What To Say When a Baby Dies
It can be difficult to know what to say when a baby dies.
As we wrap up another October, which is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, I think it’s important to share this post again. It’s been a long time since I wrote it, and it deserved a refresh.
My first exposure to “baby loss” occurred in April 2005.
Friends of mine, Anja and Corey, were expecting their first baby. She was a week overdue, and noticed she felt no movement. They went into the hospital on a Friday night, but when they arrived it was already too late. At some point that evening the cord wrapped around the baby’s neck. Anja delivered the sleeping baby early Saturday morning.
I was shocked and grief-stricken. I did not have any children at the time, but we had been sharing Anja and Corey’s excitement for almost five months. This loss hurt all of us.
There was a funeral. The service was in German and I didn’t understand the spoken words, but I understood the message. The grief. The pain we all felt for this tiny being, who was taken for reasons none of us could understand or come to terms with, was more immense than I could imagine.
To this day the memory of that tiny white casket is burned into my brain. I refused to have a casket for our Kathryn’s memorial service because I am still haunted by the memory of that casket.
After the service I will never forget how Anja stood there and hugged one person after another, how she comforted all of us as we grieved for her baby, how terrible I felt that I could not stop sobbing and the only words that I could manage to mutter out of my lips were “I’m just so sorry!”
What could I say? What would make it better? Anything?
I certainly didn’t know that one day, I would find myself in the same position. Or that one day, 30+ other mothers and I would write a book to try and help the Anja’s of the world.
Spoiler alert: There are no “magic words” that help you with what to say when a baby dies.
Fast forward to December 2011 as we said goodbye to our sweet baby Kathryn. It was me standing there instead of Anja, watching my loved ones struggle to keep their composure and to try to find the right words, any words.
And I felt for them. Unfortunately, I now have the experience to know there are some words that are better than others.
Here are some things that are okay.
What To Say When A Baby Dies
- I am here for you. It is so important to let the parents know that you feel their loss and that you are there for them.
- I love you.
- Your baby will not be forgotten.
- It is okay to say you are sorry for their loss, although be warned, some people don’t like the word loss. It can also be confusing to children, as they may think the baby is literally lost.
- It is definitely okay to let them know you want to listen if they want to talk.
Here are some things I think you should avoid saying in this situation:
(**if anyone said any of these things to me and you are actually reading this, please know that I understand how hard it is to find the right words, and I know that you were only trying to help ease my pain.**)
1. “It’s all part of God’s plan.” Many people may believe this to be true, but not what I wanted to hear after losing my baby. And the idea that God would target people to lose babies or to go through the kind of Hell our family went through is just absurd to me.
2. “You can have another one.” Thankfully, no one said this to me, but I’ve heard several women say they heard this. Very VERY inappropriate!
3. “Everything happens for a reason.” Not what I wanted to hear. I did not… COULD NOT … understand why it happened and certainly was not in a place to think through the possible reasons behind it or what good may one day come from it.
4. “God only gives us what we can handle.” Nope. I’m not buying it. I’m pretty sure I went well past my threshold, but was thankfully saved by loving family and friends and my other three children. Now I will believe that God provided me with that support network, however, immediately after losing my baby I did not find this statement reassuring.
5. “The baby is in a better place.” Most mother’s think the best place for their newborn is in their loving arms. Although the sentiment behind this statement is understood, it’s best to just not say it.
The list goes on… if you can’t think of anything that may not be offensive, just say, I am here for you.
I never expected anyone to have a magic word or statement that would fix everything or take the pain away. I knew there were no words.
The greatest comfort to me was knowing that I’m loved and supported and that my family and friends were and are here for me.
There have been many times when I have felt awkwardness and silence in group settings as people try to avoid the subject. I understand, having been on the other side, that no one wants to upset me by saying or asking the wrong thing.
But now I want to talk about and remember Kathryn. I want people to know about her and what happened to her. I want to know that other people loved her too. I want to know that it is okay for me to talk about her.
I know that not everyone wants to share that much, and it took me some time to get there. But don’t be afraid to ask a bereaved mother if she wants to talk about her loss. Worst case, she says no. Best case, you allow her to open her soul and honor her child.
Pregnancy and baby loss is something that is still so prevalent in our society.
In the U.S. alone there is an estimated 900,000 to 1 million babies lost in miscarriage each year.
Yet, even with these high numbers, many women feel so very isolated and alone, largely because the topic is not widely discussed. No one seems to be able to find the right words when someone they love experiences this trauma.
No one seems to know how to help someone who has gone through this; largely because each person grieves differently, responds differently, and has different needs. It is often difficult to know what to say when a baby dies.
But I still encourage you to try.
==>REQUEST A CARE PACKAGE FOR GRIEVING PARENTS HERE<==
If you know, or someone you know has lost a baby or a child, we have established a nonprofit to send them free of charge to mothers who have lost a pregnancy, infant, or child. (As long as funding allows us.)
I also encourage you to look into Sunshine After the Storm: A Survival Guide for the Grieving Mother. Written for grieving mothers, by grieving mothers (and some fathers) – this book is a look straight into the soul of over 3o parents who have suffered through this pain and come through it, forever changed.
You can order the book HERE.
Visit the website Sunshine After the Storm for more resources for grieving mothers.
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