Surviving Infant Loss
Watching a friend suffer the loss of a child or baby is one of the most difficult situations you may ever encounter in life. Surviving infant loss is one of the most worst experiences a mother can go through. Loss and death combined with what is typically a positive, joyous occasion puts a mother into a state of shock and despair, while their friends struggle to know what to do and say.
There are few words, and even the words you do find never seem to be enough or appropriate. This type of unexpected grief can be extremely isolating to the mother who has experienced the loss of a baby, exacerbated by friends and family who often do not know how to respond or react. You may want to read my tips on things to say or not to say after someone loses a baby. More than anything, be sensitive!
The first year after infant loss is especially difficult. The unexpected nature of the loss brings pain, and the pain becomes fresh again as she passes through all of the “markers” and baby anniversaries, the dreaded “year of firsts.” Rather than feel helpless when a friend or family member loses a child and saying and doing nothing in response, here are some actions you can take to support your friend or loved one through their loss.
Here are some tips to help your friend survive the first grueling year after pregnancy or infant loss.
Visit often, but not too often. Even if she says she does not want visitors, show up anyway, even if to just drop off some food or a gift of encouragement. I thought I wanted to be alone in my grief after I lost my baby when she was only two days old, but was always relieved when I received visitors. Ignore protestations at least until you can assess how welcome you are, yourself.
Take meals. More than once. There are many days that will be overwhelming throughout the first few months and even perhaps into the second year. You can use sites such as Care Calendar, which is an easy to access, online calendar to coordinate with other friends and families to provide meals. Those who want to help can sign up online for the day they will bring a meal or visit to help spread it out.
Talk about it with her! Don’t pretend like nothing happened. Be sure to ask what she is comfortable talking about. Some loss mothers prefer not to talk about it, yet others find such healing and comfort in saying their baby’s name. This baby is significant to the mother, and it is important to the mother that others recognize and remember the baby too. Even if only pregnant for a short time, mothers bond with their babies, and appreciate being recognized as a mother to that child. Read up on appropriate things to say or not to say after a loss of this nature. For some tips on things to say or not to say, read this: The Magic Words When Someone Loses a Baby.( http://katbiggie.com/the-magic-words-when-someone-loses-a-baby-re-post/) If all else fails, just let her know you are sorry for her loss and you are listening.
Make her laugh. This is important. Several days after my two-day-old daughter died, my sister and a friend came to visit one evening. My friend Debbie is a hoot. She had me laughing so hard and it felt really great. I really needed that. If you are not very comedic yourself, perhaps bring over a hilarious movie or find some funny YouTube clips.
Offer to help put away baby items. This is an extremely difficult task for a mother grieving the loss of her baby. You can volunteer to pack up clothing, toys, or nursery items and remove them for her if your friend is not up to handling this chore. Or volunteer to help her if she needs some support while she is doing this task.
Continue some or all of the above and also:
Help with childcare. If your friend has other children, take them for an afternoon, evening, weekend, or whatever you can handle.
Send cards randomly. Not just once, but periodically. Especially around any significant dates that could trigger sadness like the due date, the anniversary of the death, or the date when a diagnosis was received. . Just when you think “she should be over it,” send another card. It’s quite possible, she will never be over her loss.
Take her out. Any place. And if she says no to your invitations, keep inviting her. Eventually she will be ready.
Show her you also remember the baby. Bring trinkets with the baby’s name on it if she appreciates them. If you are unsure, make donations in the baby’s name to appropriate foundations. (Be sure to ask the parents if they have a preferred philanthropy.)
Encourage her to find a baby loss support group. I am part of a local loss group focused on parenting after loss. It is so cathartic for me to be surrounded by other mothers who have experienced the loss but are still raising other small children. While you can listen to her all day, if you have never experienced this type of loss, it’s difficult to understand. Your friend will benefit from being around mothers who “get her.”
Continue some or all of the above and also:
Help her get involved in Pregnancy and Infant Awareness Day. October 15th is International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. Most major metropolitan areas have events planned, such as walks to remember. Visit October 15th to find out more.
Be patient. Those who have never experienced a loss may find it very difficult to understand how a mother can grieve and mourn for so long. But this loss stays with a mother for a lifetime. She is not angling for attention. She is hurting. And sometimes year two is even more difficult.
If you attempt even a fraction of these steps, you are an outstanding friend and will make a big difference in supporting the grieving process of your friend. Of course, you can’t take your friend’s pain away. But you can do the next best thing: you can be there for her while she goes through it and hopefully ease her burden with your sturdy, non-judgmental presence.
Online Resources and Support
Sunshine After the Storm – Support for Grieving Parents and Sunshine After the Storm: A Survival Guide for the Grieving Mother (book)
The Carly Marie Project (and International Bereaved Mother’s Day)
Many other websites and resources are available.
Latest posts by katbiggie (see all)
- What to say when a baby dies ; words of comfort - October 31, 2019
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- Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Book Bundle - October 3, 2019
Heather O. saysMay 20, 2013 at 11:20 am
This is wonderful, Alexa! I absolutely agree that if a person does even a fraction of these things, they are an outstanding friend. Sharing this post!
