Supporting Bereaved Families

Vilomah: A Sanskrit word that means against a natural order.

Children are supposed to outlive their parents, so when babies die, it is against the natural order. Bereaved parents need the utmost support in navigating their new reality.

 

Supporting your loved ones through stillbirth and infant loss

Do:

  • Drop off meals on their porch.
    • Consider also dropping off breakfast, lunch, and/or snack foods since many people send dinners.
    • Continue to do so weeks and even months after their child has died.
  • Offer to walk the dogs, watch older kids for an afternoon, clean their house, do the laundry.
  • Be willing to sit with them in their grief however they need. This could be a safe place to talk about their feelings or just a shoulder to cry on in silence.
  • Say their baby’s name.
  • Ask to see pictures. When a baby lives, everyone asks to see pictures. However, when a baby dies, people don’t usually ask to see pictures and parents are often yearning to share their babies.
  • Ask about their baby–what they looked like, what they were like in the womb, their favorite thing about them. They may even want to share their birth story.
  • Refer to them as parents. They created a child, and even if that child is no longer on earth, they are still parents, especially if this was their first child.
  • Remember their special dates (due date, birth date, monthly anniversaries) and reach out to the parents on those dates.
  • If you see or hear something that reminds you of their child, send a text and let them know.
  • Remember the partner. They are grieving too, but they are often overlooked. Check in on them, send them texts of things that remind you of their child, get them a memorial gift if you’re getting one for the mom (or get them a joint one).
  • Light a candle on October 15th at 7 PM for the Wave of Light and send them a picture and/or post it on social media.
  • Acknowledge them on Mother’s and Father’s Day.
  • Include their child on holidays. This could be with a little gift (such as a small candle, ornament, magnet, etc.), including their name on holiday cards, or setting a place for them at the table.
  • Remember their baby for all of the years to come and continue to let them know all the ways you think of their baby.
  • Keep reaching out and checking in even if they don’t respond.
  • Allow them to process their grief on their own time and in their own way.

Don’t:

  • Stay silent. Silence can be worse than saying the wrong thing.
  • Say, “Let me know if you need anything,” “How can I help,” etc. They do need support, but their brains likely can’t think of what they need.
  • Offer clichés such as, “They’re in a better place,” “God needed another angel,” “It wasn’t meant to be,” etc. These are invalidating of their grief and loss.
  • Compare losses.
  • Say, “I can’t even imagine.” You can imagine, you just don’t want to. Instead, you could say, “I can only imagine. It is so unfair your baby died.”
  • Be offended if they don’t respond.
  • Take things personally. They are learning to navigate their new reality. The last thing they need is for their support system to be upset with them for how they’re handling their grief.