CARING FOR GRIEVING FAMILIES
Sweet friend or family member,
We are so sorry that you have a reason to visit this page. The fact that you are here means you care about someone who has lost a baby. Our hearts break with yours for your loved one and their baby in Heaven. You are a wonderful friend or family member to look for ways to support them in their grieving. Your love for them during this heartbreaking time will be comforting and healing to them.
We hope that the ideas listed on this page are helpful to you and will provide you with practical ways to support your friend or family member as they grieve the loss of their baby. Acknowledging their loss and helping them through this time will mean more to them than you could ever know. Your kind acts and words will be welcomed and appreciated. Thank you for caring so deeply for your loved one and honoring their baby in Heaven.
during the first few weeks
Acknowledge Their Loss
One of the best ways to support your friend or family member who has just experienced loss is to simply acknowledge their baby and the deep grief and pain they are experiencing.
You can demonstrate to your friend or family member that you're there to support them and that their baby's life matters by sending a handwritten card, flowers, or a personalized gift with their baby's name or initials.
You can also make a memorial donation to a cause important to them to demonstrate that their baby's life is important and is making a positive impact in this world.
Don't be afraid to ask about their baby and call their baby by name. Many bereaved families want to talk about their babies. It will not upset them or make them sad for you to bring their baby up in conversation.
Not talking about their baby can actually be very hurtful because it may feel like you are not acknowledging their baby's life, their loss, and who they are now.
Avoid offering advice or giving instructions on what you think they should be doing to heal. Also, refrain from platitudes and religious clichés: Everything happens for a reason - Time heals everything - God needed another angel - He/She is in a better place - He/She was too beautiful for earth - You're still young and can try again. Though well-intended, these statements try to justify their loss and inadvertently minimize their grief.
Whatever you do, do not avoid your friend or family member or pretend like nothing happened because you don't have the "perfect" thing to say. There really are no perfect words that can take the pain away.
However, simple statements such as I'm here for you and I'm so very sorry for your loss can mean so much.
Offer Practical Help
A family who has just experienced birth and death at the same time is likely to be beyond exhausted, both physically and emotionally. Don't assume your friend or family member has enough people caring for them.
Be specific in ways you'd like to help. Vague offers such as "Let me know if you need anything" are rarely taken. It's often very difficult for a bereaved friend or family member to identify what they need when they're deep in their grief.
Instead, proactively offer specific ways you'd like to help, such as:
I'd like to bring you a meal. Would Tuesday or Wednesday be
best for you?
Which day would work for me to come help you around your house?
Is there any specific need I can help you with during this time? (List some ideas you're willing to do here)
Some simple ways you can care for your friend and family member during this time is by completing everyday tasks and household chores that may seem overwhelming in the first few
weeks after loss.
Drop off a meal that is easy to heat or store in the freezer for the future. Serve it in a disposable container so that they don't have to worry about returning it to you later. Pick up groceries for them. Offer to clean the house, do their laundry, wash dishes, do yard work, or take care of their children for an evening.
These simple acts are a kind and loving way to demonstrate that you care about your friend or family member and you acknowledge their loss and grief.
As time goes by, you may be better able to identify what your friend or family member needs during this time. Consider gathering together mutual friends and family members from your community to take turns bringing meals, checking in, or doing tasks around their house.
You may know exactly what your friend or family member needs during this time, and you may not. That's okay. There's certainly no right thing to do or say to a friend or family member who has experienced the loss of a baby.
Some people want to be alone in their grief while others desire community in the initial weeks after loss. Everyone grieves differently, and that's okay.
Gently and lovingly show your friend or family member that you're available for them. You can stay in touch by sending a handwritten card every week. This is an easy and thoughtful way to let them know you're thinking of them while also not adding any pressure for a quick response.
If appropriate, send a text message or call your friend or family member so that they know you're available for them when they're ready. Understand that they may need some time to open up to you. Offer them grace and extra patience during this time.
In addition to being available, be flexible. Recognize that there's no roadmap or timeline for grief. If your friend or family member doesn't return your call for a couple of weeks or is unable to commit to seeing you, be flexible and do not give up on them.
When you are able to connect with your friend or family member in person, allow them the time and space to be vulnerable in their emotions. Be a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear. Hug and love on them, if appropriate.
Offer to pray with them, or send a prayer to them via email if you aren't able to be with them in person. Simply being there for them will make a huge difference in their grieving and healing journey. They will appreciate your unwavering support during this time.
the months & years that follow
While the passage of time can ease some of the pain, your friend or family member's loss will always be with them. It's important in the months and years that follow that you remember and acknowledge the life of their precious baby and stay sensitive to their grief.
Your friend or family member will appreciate you remembering their baby as time passes on. Continue to send handwritten cards periodically. Continue to call their baby by name. Set reminders on your phone or calendar to check in with them every so often - not just on important dates, but on ordinary, regular days too.
It's important to remember that your friend or family may continue to struggle with certain "triggers" that will result in anxiety and sadness for them (such as attending baby showers, child dedications at church, or kids' parties, etc.) Try to understand what those triggers are for your friend or family member by simply asking.
They will appreciate your sensitivity and willingness to understand their grief. Be there to offer encouragement and ways to help them before, during, and after these triggering events. Having a friend by their side during these times will make a world of difference.
Continue to Check In
Continue to check in with your friend. Ask how they're doing and ask about their baby, no matter how long it has been. Don't assume they're doing fine now or that they're back to normal because so much time has passed. The loss of their precious baby has forever changed them and they will likely never be the same.
Your friend or family member's grief will change with time, but they will always miss and mourn for their baby in Heaven. They will establish a new normal, and will navigate ways to honor their baby in their daily life.
Reach out to your friend or family member to ask how they are doing, even if it has been months or years since their loss. Even if they've had another baby, it doesn't mean that they have forgotten or moved on from their baby in Heaven. They will still want their baby to be remembered and acknowledged.
Also, it's not uncommon for grief to resurface months or even years later, or with the birth of a new baby. A simple phone call or text message letting them know you haven't forgotten their baby or what they've gone through can mean so much.
For more ideas on how to honor a baby in Heaven, visit here.
Dates & Holidays
Mark your calendar with important dates: what would have been their baby's due date, their baby's Heaven Day, the date they received a horrible prognosis or found out there was no heartbeat.
Plan in advance to acknowledge their baby on these dates by sending flowers or a special memorial gift, or by making a memorial donation in honor of their baby. Even just a handwritten card or text message on those dates to let them know you're thinking of them and their baby can mean so much.
Don't forget that certain holidays such as Mother's Day and Father's Day can be especially tough for bereaved families. Be sure to reach out in some way on those holidays, or even in the days or weeks leading up to them. Often, the anticipation of certain holidays can be just as tough as the days themselves.
Lastly, offer to support your friend or family member on October 15th, Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day. You can participate in the International Wave of Light by lighting a candle in memory of their baby at 7 PM.
Or, if an organization or church in your community holds its own Wave of Light event for bereaved families, offer to attend with your friend or family member.