If your only contact with parents is in an emergency, be sure to allow them plenty of time to absorb what has happened. Provide a private space for parents to sit but be careful that they are not left alone too long so as to feel forgotten or abandoned.

Many parents want detailed information about the circumstances surrounding their child’s death. Was she in pain? Who was with him? Did she open her eyes? Did he say anything?

Parents are unlikely to be able to remember your name. Write it down for them to take away with them and let them know how they can contact you if they have any further questions.

Parents have said that being with their child when the hospital team were trying to save their child was a comfort as they saw that everything possible was done – despite the distress it caused them to observe the procedure.  Some parents prefer not to be present – always offer a choice.

Be available to answer questions and let family members know they can phone you if more questions surface later. Tell them you will telephone them or write in 3 to 4 weeks. Be sure to keep to this arrangement.

Setting a time aside to meet with parents later for a specific follow-up bereavement appointment can be useful to them. They can share again what happened at their child’s death or maybe have explained anything they did not understand in what felt to them the panic of the moment. This is especially helpful if you were there.

You may not have the time personally to see parents in this way, so find out and let them know who is available to provide this support.

This time can be a valuable way of finding out what support the parents, grandparents or siblings have, or may need.

Please do not forget that siblings and grandparents may also have questions. How will these be attended to?

Key points

  • Allow parents plenty of time
  • Be prepared to answer parents’ detailed questions
  • Tell parents, in writing, how to contact you
  • Being there when the life- saving team is with their child can help parents
  • Telephone or write after 3 to 4 weeks
  • A follow-up meeting can help by letting parents share again what happened, and by explaining steps they did not understand - it can also reveal a need for additional support
  • Grandparents and siblings may also have questions