I am a concerned friend or family member
How can I help?
Knowing exactly what to say or what to do may seem impossible when a baby dies. It is very common to feel tongue tied and overwhelmed when someone you care for is facing this unexpected loss. Our goal is to give you some tools that will help prepare you to assist and support during this tragic time.
What can I do with the next few minutes/hours after the baby dies?
It is so important for her to say hello before she can say goodbye. Encourage her to hold her baby and discover family attributes. Does he have his father’s nose or his mother’s chin? Show her his tiny fingers on his hands and his precious toes. Do not rush the baby out of the room because once he is gone she will never hold him again. These moments are precious and she will cherish them for her lifetime. Allow her to take breaks if she needs to but encourage her to keep the baby for as long as she needs. It is normal for a mom who loses her baby to distance herself and want it all just to be over but gently remind her that this time with him is all she has.
Offer to take pictures. This may seem difficult but mom will appreciate having pictures once the shock of all that has happened wares off. Be sure to take pictures with parents, grandparents, other siblings, and friends. Allowing the baby to be seen by her friends and family makes him real to everyone. This will help in the weeks and months to follow as she grieves. Her family will be able to identify with her grief because they have seen the baby that she lost.
Give her choices. Her mind is fuzzy and she is overwhelmed with grief and emotion but any decision she is not apart of now she may regret later. Don’t just make assumptions about what she wants and doesn’t want. Things like bathing or dressing her baby may be vital to her recovery. Her initial reaction may be to resist any decisions but she needs you to remind her how much these precious moments will mean to her for her lifetime.
Expect there to be shock. She will find it hard to absorb information as it is given to her. She will ask the same questions over and over because she is unable to process information. Continue to answer her questions patiently as often as she needs.
How can I help with a memorial service?
Give her choices. She was prepared to deliver a child not to bury one. Encourage her to help make the arrangements. It is sometimes tempting to take over and make all the decisions but leaving her out in attempt to minimize her pain may cause her to be angry later. Give her permission to use this service as a time to celebrate her child and the brief time she had with him. Help her to pick out poems or music that will allow her to express herself during this time of remembrance.
Expect she will grieve. Remember that just because she looks fine doesn’t mean she is fine. Everyone is different and the stages of grief are different for everyone and last for differing lengths. The initial stage is often shock and depending on a multitude of things it could last for weeks or even months.
How can I continue to support her?
Encourage her to seek support from people who know what she’s going through. Offer to go with her to a support group, having a loved one attend with her will help ease her mind until she meets other people she connects with. This is important because life goes back to normal for everyone except her and connecting with people who have been through the loss of a child will help her to see that what she is going through is expected after her loss. This is not a pain that will go away quickly, it will take time to recover.
Don’t ever forget because she won’t. So many dates especially the first year, due date, first holidays with the baby are very scary for her and will likely cause her to be sad. Give her an opportunity to express how she feels. There will also be unexpected times where there is no particular meaning where she will become emotional without warning.
Don’t tell her she can have another baby. She can never replace the baby she lost.
Don’t avoid her or the topic of her baby. She needs her friends and family now more than ever and avoiding her or talking about the baby she lost doesn’t take away the pain and grief she is experiencing. Giving her opportunities to share her grief will be a great comfort to her.
Remember that she will be okay again but the quicker she is forced to appear “okay” the longer it will take for her to actually be okay.
Validate her loss now and in the future. Remain sensitive to holidays and special occasions. Most people around her will forget but it will mean so much if you don’t.These are just a few ideas to assist you when caring for someone when their baby dies. If you have questions or want to discuss this further we encourage you to contact us. We would be happy to assist you any way that we can.