What You Should (and Shouldn’t) Say to Someone Who has Lost a Baby

I have come to find out first hand how incredibly difficult losing a baby is.

I have had friends and family that have loved me and supported me through these trying times. The ones who have been in my shoes before often times give me advice that are like balm to an open sore. But sometimes words can sting a bit too, even though they may be said with love. Though mostly they are said to fill the silence and try to minimize grief.

And maybe you’ve never experienced the loss of a baby, either by miscarriage or stillbirth. It can feel awkward not knowing what to say. I was once there too, having friends lose little ones and feeling like I was supposed to say something, yet trying to make sure I didn’t cause additional pain. Tripping over my words, everything seeming so hollow.

A while ago I asked my Facebook Friends to help me with this post and give me some of the things that people should and shouldn’t say. The problem with this list is that we all grieve differently, what may hurt one woman might not affect another.
Writing my baby's birth story- because writing is therapy.

You Shouldn’t:

  • You shouldn’t ask: “were you trying?” It’s just completely irrelevant, and parents fall in love with their babies whether they’ve been trying for a long time or when they are ‘planned’.
  • You shouldn’t: avoid them or pretend like it never happened. Yes, the couple may still be grieving and it may be awkward, but please don’t ignore the them. Saying nothing about their loss makes them feel more invisible or like the baby didn’t matter.
  • You shouldn’t say: “It’s for the best/ It’s better this way.” Would you say this to someone who lost a parent or spouse to cancer? What about someone who lost a friend or relative in a car accident? Did those people die because it is somehow better that they did? The loss of this little baby is the loss of a person, and no grieving parent wants to hear that their child died because it’s better this way.
  • You shouldn’t say: “there was probably something wrong with the baby.” Because no matter the disease, disorder, or handicap, the parent still misses their dear child. They would gladly welcome a special needs baby to their family.
  • You shouldn’t say: “better luck next time.” This was actually mentioned a couple of times, so I thought I’d better include it. Though it seems so rude. I guess there are some pretty unsympathetic people out there.
  • You shouldn’t say: “there will be more chances in the future.” or “you’re young you will have more.” No one has a “crystal ball”, no one knows the will of God. While you feel that this may help a hurting heart, it in fact minimizes their grief, and may not necessarily be true.

“This pregnancy, THIS child was special, loved and lost. It takes time to grieve that loss before considering trying another time to bring another life into the world. It’s not a ring toss. It’s a baby. Trying again has a much different context in that regard.”Real Food Whole Health

  • You shouldn’t say: “at least you have other kids.” Yes, to a couple that has other children, their sweet little ones here may be of some comfort. But they still miss THIS child and had dreams for THIS child.
  • You shouldn’t say: “God wanted it this way.” or “It is God’s will.” This may be so. And it may be that we live in a fallen world where death and disease are part of it. But words said to minimize grief tend to make the mourning parent feel like they shouldn’t be sad. They may know that this was in God’s will, but they are still allowed to grieve.
  • You shouldn’t: tell them you understand when you don’t. Even if you have experienced the loss of a baby, all of our stories are different: This couple may have struggled to get pregnant, this may not be their first loss. It may be her first child, or it may be her fourth (the grief will hit just as deeply, but the emotions and the reactions may be different). She may be waiting to miscarry yet, or she may not have found out until the miscarriage started. She may have had to experience a procedure called a D&C to remove the baby, or she may have had to deliver her baby at home, all alone in the bathroom. She may have to cancel orders for, or put away the maternity clothes. She may have to put away baby things. 

And all of us experience grief differently. Some women have to deal with anger, others extreme sadness. Many experience some    type of depression or anxiety and whether or not you’ve experienced a loss, you just can’t understand how she feels.

