Through the experience of loosing Michael and Adam, we have been blessed by an outpouring of support and counseling to help us with the Grief Process. Many of these suggestions may also apply to families who have losses other than babies. By no means do we suggest that these are the only means of helping a grieving family but we found them to be effective in our recovery. Please contact your church or the grief staff at the hospital for further guidance and resources.
If you require assistance in finding support, please send us a note and we will try to give guidance.
Always acknowledge the child and the loss
The family will never forget their missing child. Nothing hurts more than a well meaning friend “trying not to upset us” by pretending the loss never occurred or our baby never existed. For the rest of their lives, that family will always have their missing child in their thoughts. Counting missed birthdays, marking milestones that never occurred (walking, first day of school, first school dance, graduation, college, weddings, etc…) and most families gain comfort from having their friends and family acknowledge and remember their child.
A baby is a baby
Some losses may be early in the pregnancy and a funeral may not be possible. The loss of a baby in the earliest stages of pregnancy is as dramatic and sad as the loss of a child after birth.
Do not try to clean up the house
The process of confronting the baby’s crib, toys and clothes and placing items into storage together can be a significant part of the healing process. A husband and wife as well as other children can use this time to remember the lost baby. The premature cleaning up of the house by family members can be interpreted as an attempt to forget the baby ever existed. A family should decide together when it is time to attend to the baby’s room, it could be after a month or after a year. Yes it will be heartbreaking to see everything that was set up for the baby, sorting through the clothes and baby blankets and storing the diapers and supplies, however, this important part of the process. Unfortunately the world will continue to go on around a grieving family, having traces of the expected baby removed from the home will only contribute the feeling of isolation the family may already be feeling.
Acknowledge holidays and birthdays of the lost child
Make a note of the date of the birth/loss and drop a note or place a call to the family to let them know that you are thinking of them at this special time of year and you are there to offer support. The first year of holidays and the first birthday of the child is the most difficult.
Support the family just as you would the birth of any child
The mom will often require the same recovery time as any other delivery. The discomfort of the recovery will be compounded by the grief of the loss. Help with watching other children, preparing meals, assisting with housekeeping and just calling to check up will be appreciated.
Watch the family
A grieving family may not attend to daily tasks as the shock of the loss settles in. Depression is common in normal birth recovery and can be compounded by the loss of a child. If you notice dramatic and consistent changes in eating, sleeping or public interaction, make your concerns known to the family or the attending physician. Give special attention to the children as an ailment may go unnoticed by a grieving parent.
Please remember that the onset of the depression may occur months or years after the loss. It is not uncommon for a family to still be in the grieving stage years after the loss. Do not ever assume a family is fully recovered from a loss. Sometimes they bury or mask the grief until it breaks through to the surface often with the force of a freight train. Time does heal all wounds but a family must work through the grief process and not avoid it.
Just be there
A family that experiences the loss of a child will go through a tremendous amount of stress and tension. You do not have to offer advice or counsel, quite often there will be doubts of faith, questions on what could have been done differently or blaming one’s self for the tragedy. Being there to lend an ear or a shoulder to cry on can be a valuable resource in the recovery process. Don’t try to “solve” a problem or “get them back to normal”. Families who have lost a child have a new “normal”. Just being there will speak volumes.