Infant Loss and Grief: I Don’t Know What To Say
If I had a dollar for every time I have heard someone say, “I don’t know what to say to someone who’s lost a baby,” I would be rolling in piles of cash. I wouldn’t blame a single confessor of this truth. The topic of baby and infant loss is so taboo and silenced that it’s no wonder we don’t know what to say to support someone grieving the loss of their precious child.
It’s because of wonderful communities like this one that we create awareness around pregnancy and child loss, and bring this taboo subject out into a (hopefully) warm and loving reception. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if the question of what to say no longer needed to be asked? Let’s do a small kindness to ourselves and others, and openly share what we found to be comforting and considerate words in our time of sadness.
This is a great place to start. It acknowledges the most important fact of all: this sucks and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. Nothing we say can “fix” her forever-broken heart or bring her baby back. A father may not want to talk about it, but he may not want to ignore his loss either. Let’s call it what it is – the devastating loss of a loved one. With any loss, we acknowledge how profoundly sorry we are that this dear person is going through life without their beloved. If you have no other words, “I’m sorry” is truth and comfort together. It’s more than enough.
Related Post: The Nicest Thing To Say or Do After Loss
What Can I Do?
Asking how to help in a practical way demonstrates the love you have for that person. Doing more than just speaking can show sincerity in a time when a parent is feeling so alone and helpless. There isn’t much you can do, but the offer is always appreciated. It could be organizing a meal roster, offering to pick up other children from school, painting her nails or taking him out for a drink. The likelihood is they may kindly reject the offer – for various reasons. But your genuine, outstretched hand amplifies any sweet words you could possibly utter.
NOTE: Don’t offer unless you are willing to follow through!
I’m Here To Listen When You’re Ready
That mother or father has been through the unimaginable. They’re going through a plethora of emotions – please do not let them go through all that on their own. Yes, it may be difficult to hear, but it’s also difficult for them to experience. Again, this isn’t for the faint-hearted, fair-weathered friend. It’s for the one who’s willing to listen and shoulder just a fraction of the pain this parent is carrying. Just let them know that you’re ready to hear their story and their journey, even if it sounds like mad ramblings. And stick around! I’m forever grateful for those true friends who let me tell Elysia’s story and who don’t shirk from hearing her name. To this day, I will never forget them.
Related Post: Things Not To Say To A Bereaved Parent
Don’t Know What to Say? Here’s What Not To Say
Let’s keep this simple:
- Platitudes: “Health,” “heaven and angels,” “you can have more babies”… phrases like these may be true and well meant but often have the opposite effect. They don’t “fix” the person or bring them back to their “normal” self. They make them feel like the grieving process should be rushed through or pushed aside.
- “What was wrong with him/her?”: Regardless of whether there was any medical cause for the loss of this child, asking this question in an inappropriate way or at the wrong time can seem rather intrusive and unnecessary when the main aim is to show compassion.
- Nothing at all: Silence is golden… if the parents ask for it. Otherwise, it just feels like they are being deliberately ignored and abandoned in their time of need. I still remember when I first lost Lissie and those closest to me avoided me completely, as though I were a leper. Those people, too, I won’t forget. The smallest acknowledgment goes a long way.
Don’t know what to say? Now you know. Please say these words, share them and shed light on the conversation around child loss. You never know who – or how – it will help with healing.
Photo credit: Evan Kirby, Unsplash