A friend sent me flowers

  • You shouldn’t: call the baby “it”. One of the hardest things for a grieving mother to deal with is the fact that most of the medical community (especially for a loss in the first half of the pregnancy) medicalize what’s happening. The baby is only referred to as “tissue”, and they are almost afraid to humanize this little being, like somehow this will help a woman/couple get over their grief.
  • You shouldn’t say: “it was just not meant to be.” Again, would you say this had they lost another family member? It’s just not helpful and can hurt.
  • You shouldn’t: try to force them to “get over it” too quickly, before they are ready or when their grieving style is different than yours. We all go through the stages of grief differently, some quicker than others. The grief also comes in waves, one day they may be fine, the next may be quite difficult. Seemingly little things can bring back floods of emotion.
  • You shouldn’t say: “you are getting up there in age and your eggs aren’t as perfect as they once were.” Most women start to blame themselves, that their body somehow did this. It’s hard enough for a grieving mother to comes to terms with the loss when she feels like she is somehow responsible.
  • You shouldn’t say: “Be glad that he/she is in such a better place now.” Yes, this is true. But any parent who has lost a child can tell you that they would like to hold their child now. To enjoy them now, and watch them grow up, now. They know where their baby is, but it’s so hard to be glad about it.
  • You shouldn’t: get mad at them or take it personally if they don’t call you immediately to tell you (even if you are a family member). Every person shares the news in the way that is most therapeutic for them, and sometimes having to speak over the phone about the loss of a baby when the grief is so fresh is extremely difficult.
  • You shouldn’t say: “At least you weren’t that far along.” Would you say that it was better for someone to die at age 23 instead of 67? No matter how far along she was, the couple is still dealing with the loss of a baby and already fell in love with this little person. They most likely had already been planning out the logistics of bringing a new baby into the family. This was their baby, no matter how small.
  • You shouldn’t ask: “what did you do wrong?” or “what was the problem?” Again, she may already be dealing with the issue of blaming herself for something she did, and asking this can cause a great amount of guilt. Most miscarriages, unless you’ve had multiple, are not usually ‘diagnosed’ and there is no testing done. So they may never know why their little one passed away. A still birth or known ectopic pregnancy may have an answer or it may not – and the family will share what they would like to share of the “cause”. I they do share a cause, let’s not mention the “well it’s better this way then”.
  • You shouldn’t forget: it takes time to heal, physically & emotionally. Sometimes the physical process of miscarriage is much overlooked. Even the medical community considers it like a heavy period. But on top of the bleeding (which sometimes can be so heavy it leaves the woman anemic for months) she also has to deal with the major hormone upheaval that happens after a pregnancy. She may need many weeks or even months to heal and spend time out of public eye.
  • You shouldn’t: bring your new baby to “cheer them up”. Children should always be left at home when visiting a grieving family, especially infant babies when they’ve lost a baby themselves.
  • You shouldn’t: imply that her loss isn’t that bad or compare her situation to someone else’s loss. Just because someone else has lost more babies, or were further along, or lost multiples, doesn’t mean that this couple shouldn’t grieve as deeply.
  • You shouldn’t: take it personally if she seems to avoid you or defriends you (or hides you) on facebook, especially if you are pregnant yourself. Losing a baby is difficult, and seeing a pregnant relative or friend’s belly grow each week can often be a painful reminder. So please give them space if that is what they need. Don’t forget about them, just know that some women need extra space.
  •  You shouldn’t ask: “if/when they’ll have another child” or “ask if/when someone else will have another child”. First off, to put it bluntly, it’s none of your business. This couple may have dealt with infertility and have no idea when they’ll be able to conceive again, or afford more treatments. They may be dealing with physical issues due to the miscarriage that will prevent them from having another baby for some time. They may need more time to grieve or may be worried about a future pregnancy. And to the second comment, again, it’s just none of your business, or theirs, to know what any couple is doing to grow their family.
  • You shouldn’t: surprise them around a group of people with news of your own pregnancy. Yes, your pregnancy should be received with joy, but many times it’s difficult for a couple (especially the woman) to be surprised by your news. Especially when it involves a group of people or public place. Don’t get me wrong – she will be happy for you, but many times she will also need to grieve the loss of her baby and the loss of her dream first. Telling her privately beforehand is a nice gesture.
  • You shouldn’t ask: Is there anything I can do? A grieving family can rarely come up with something you can do to help. So when you ask, also ask specifics. (“Can I help clean, bring a meal, get groceries, etc)
  • You shouldn’t: pressure them or tell them what to do regarding miscarriage inducing drugs or d&c. If you’ve been through a miscarriage or loss of a baby, share your experiences, but let them make their own decisions. Some women were grateful to have the option of a D&C, others preferred to miscarry at home. Many couples have to deal with ectopic pregnancies and are probably having to deal with making some very tough decisions, so even if you made a different decision when you walked that road, just be there for them. Same for a couple that is preparing for a baby born still.
1283-Calendula

photo credit: jlcernadas

You Should:

