When a friend or relative loses a baby – from miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death – it is a devastating loss. Our family has been down this dark road three times: when we lost a baby to miscarriage and when our twin daughters died shortly after their premature birth.
If you’re wondering what to do when a friend loses a baby? Here are 4 ways – and many more ideas to help.
I learned how to care for grieving parents from the family, friends, co-workers, and even strangers who reached out to us in amazing ways after our babies died. All the ideas below came from them, and it is an honor and gift to share them with you.
What you can give to parents after their baby has died? Something they want, something they need, something to keep, or something to read.
Something They Want
Grieving parents want time and space to grieve. More than anything, they want their baby back. Since that is impossible, what you can give them is your time and presence.
Show up however you can: at their doorstep, in their mailbox, in their inbox, or on their phone. Your love, support, and prayers are the most important way to help a grieving parent.
You don’t have to do anything huge or elaborate – simply be present to them in their pain and let them know they are not alone.
Grieving parents also want other people to acknowledge their loss and honor their baby’s memory. Here are 4 ways to remember the life of their child:
- Send the card: A physical card means even more than a phone call, email or text. It gives something to hold and keep. Target and Hallmark now carry sympathy cards for the loss of a baby. (P.S. even if you send the card weeks or months later? Your words will still touch them.)
- Remember each month: Set a reminder in your phone or calendar for the day of the month that your friend’s baby died. A quick text or email will mean the world to them on that difficult day – because monthly milestones matter for all parents of babies, living or lost.
- Don’t forget the holidays: Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are difficult days after the loss of a child. Reaching out to parents on those days – or in the days leading up – is a beautiful gesture of your love and prayers. You could also remember their child with a Christmas ornament or other personalized keepsake.
- Give in their child’s honor: A memorial gift to a charity related to the baby’s loss or a favorite organization is a wonderful way to keep their child’s spirit alive.
Something They Need
In the immediate aftermath of their loss, grieving parents need help with life’s most basic needs:
- Food: if you’re local, bringing dinner or breakfast baked goods is a huge help. If you’re long-distance, you can send a gift card for a restaurant, pizza, or groceries, or call a local restaurant to have dinner delivered.
- Expenses: for any kind of loss – even an early miscarriage – medical bills pile up quickly. Hospital bills and burial expenses for a baby can be staggering. Even a small financial gift can help a family burdened by unexpected expenses.
- Child care: if the parents have other children, an offer to watch the kids for a few hours during the day (so they can rest) or in the evening (so they can get out of the house) is a huge help.
Something To Keep
A simple gift to remember the baby is a lasting treasure: a candle, a picture frame (for an ultrasound photo), a favorite tea or coffee, a small scrapbook, or a custom piece of pottery. A handmade quilt or prayer shawl is another lasting comfort to grieving parents.
Flowers: Bouquets are beautiful to surround the parents at the beginning. But it’s also nice to have something that lasts – a house plant, a plant for a memorial garden, a gift card to a local nursery, or a tree to plant in their baby’s honor.
Memorial stones: Blessing and Light makes personalized indoor/outdoor stones for all kinds of losses. Or give a garden stepping stone for parents to place in their yard. My husband’s siblings got us this gorgeous custom stone for our twins.
Personalized artwork: Many artists on Etsy offer memorial prints that you can customize with the child’s name and dates – a huge source of comfort to grieving parents. You can even send a custom care package remembering their child.
Memorial jewelry: Tangible reminders of lost babies mean so much, like a necklace with the baby’s initial, name, or date of birth. A bracelet with initials or the child’s name can be a great gift for a mother or father. Stitch Fix sent me this beautiful personalized bracelet after they heard about our daughters’ deaths – read the whole story here on Today.com)
Catholic ideas: After our miscarriage, a dear friend sent me a pink and blue rosary. Another friend sent a rosary bracelet after we lost our twins. A litany of saints can be a beautiful gift. Having a Mass offered for the child or enrolling their name in the prayers of a religious community are two other Catholic traditions that can bring comfort.
Something To Read
A journal is a great gift for parents to process their feelings after the loss of their child – or to record memories from the pregnancy, birth, or death.
There are many books that speak to pregnancy and infant loss. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Grieving Together: A Couple’s Journey through Miscarriage is the book my husband and I wrote on miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss. It includes prayers, Scripture, practical resources, and real-life stories from many different couples who’ve experienced the loss of a baby. Grieving Together is the companion we wish we would have had in our grief.
- Far As The Curse Is Found: Searching for God in Infertility, Miscarriage, and Stillbirth by Abigail Waldron: a helpful, hopeful collection of stories from families who have been there. Abigail knows all three losses firsthand, so she journeys through a year of sitting with a different family each month and sharing their stories of loss, healing, and hope.
- Waiting for Gabriel: A Story of Cherishing a Baby’s Brief Life by Amy Kuebelbeck: the story of a family who receive a heart-breaking prenatal diagnosis for their son and have to navigate life-and-death decisions in preparing for his birth. Honest, beautiful writing on saying hello and goodbye to a beloved baby.
- Lament for A Son by Nicholas Wolterstorff: the best book I’ve read on the loss of a child. A short but deep theological reflection of wrestling with God and holding fast to faith in the aftermath of devastating loss.
What else would you add to the list? What has helped you – or someone you love – after the loss of a baby?
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