When a baby lives only a short time or dies before birth due to miscarriage, stillbirth or a painful decision to end the pregnancy, people may assume that the loss is not important. This is simply not the case. The intensity of love parents feel for their baby is not measured by how long the baby lived, but in the emotional investment, they have in their child.

For parents expecting to welcome a new life, instead facing the reality that their baby has not lived can be immensely difficult.  Finding answers to why it has happened can be very important, and this may be something medical staff can tell you, but sometimes there is no clear answer. 

If you have physically given birth to a baby, you will still experience all the normal bodily post-natal reactions but without the baby, which may be devastating.

When your baby dies – a particular kind of grief

Partners may grieve differently

Partners both grieve for their baby, but some might be torn between their own grief and concern for their partner. For some partners, their grief can be overlooked by others who focus only on the birth mother.

Partners may grieve differently

Trying to make decisions after your baby has died may feel almost impossible, but it is important to ask for support from your GP, the hospital or a funeral director so that you know what the options are.  When grieving, it can help to feel that you were supported at the time to make important decisions.

Saying goodbye to your baby or child

Explaining to children

If you have other children, you may focus on their needs or worry about how they might react. Children of all ages need honest, age-appropriate information about what has happened and normal routines as far as possible.  They also need reassurance that it is OK for them and for you to have different feelings at different times, including being sad, confused, angry and happy. 

Explaining miscarriage, stillbirth or the death of a newborn baby to a young child

View our short guidance film: Explaining to a child that someone has died

What may help

Time alone and with others

You may need to grieve alone at times. You may also need to share your grief with other people, and talk about your child, perhaps over and over again.  Other people may be able to listen, share their grief also or help you to manage practicalities and everyday routines.  Even if talking about your grief feels too difficult, any positive contact with other people can help you feel less alone. Over time, your needs may change, and noting down any changes may help you feel a bit more in control. 

Looking after yourself physically may feel difficult or unimportant, but it can help you to manage some aspects of grieving and coping with life.

Looking after yourself

Building memories and connections

If your baby has died before they were born or around the time of birth, scan images or photographs can become precious mementos, and these may help build a lasting connection with your baby. Foot and hand prints, a lock of hair or a written description of what your baby looked like can capture a memory of their life, however short, and can give you a focus for your grief.

A memory folder can help keep important memories and mementos together. 

A memory box is larger than a folder and can store many special items together in one place.

July 2020: We are very pleased to announce that our memory folders and memory boxes are once again available to purchase from our online shop

Some parents find other people’s stories helpful to read or to share by joining a parents support group (see the section Finding support).

Finding support

Everyone is different in what they need and there are no rules on how to grieve.  You may have lots of supportive people around you, but even so, you may feel you need additional support. 

> Find support near you

> Child Bereavement UK support services

> About our Helpline