Baby Loss Awareness Week exists to help grow awareness and support for people who’ve lost a baby, as well as allowing grieving parents across the globe to commemorate their babies whose lives were heartbreakingly short.
Many people who’ve lost a baby say they never truly get over it. Ever. A part of them will remain forever empty. Even future babies, if they come along, will never fill that gap.
The loss of a baby can be devastating, whatever stage of pregnancy the couple are at – whether it’s a miscarriage (before 24 weeks), a stillbirth (after 24 weeks) or losing the baby during or after birth. Losing a baby at any stage is shocking and traumatic for the parents. A multitude of painful feelings can crowd in. Life may feel thin, sad, empty, pointless.
If you know someone who’s lost a baby, it can be difficult to know what to do for the best. Nothing can take away their pain, though it might help you to understand the kind of things your friend or loved one is going through.
What it’s like to live with baby loss
- The parents have lost a person they thought they would spend the rest of their lives with. Not only have they lost a baby, they’ve lost the hopes and dreams of a cherished future.
- It’s a bereavement that can feel just as raw as if the baby had grown up and lived a longer life.
- There often isn’t much after-care in hospital, following the loss of a baby, and so the parents may be feeling abandoned and all at sea.
- Some of the clinical terms used when a mother miscarries can be quite upsetting. These terms can feel depersonalising and hurtful, even though it’s just medical professionals doing their job.
- Losing a baby can leave a mother feeling like a failure, as if she’s done something wrong. These feelings of guilt and self-doubt can sometimes develop into depression.
- Grieving parents can feel very, very alone in their loss. No one truly understands the pain they’re going through.
- They don’t want to take care of your reaction when they tell you what’s happened. Sometimes people can get so upset about the news that the bereaved parents end up taking care of the feelings of others. It’s not meant to work that way.
- It can become unbearable to see other people pregnant or with babies – especially people close to them. What’s worse is people not telling them they’re pregnant, for fear of upsetting them.
- The loss can sometimes affect the parents’ relationship as the partners struggle to come to terms with the loss individually and together.
- Months and sometimes years down the line, they may still be mourning the baby they lost.
How you can support someone through baby loss
Acknowledge their loss. This is one of the toughest things for grieving parents: when people around them don’t know what to say, and so act as though nothing has happened. They want their loss to be acknowledged. Don’t let your awkwardness get in the way of that.
Avoid clichés. Don’t just trot out the typical things people might say that they think will make the bereaved parents feel better – like, “oh, your baby is too good for earth and has gone to heaven,” or “well, you’ll be able to have another one soon”. That kind of phrase really doesn’t help. They want a human being in front of them who cares and who really doesn’t need to say anything – just be there.
Let them talk. Losing a baby can be a lonely time. Your loved one may feel as though no one understands. Even if you don’t truly understand (and you won’t unless you’ve been through it yourself) be there with a sympathetic and caring ear.
Keep your own emotions in check. They’re the ones suffering, not you. Don’t break down and make them the ones to look after you. They need your support. You can show your sadness. Of course. But you may need to be the strong one while they’re feeling vulnerable.
Be sensitive to when they might need an ally. It can be hard to be around other people with babies and bumps when you’ve lost a baby. Tears can threaten at any point. Keep an eye out for when your loved one might need you to cover for them in a social gathering. Help create a socially acceptable excuse when they need a moment by themselves.
Urge them to stay off social media. Facebook, Instagram etc – by their nature – showcase shiny happy people doing shiny happy things. Life events such as pregnancy and babies are often catalogued in minute detail. Especially in the early stages, it may feel healthier and safer for your friend or loved one who’s lost a baby to give social media a miss. Until they feel strong enough to engage again without breaking down.
Keep an eye on their mental health. Painful emotions do pass, generally. Sometimes they don’t, especially if there are some underlying issues from earlier in life. A new loss can tap into earlier losses, with compound effect. If your friend of loved one is showing signs of tipping into depression then you may want to suggest they see a therapist who can support them through the darkness – until they’re ready to walk into the light again.
For confidential support from one of our therapists, you can book an appointment by emailing email@example.com or calling 020 8673 4545.