Supporting a Friend or Family Member

Supporting Someone You Love

Whenever someone you love experiences the loss of a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth, or early infant death, you wish you knew the "right" thing to say or do. It's hard to know what to do because each person responds differently. Even so, the resources included here are some suggestions to help guide you as you support your friend or family member through this season of grief. Above all, thank you for wanting to help them. When we grieve, we need those closest to us even if it is hard.

We often get the question, “what can I do for my sister, daughter, friend, neighbor, who just lost a baby.”  First, there is no perfect answer that will always work.  Grief is a very unique experience and we each respond differently.  Those that are grieving can be different than their normal selves because of the grief, stress, lack of sleep, or hormones (especially in the loss of a baby).  We put this page together to give you ideas that we have heard or learned that are true for many people in this situation.

When a family is grieving the loss of a child it can be difficult to find the words to say. The parents may be so overwhelmed in their grief they depend on close family members and friends for emotional support, to help with decisions and arrangements and to take care of daily activities. 

There will be a wide range of emotions for a long time. Knowing this may help the parents' feelings and help family and friends relate to them better. Remember, this is a time when grieving parents need your love, your caring and most of all, your acceptance.

Supporting the Family at the Hospital or other Birthplace

While the child is still with the parents, depending on the situation...
- Encourage the parents (siblings/ family) to: 

  1. Spend time with the child
  2. Take pictures
  3. Ask to bathe the baby
  4. Get hand and foot prints
  5. Make molds of the hands and feet,
  6. Spend alone time with the baby to read them a special story or listen to a special song during your time with them. 

- Ask the parents if they have any special requests, keepsakes or outfits they might need from home to be included in pictures.
- Provide or arrange for additional care for other children at home and their pets if needed.
- Ask the family what they need support with to help them not feel so overwhelmed when they return home. 
- Ask them to consider their wishes regarding a nursery or baby items they had prepared.  Some may want to remove all traces of baby items before they return home, but then later wish they had a few mementos.  Some want to leave it all in place for a while.

Ways to Help with Memorial/Funeral Arrangements

As the grieving parents cope with the reality of the loss of their child, there are lots of decisions to be made. These can be overwhelming, so here are a few ways you can offer to help. Please note the family may not want help with these items, but use these as ideas to offer.

  1. Offer to help with writing the obituary.
  2. Help with choosing a funeral home or hospital placement, do the research for them by calling different funeral homes and cemeteries for final arrangements. Present the options to the parents if they wish to make the final decisions in the plans. Then, inform a staff person at the hospital of the parent’s choice to make sure the transition goes smoothly (most hospitals will have a bereavement team/social worker that can also provide support and guidance with these decisions). 
  3. Help with making arrangements for the service, family/friend gathering, or final resting place and transportation if needed.
  4. Help with planning the appropriate memorial to which gifts may be made in memory of their child, such as a school or charity (if flowers are not wanted).
  5. Selecting pallbearers and notifying them, if there will be a funeral with a casket.
  6. If having a service, preparing content for printed programs for services.
  7. If there are flowers, coordinating the delivery to the funeral home, cemetery, and placement at home after the service could reduce the decisions the parents need to make.
  8. Keep track of flowers and gifts, and offer to help send thank-you cards.
  9. If the family chooses cremation, help with finding urns or cremation jewelry or keepsakes.

Supporting Grieving Kids

  • Take care of yourself - Grieving children do better when a healthy adult is available to provide support and understanding to them.
  • Be honest with your child - Do not be afraid to address difficult questions with children. Explain things in simple terms that are age appropriate for them.
  • Acknowledge your child’s grief - Children grieve differently than adults often moving in and out of their emotions quickly. Spend time with them coloring and playing; these activities are opportunities for your child to communicate with you about how they are feeling.
  • Listen - Children ask lots of questions; answer them as best you can. Let them share their story about their sibling in their own way.
  • Create rituals and new family traditions - Involve your living children as much as possible to honor and celebrate your baby. Allow your living child to create their own version of some traditions to honor their sibling.
  • Reassure your child - Your living child’s sense of safety will be shaken; remind them that they are loved.
  • Read books about grief - Encourage your living child to read grief books on their own or read to them. Many libraries have children’s books on grief.