bereaved family before disassembling the baby’s room or removing baby items.

To read more ways to better support a parent, click here to download a brochure.

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