My husband and I lost twins last year. The first baby was miscarried and the second was stillborn. This was not my first loss. (You can learn more about my losses here: http://www.crunchymoms.com/october-is-national-miscarriage-and-baby-loss-month)
This was one of the hardest experiences of my life. We were lucky to have a great doctor, as well as the support of some family and friends, but we felt abandoned and hurt by others through their actions, words, and ignorance.
Maybe the hurtful words, misunderstanding, or questioning of details was with good intention, but these actions and words stung like pouring salt into an already gaping wound.
While I don’t expect everyone to know what to say or do in this sort of situation, ignorance is a poor excuse. People should take time to research such a delicate subject before interjecting their opinions or “best intentions” for any family.
Though everyone’s situation is different, here are some of my general “Do” and “Don’t” suggestions when interacting with parents (and even siblings) who have experienced the loss of a baby.
- Ask specific, detailed questions about what happened, mother’s health, what the doctor said, etc. It is too late to change the outcome, and these sorts of questions suggest the parents did something “wrong,” and the outcome could have been prevented, had someone made different choices.
- Argue about the details of the pregnancy or its outcome. You are not the doctor.
- Tell the person “you can have another.” If your child died, would you feel better knowing you could “have a replacement?”
- Say “It was God’s will.” This sounds more like a divine punishment to the recipient of such words.
- Tell the parents to “count their blessings, “or say “It could have been worse.” It’s dismissive and minimizing.
- Ignore the family who has experienced loss if you are normally a part of their lives. They will notice.
- Send baby announcements or baby shower invitations to the home of grieving parents.
- Tell them “it’s time to get over it.” There is no acceptable limit to mourning. Each person takes their own journey, and parents never completely get over it. They just learn to live with it.
- Send sympathy cards or tokens of sympathy.
- Help the family locate a photographer for documenting their short time with their baby.
- Help the family locate a support group, therapist, or clergy to help in the time of crisis.
- Offer to help with funeral or burial arrangements.
- Attend funerals or memorials services. Decline if necessary, but don’t ignore.
- Bring a meal or offer to help with babysitting or household tasks.
- Express your support with the family, and use the baby’s name(s). Ask how they’re doing, and if there’s anything you can do to lighten their burden.
- Just “be there.” You don’t have to solve their problems.
- Invite mom to a baby shower in person, expressing your concern for her feelings and your desire for her to participate in welcoming a new baby, but only if she’s ready to do so.
- Include the baby’s name(s) in holiday cards the first holiday season after the child’s loss, and write a special note to the parents that you are thinking of them during this difficult time.
Do you have anything to add to this list? Please leave a comment.