  • You should say: “I am so sorry for your loss”
  • You should: bring them a meal. The physical process of a miscarriage is much like the birth of a baby. She’ll go through contractions, many times it’s painful. And even if the process has to be helped along medically, there are still major physical things going on in her body. The birth of a still born baby brings all of the risks to the mother that any birth brings and then some. The grief from any loss can be overwhelming for at least the first few weeks. People bring food after the birth of a baby, and people bring food after the loss of a family member. This is both, ask when you can bring them a meal.
  • You should: give them a hug and let them know you care and are thinking about them.
  • You should: Send them a card. Many times these are the only physical things that they can hold that are proof their baby existed. I can’t begin to tell you how precious those cards are that I received.
  • You should: offer physical help. Taking out the garbage, washing dishes, mopping floors, take their dog for a walk, pick up groceries – these are the things they may be unable to do or to keep up on for the first few weeks. My sister came and washed my dishes after they’d piled up for over a week and it was a wonderful expression of her love. (and if they have other small children, you could offer to babysit – though they may want their children close by – or play with them outside)
  • You should say: “I don’t know what to say, but I’m so sorry.”
  • You should: share your own story of loss, gently, and without minimizing their pain. Women who have been there before can often times minister in such a special way.
  • You should: be gentle in your speaking.
  • You should: be a shoulder to cry on. In dealing with grief, people may cry. And while it can sometimes feel awkward talking to a crying person, know that they need to cry at that very moment. No words are needed.
  • You should: pray for them. Let them know you are praying, ask them what their specific prayer requests are, pray with them.
  • You should: encourage them to rest and take time to heal both physically and emotionally.
  • You should: acknowledge there was a baby. Call the baby a baby, talk about the baby, mention their baby by name if they decided to name him/her.
  • You should: listen when she needs to talk, reserving all judgment.
  • You should: remember this child.  Write down the date of the loss or the due date and send a note letting them know you’re thinking about them. These dates, along with major holidays in that first year or two bring a lot of different emotions to surface. Mother’s remember their babies due dates, and not a year goes by that most don’t take notice. The first few years are especially painful.

What else do you have to add? What did someone do for you during the loss of your baby that truly helped you?

 

If your little one has passed away, I’m deeply sorry for your loss. The heartbreak is unbelievable. I recommend the book “Grieving the Child You Never Knew” as a starting point for emotional and spiritual healing. It’s a tough road as you begin to heal, and there is no “right” way to go about this, so be gentle with yourself as you learn your new ‘normal”.

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About Donielle

Donielle is an amateur herbalist and natural momma to two littles (with another babe in heaven) after dealing with being less than fertile. She has a passion for nourishing nutrition, natural living, and spreading the word on how food truly affects our health.

Comments

  1. This is a beautifully, sensitively written post, Donielle. I have never suffered through a miscarriage personally and it is true that I struggle with what to say/when to say it/etc. I love the gentle, practical suggestions given here– thank you.

  2. The best gift someone gave me after losing my son is remembering his name and using it. She is the only person who did and I will never forget that kindness.

    Mandy Reply:

    @margaret, ((Hugs for you and your sweet baby boy.))

    Sierra Reply:

    @margaret,
    I do not have the experience of losing a child, but have been suffering with infertility for two years. I also work at a hospital in the mother/baby unit and one thing I do when one of our moms has lost a sweet baby is make them a rememberance card with their little baby’s name and foot prints on it. Do you guys think this is helpful? Or am I making it worse?

    donielle Reply:

    @Sierra, Our local hospitals do the same thing for families and I personally think it’s beautiful. Items like these are treasured by parents.

    Connie Reply:

    @Sierra, After losing 2 babies to misscarrage, and 2 to premature birth, (both boys died within hours after birth) I wish I would have been given a rememberance card such as you make. I think it’s a wonderful gift.

    Melinda Reply:

    @Sierra, Definitely a good idea! If my baby had been older when it I lost her via miscarriage, I would have loved something like a remembrance card.

    Kim Reply:

    @Sierra,

    My midwife did the same, and it is one of my most treasured possessions. The hardest thing in the world that I had to do was to leave the hospital with empty arms and an empty womb. To have those little prints to take home and hold is so special to me. To have something that my little boy actually touched is priceless. I have no blankets, I have no little hat….I didn’t even have a medical bracelet. I have very little to remember him by, to say HE WAS HERE! Please never stop making remembrance cards.

  3. While I have never experienced a miscarriage, my husband and I are currently dealing with infertility and your post also speaks to those in my situation as well. Whether you’ve physically lost a child or face the possibility of losing the dream of a child, pain is pain and words can hurt. Thank you for your openness and honesty.

  4. Thanks so much for putting this list together. I am remembering the due date of our Adam Joshua that we lost 3 years ago. His due date was yesterday and he would have been 3. Yes, God has blessed us with a healthy 2YO and another baby due in May since then, but we never forget. And I’m not sure that I want to. Thanks for helping mamas who’ve lost babies heal and remember, as well as help those who are in their circle understand what they can do that will help and not hurt.

