Doing and Saying Just the Right Things
When Parents Experience a Perinatal or an Infant Death
Many people don’t realize how devastating it is for parents when their baby dies before birth or in infancy. Here are some things you can do to support a parent through this difficult experience.
When hearing the news that a baby has died …
- Ask parents what happened. They may need to talk about the details. If they don’t want to talk about it, don’t pressure them.
- Ask if the parents named the baby and if so, refer to the baby by name.
- Visit the parents as you would if they had delivered a healthy baby. Bring them an appropriate gift.
- Send flowers with a note (see suggestions for notes below) or offer a donation to an appropriate research organization.
- Let parents show you a picture and talk about the child. Be a good listener.
- Ask to help make arrangements, such as helping the mother buy a special outfit for the baby.
During the baby’s services…
- Include siblings in all activities. Let them ask questions. Answer honestly.
After the services…
- Remember birthdays and anniversaries of the death.
- Eventually, parents may want to go out. When they’re ready, let them know that you’re willing to watch their children or help in other ways.
- Offer to clean, cook or do other chores.
- Don’t take control of the situation. Parents need control to help them work through grief.
- Don’t bring up other people’s experiences. Let the parents focus on their loss.
- Don’t forget about the father.
- Don’t pressure parents to disassemble their nursery. They need to do this in their own time.
- Parents may have a tendency to blame each other. Don’t take sides.
- Don’t suggest having more children or adopting.
What to say…
Use your own words to convey messages like these:
“To have a new life end so suddenly is so very sad.”
“I/We are thinking of you. I/we wish there were words to comfort you.”
“I/We are shocked and saddened by your loss. We care and love you deeply.”
“It’s probably a blessing.”
“You couldn’t have been too attached to such a new baby.”
“Miscarriages are just nature’s way of correcting things.”
“You can always adopt another baby.”
“Too bad you don’t have other children.”
“It’s good you have other children.”