Friday, 22 July 2011

How to help when a Baby dies ?

Firstly, I personally don’t know anyone who is entirely comfortable talking to the bereaved after the death of a loved one.Let alone, when it is a family or friend's precious baby who has passed away before birth , during birth or soon after.

I know ... losing a baby at any time is one of the most devastating experiences that any family can experience. Whether 12 weeks , 26weeks or a full-term baby, it's beyond tragic .

I know we had already prepared a lifelong place for ~Charlotte~  in our family before we met her. All parents have hopes and dreams for their baby and beyond.

There are no easy answers when a baby dies and your whole world is shattered.

As family or a caring friend, you might ask

"What do I say?"
"What can I do?"

The grief journey is very painful one for a baby’s parents. Nothing prepares parents for the separation from their baby.

I know we travel to a place not on any map and we don't know when we will arrive or leave. It's a place we have never been to (hopefully) and everyone has a different experience. 

Bereaved parents will need the support of their loved ones now more than ever before but seldom will they ask... for anything

So how can you help? here are a few things you might to consider from my personal experience.
  1. Use the Baby's name if named not keep saying " The Baby   ". You can help bereaved parents by listening to them to talk about their loss, if they want and you feel able to listen. Ask them gently if they want to talk about {insert Baby's name}.Don’t try to protect them from their grief – help them face it and if you need to cry, do it. If they cry, silence is ok while they cry ; put a hand on them gently, hug them (if appropriate), pass the tissues, or if you feel too uncomfortable say "I'll put the kettle on to let you have a few minutes (?)." Respect their rights to express whatever they feel or think - regardless of how strange it may seem to you if they seem angry or calm or whatever.
  2. Bring them a meal *or simple groceries to cook (they may be too distracted to cook ).Offer to help with their house cleaning or offer to mind or occupy their other children , it will be appreciated even if they say   "NO thank you  ". Even offering to read their surviving child a story or play with them in their own home while they rest or take care of the cleaning *.
  3.  Phone, visit or send a card : if you don't know what to say a simple message, We love you and we are thinking of  you and baby {insert name if known} today. Especially remember the DUE DATE if the baby died in utero or was born alive early (before the due date). Even an email is some comfort especially if you don't know them too well, for example online or a co worker and don't have a physical address. (There is always Google to help with kindly worded sentiments)
  4. A gift is not necessary; some like to give flowers or a plant: nurturing a living thing can be very comforting for grieving. We were given roses for a memorial garden. A trinket , figurine, ornament or piece of jewelry etc may be chosen by family or a close friend especially, if it is something they know symbolises the baby ~ a Butterfly , an Angel or anything really.
  5. A sense of normalcy is very therapeutic for healing.It's okay to laugh and tell talk about other things, even your own children and theirs. We know life goes on, it just that ours has changed forever.
  6. If someone you know has experienced pregnancy or infant loss and is past the intense grief stage of their own loss, ask them if you can give their phone number or email to the newly bereaved parents. A note in a card is okay. Talking to someone who has been through a similar loss , not necessarily a professional counsellor ,can help to take the isolation out of grief and spare a spouse for a while. (Hospitals usually give plenty of bereavement literature to parents or there is so much available online now)
What not to say ?
  1. When a baby is lost families [and others] often have a desperate need to know why their baby died but now is not the time to ask...what happened .They probably won't know themselves.You can ask What did {baby's name} weigh and how long was {baby's name}?" etc
  2. Don't encourage them to be strong ...or say how well they are coping or ... "Don't be sad. Don't cry  " -    "It will be ok   " -   " It's for the best  "  (e.g.when you know it is genetic) 
  3.  Appreciate that they miss this baby, who can never be replaced by another child. If a twin is lost never say 'At least you still have one baby'.
  4. Understand they may not want to know who is newly pregnant or newly delivered in your social circle. It's difficult if you were part of an anti-natal parents group sensitive when sharing such news in the early days.
  5. Don't compare their loss to losing your pet or say this happened to someone you know and it was caused by ..... because they did .....
  6. Remember, too that most people don't say too many insensitive or wrong things [common sense aside]. Above all you are caring enough to talk to them ! Ignoring their loss is far more insensitive.Your friend or loved one is very lucky to have you in their life.
This week I have read several stories about infant and pregnancy loss. It always breaks my heart. I am writing this in response, to maybe help someone help.I hope it makes sense.

I really don't mind being reminded at how fragile life is .Today my heart goes out to anyone reading this who has said goodbye to their precious baby, all too soon .

Kristie said a final goodbye to Avery yesterday ... her son, Avery a beautiful boy born sleeping a week ago.


"Dear Avery, please see this light as a symbol of the
 never-ending love for you. Please understand that this love knows no limits or bounds; it conquers even the hold of death. Let this light shine in memory of the love for you, in celebration of the life you shared together, however brief, and in the hope that tomorrow will be a brighter day. 
May they feel your spirit with them even now, gently guiding and strengthening them. With this light they will remember your true gifts : memories of joys past, hope for present peace and love to last a lifetime. May they forever feel your presence and love you always."

Hope is like the sun,which, as we journey toward it ,casts the shadow of burden behind us.

It's my sincere wish that those touched by the loss of a baby are well supported, able to process their loss and hopeful for the future...(not my words but heartfelt wish)

There is so much more I could write including about 'including siblings'...another day .
Edited to add a link to Martine @ The Modern Parent's posts on Grief : Helping Children Grieve

Please note *Gifts of meals ~ can in itself be overwhelming if they get too many meals all at once and no way to store them all... check if anyone can be responsible to organize a list of friends to alternate duties such as meals and visits to help.

(In our church they did this for one family via an organised roster initially while the baby was having surgery for her heart and then after she passed away)
Please share your own experiences and any other advice that helped you or your family or friends.

Linking up with Shae about Things I know ...but sincerely wish I didn't today.

Edited to add this further to precious Avery's story and HeartFelt
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