How friends and family can support parents when their baby has died

A blog post by Sue Clachers, Bereavement Support Practitioner

Parents say that they want to be acknowledged, to receive love and support, to be listened to and to be allowed to grieve in their own way.

When a baby dies, the pain and longing can be excruciating for bereaved parents as they try to make sense of what has happened and search for answers to the questions, "Why?" "Why our baby?" and "Why us?"

Parents I’ve supported tell me they want to talk about their baby and hear their name mentioned; it affirms that their baby ‘did exist and was here’. However, the way other people respond can sometimes be unhelpful, difficult and painful, particularly if parents do not have the energy to talk about how they are thinking and feeling. 

Sensitive, caring support from family and friends is important, yet it can be difficult for others to know how to reach out. Often well-meaning people who do not know what the couple are going through, want to ‘tell’ them how to feel or what to do, rather than simply listening. Unsure as to what to say, others may ignore the couple adding to the feeling of isolation. Parents say that they want to be acknowledged, to receive love and support, to be listened to and to be allowed to grieve in their own way.

Grieving parents generally want to talk about their baby, as all parents do, and really appreciate gestures like receiving cards acknowledging the birth of their baby. Carrying out ‘random acts of kindness’ in memory of their baby, can be a good way to start a conversation particularly around anniversaries. Parents tell me that this will often result in a conversation that involves their baby’s name which is joyful and heart-warming. Building continuing bonds with their baby is very important and will last a lifetime, becoming part of their family story.

Sue Clachers, Bereavement Support Practitioner, Child Bereavement UK