Whether a baby dies due to miscarriage, a painful decision to end the pregnancy, is stillborn, or lives for only a short time, it can be a devasting loss. The death of a baby is a particular kind of grief and 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 and the wider family, expecting to welcome a new life and instead facing the reality that their baby has not lived, can be immensely difficult and trying to find answers as to why it has happened can feel very important. This may be something medical staff can tell you, but sometimes there is no clear answer, which can be very difficult to deal with and if you have given birth to your baby, you may still experience all the normal bodily post-natal reactions but without your baby, which can be a devastating reminder of your loss.

Saying goodbye to your baby

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 around saying goodbye to your baby.

How you and your partner may grieve

You will both be grieving the loss of your baby but some partners may grieve differently. One of you might be torn between your own grief and your concern for your partner and for others their grief can be overlooked by others who focus only on the birth mother, for example.

Explaining the loss to other children

If you have other children, you may focus on their needs or worry about how to explain miscarriage, stillbirth or the death of a newborn baby to them, and how they might react. Children’s understanding of death at different ages differs, but all children need honest, clear information about what has happened and for their routines to remain as close to normal 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. 

Building memories and connections

If your baby has died before they were born or around the time of birth, images or video from scans, or photographs of your baby can become precious mementos, and these may help build memories a lasting connection with your baby. Memory boxes or folders can help keep important memories and mementos together, such as foot and handprints, a lock of hair, or a written description of what your baby looked like; These can capture a memory of their life, however short, and can give you a focus for your grief. 

Looking after yourself

Looking after yourself, and maintaining your physical wellbeing, may feel difficult or unimportant, but can help you to manage some aspects of grieving and coping with life

You may need to grieve alone at times. You may also need to share your grief with other people and talk about your child. Other people may be able to listen or help you to manage practicalities and everyday routines. Some parents find other’s experiences helpful, or to share by joining a support group. Even if talking about your grief feels too difficult, any positive contact with other people can help you feel less alone.

Returning to work after a baby has died

Returning to work after the death of your baby can be daunting. Here are some suggestions to help you manage this.

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. Call our Helpline or find out more about Child Bereavement UK’s support services.