Heather O. recently posted…Guilt Is A Wasted Emotion
katbiggie saysMay 20, 2013 at 11:23 am
Thank you so much Heather. I have been working on this post for a very long time. I thought about trying to submit for publication, but I submitted to two places and never heard anything, so I decided my blog was the best place for it! Thanks for sharing it!
Janine Huldie saysMay 20, 2013 at 11:59 am
Wonderful advice and seriously I agree with Heather if a person does even half of this, they are truly a great friend and one to hold onto!! Thanks for sharing this and sharing it, too!!
Janine Huldie recently posted…Have Fun Together Thanks to Datevitation Review & Giveaway
katbiggie saysMay 20, 2013 at 12:36 pm
Thank you Janine! I was blessed to have friends and family do many of these things… and the rest is sorta my “wishlist” as weird as that sounds.
Michelle saysMay 20, 2013 at 3:20 pm
This is such a great post. I am sitting here crying for your friend and for you…I can’t imagine anything worse than losing a child. Although I have never been in this position, I can imagine that your suggestions would bring a lot of comfort. Hugs to both you and your friend! You will both be in my thoughts and prayers. So glad to have met you in person this weekend!
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katbiggie saysMay 20, 2013 at 4:37 pm
Thank you so much Michelle! It is never easy but with time comes healing. I hope that I am able to help her but right now, I know she needs time more than anything. I am glad to have met you too! Glad to have you in my tribe! 🙂 And really glad we wound up sitting right next to each other!
Janene saysMay 20, 2013 at 8:39 pm
I am so sorry you have the experience needed to write this post and that there are so many people out there who will find the tips you give useful. It is such a difficult thing to go though, I am sure, yet having support is probably the only way someone will get through it.
Hugs to your friend and to you. I am sure that watching her struggle with this will bring up a lot of feelings for you as well.
katbiggie saysMay 22, 2013 at 4:51 pm
Thank you so much Janene for your visit and your sweet words! Yes, it is rough reliving it all, but the worst part is knowing what she is going through and just wishing I could make that go away.
Marissa @ Where I Need to Be saysMay 20, 2013 at 8:47 pm
Wonderful tips, Alexa. Thank you for creating a resource on this important topic.
Lanaya @ Raising Reagan saysMay 20, 2013 at 9:54 pm
Kat you are an amazing support system in your own right. You have had to be so strong and this is such a wonderful post. I know that it will help others in need.
You inspire me all the time. I know I don’t get around to telling you that often … but I keep track of you! 🙂
(¸¤ Lanaya | xoxo
Lanaya @ Raising Reagan recently posted…Slim by the Summer Week 18
katbiggie saysMay 21, 2013 at 7:43 am
Thank you Lanaya – I really appreciate that! I keep track of you too! I can’t believe I missed almost the whole Slim by the Summer!!!
Chris Carter saysMay 21, 2013 at 12:01 pm
I love this.. everyone who hasn’t been through such a devastating trauma doesn’t know the exact needs of someone who has… I am sharing this. Thank YOU.
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katbiggie saysMay 21, 2013 at 12:16 pm
Thank you so very much Chris! I appreciate it greatly!
another jennifer saysMay 21, 2013 at 9:15 pm
This is so helpful, Alexa. I think everyone needs to read this. I think there are a lot of people who don’t know how to act and so they just don’t do or say anything. Hearing these things will surely help people know how to support a grieving mother. I hope I don’t have to use this advice, but I will remember it if I do.
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katbiggie saysMay 22, 2013 at 4:52 pm
Thank you so very much Jennifer. I hope you never need this advice either!
Marianne saysMay 22, 2013 at 12:44 am
This is such an invaluable and useful post. I think a lot of us known for foot-in-mouth disease clam up out of fear of upsetting the person suffering loss. Knowing that it’s sometimes okay to make a person laugh or simply help out with kids, food, etc. takes away the anxiety that sometimes keeps us away from people in need. We’re scared to cause damage. Your approach should be shared the world over. Aweseome as usual, Kat!
katbiggie saysMay 22, 2013 at 10:34 am
Thank you so very much Marianne! I appreciate your sweet comments!
April @ 100lbCountdown.com saysMay 24, 2013 at 9:45 pm
You are so right. I lost my son at 7 weeks. I had close friends, but since I was always somewhat of a loner, staying away I think was the easiest for them. I’ve never been much to express my feelings. I still find it hard. My son’s birthday is coming up next week. Thank you for sharing.
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Kelly Stilwell saysMay 25, 2013 at 9:49 am
This is such good information. Thank you. Having never gone through this, I really don’t know what to say. I appreciate you taking the time to educate those of us who just don’t know what to say.
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marty saysMay 27, 2013 at 5:17 pm
This was beautiful I have never given birth but I believe every should read this .Thanks for sharing this with the Favorite Post SHOW OFF (I am co-host)
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Jessica saysMay 30, 2013 at 7:04 pm
Thank you for this! Such great tips for us if we know someone who is mourning a loss of a child.
The Wondering Brain
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Lindsay saysFebruary 11, 2014 at 2:30 pm
Our stories are so different but so so similar… thank you for being so transparent! I’ve found that transparency is the best way to get through this junk that life hands us… and as hard as it is, God’s plan always seems to shine through at the exact moments of despair that we need to see Him most. Thanks so much! I can’t wait to continue reading through your journey!