Grief when a baby dies
This Baby Loss Awareness Week, Jen Coates, Director of Bereavement Support for the charity Sands, talks about the shock and grief when a baby dies before, during or shortly after birth.
When a baby dies shortly before, during or after birth, or at any stage in pregnancy, the shock and grief are profound. It’s not the natural order of things and death from birth feels so wrong.
The isolation of baby loss
If someone dies later in life their loved ones have shared memories and reminiscences which bring comfort and time to remember.
When a baby dies, if it was an early loss or miscarriage not everyone may know that you were pregnant. This can make it harder to say “Oh I was pregnant by the way, but now I’m not”. How do you start a conversation like that and not then have to manage the other person’s responses?
Or perhaps you left work and had a wonderful send off with gifts and flowers, and then have to share the news that actually your baby didn’t make it and was stillborn or died neonatally. Then at some point you need to return to work.
Perhaps you spent time with your baby in a special bereavement suite and made memories with them, but other family members and friends may not have met them.
All of these scenarios can contribute to the feelings of intense isolation and disbelief around the loss of your baby.
Baby Loss Awareness Week
We have an intense need to make meaning of something so profound and this is something that Baby Loss Awareness Week provides and Sands do all year round.
The week offers a chance to share stories with other bereaved parents, raise awareness with policy-makers and enable the parent voice to be heard in research and within society.
Planting trees in memory, raising funds so no-one has to go through the same thing, lobbying parliaments, or arranging remembrance events are all helpful in creating that legacy.
Supporting someone when a baby dies
As someone supporting a bereaved family there is lots you can do to help. Asking someone what they want and how they’d like you to support or remember their baby are good first steps.
- Remember dates. Remember special dates and missed milestones – when the baby was due, his or her birthday.
- Practical help. Offer practical help in the early days. It can be better to make specific suggestions than just asking ‘is there anything I can do?’.
- Ask and listen. Parents may want to talk about their baby – you could ask about them, what they looked like, who they took after.
- Say their name. Just saying their name can be a powerfully supportive thing to do.
Sands is there to support anyone affected by the death of a baby. Sands’ free Helpline is available on 0808 164 3332 10am to 3pm Monday to Friday and 6-9pm Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings. You can also email email@example.com for support.
Cruse is also able to support those who have lost a baby. Find out about our support
Some other organisations who can help are given on our signposting page.
If someone dies later in life their loved ones have shared memories and reminiscences which bring comfort and time to remember. When a baby dies shortly before, during or after birth, or at any stage in pregnancy, the shock and grief are profound. It’s not the natural order of things and death from birth feels so wrong.