Stillbirth support – How can I be there after loss?
Traveling the journey of grief after a baby is stillborn is unique and unravels with every passing moment, hour, day, week, month, year. The journey is a rocky one that every person will navigate in their own way. There is no right or wrong way to grieve.
You can help by supporting those you love and care about through being there after the loss their beautiful baby, just as you would have been if their baby were here to hold, you can dote on the beautiful life that was and is.
The best thing you can offer:
- An understanding ear
- A shoulder
- A note of support
- A laugh
- A cry
- You can be a true friend
Some suggestions on how best to honour the little life lost to stillbirth and be a supportive friend though the grieving journey.
Things to remember of the grieving parent:
- Time doesn’t change the pain, but rather you get better at coping.
- Their child will always be just that, their child. They are a parent weather their baby is here physically or otherwise. Their baby is a real person.
- Know that it is better to say something rather than nothing. Silence can be the most deafening and defeating thing.
Things you can do for a grieving parent:
- Acknowledge the baby’s existence. Speak the baby’s name openly and with kindness.
- You can say; “I know that there is no right thing to say, but just know I want to say something. I am here if you ever need or want, but I also understand if I don’t hear from you.”
- Give them the space to take things at their pace. You can send a note, text or message just acknowledging their little one and reminding them that you remember them too.
- You can say; “I hope today you are given the gift to travel your journey of grief at your pace, there is no hurry.”
- Offer a helping hand. Send a meal, a care pack (this might include: tea, a nice candle to light on honour of their child, some biscuits, easy to use groceries, anything that could just make their day a little easier)
- If you bought a gift for their baby, you may choose give it to the parents. Be sensitive in this.
- Be gentle in your offerings and understand that if you don’t hear back it doesn’t mean that your efforts aren’t appreciated.
- Everyone grieves differently. If you feel as though you aren’t sure if they want to talk just ask. Say something like; “Is it ok that talk about your baby with you?” Or “Thank you for letting me remember with you.”
- Encourage them to feel comfortable talking about their baby. From the time of birth to the many years that follow.
- Acknowledge the baby at special occasions, birthdays, etc
- Be sensitive around special celebrations and holidays. Often the Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Christmas, Easter, etc are times that are extremely difficult for bereaved families. Show that you care by sensitively acknowledging their baby and their possible sadness or discomfort.
Things that are best avoided:
- Their baby is not replaceable. Saying things like, “well you can have another baby” or “at least you can get pregnant, you could always have another one” aren’t helpful and devalue the existence of their baby born. One child does not replace another.
- Realize that sometimes grieving parents may not be able to be around new baby’s or pregnant families. This is not a reflection of how they feel about other children or baby’s but rather it may be something that at times may be just to challenging and brings further sadness or pain.
- Statements like “time will heal” or “its gods will” or “these things just happen” are unhelpful. Often time never offers healing but rather an ability to live with the grief.
- Try not to say “I understand” unless you truly do. The loss of a child is is unlike any other loss.