  5. Thank you for this. It’s very well written and very well thought out. My 4th baby, our second daughter, was stillborn full-term last summer. There were very few people that didn’t make the blunders above. Some didn’t even care to try to be sensitive. While I do believe that WE need to stretch ourselves to be gracious I would like to think that a list like this could educate those who truly don’t understand and make relations after a loss much better for everyone.

    Sue Reply:

    @Nataly,
    Nataly, my heart is crying with you as we ourselves lost our first child Joshua Aiken as a full term stillborn 3 years ago June 6th. We now have a beautiful 1 year old little boy but that doesn’t mean that we don’t remember our Joshua. We had a few people that made the same blunders as well, one in particular that I will never forget. A couple brought their infant son to the memorial service we were having for our little boy……..It was excruciating! Thanks to Donielle for putting this list together to help educate people about the very real pain that we as mothers have gone through and still go through with this!

  6. Thanks so much for this thoughtful and beautiful list. I just had a miscarraige (on New Year’s Eve), and I had people saying things from both lists. My miscarraige experience was so similar to labor, and I had no idea it was going to be that way.

    Something positive I took away from this difficult experience is that I feel like I can have more understanding and a deeper compassion for those who experience these losses.

    Mandy Reply:

    @Bonny, Me too. I still wish I didn’t though.

  7. THanks for this very sensitive list. I have had 3 miscarriages, a stillborn, and recently lost my 4 months old daughter and too many people say the wrong things, though they don’t mean to! The hardest is when people ignore me because they don’t know what to say. I try to remember their hearts are in the right place, but their comments still hurt and people just need to realize that a simple “Praying for You” or “You have my deepest sympathy” are the most powerful phrases. Usually family is trying to “fix” things so they sometimes say the most stinging comments. Thank you again for this list, it even helps me to minister to others!

    Mandy Reply:

    @Kelli, OMG Kelli that is beyond terrible, I am SO sorry. :(

    Kelli Reply:

    Thank you, it was 9 weeks ago, she was 4 months old, and passed away from Pompe disease. Unbelievable how much my heart aches for her! But the stillborn and miscarriages were so hard too, I was blessed to have 4 months with Kayli…God Bless.

  8. Such a great post! I know several couples who have borne the suffering of losing a little one far too early. It is especially hard when it is their first baby! I try to really acknowledge that they are parents to this baby they never got to meet, and acknowledge the great love they have for that little person.

  9. Your post is beautifully written.
    After two losses, I agree 100% with all the Do’s and Don’ts.
    The “don’t” that makes me really MAD: “It was God’s will”. I just CAN”T understand.

    I’m sorry for your loss and even tough every history is different, we all have the loss of a child (children) in common. And it hurts, it really hurts.

  10. Thank you, this was a very helpful read. I often wonder what to say/do. When one of the women at church lost her baby (at 36 weeks) last summer, we made her a scrapbook with the baby’s name written out in many different creative ways (example: the name spelled out with M&Ms, written in chalk on the sidewalk, written with a dry erase marker on a mirror, spelled out with baby blocks, etc.). There were about 30 different people who participated by spelling the name and she was really blessed by this book, knowing that her baby was not forgotten.

    Megan Reply:

    @Holly @ Faithful Womanhood, ok, that is the most amazing idea! Thank you for sharing this!

  11. Thank you for your beautifully written post. After losing two babies in utero, I have often thought through a similar list in my mind but have never put it onto paper.
    Interestingly, after going through breast cancer and a double mastectomy last year, I have a new list in my mind of “do’s” and “don’ts” for those dealing with cancer…I think the most important thing, regardless of what someone is facing, is that it needs to be acknowledged.
    Thank you.

  12. Thank you for compiling this excellent list, Donielle. I have linked here from my blog and pray that many will read and gain understanding.

  13. This is beautiful, Donielle!

    I heard so many of those horrible things in the days after my first miscarriage, and I’ll never forget when a neighbor simply stopped, looked me in the eye and said, “This sucks.” I was so, so thankful to be done with the platitudes and nice words and justifications and just have someone acknowledge that it did, truly, suck.

    Thanks for sharing your heart and putting together such a complete list to make people think. At the end of the day, it’s about acknowledging someone’s loss and pain as REAL and just being authentic in sharing that pain.

    Connie Reply:

    @Mandi @ Life…Your Way, I love your neighbor, she said it all.

  14. I also had a miscarriage this summer, and just had my due date last week. I had been trying for 7 years, so this was the hardest and most horrid thing i have ever been through. The Miscarriage itself, i’m sorry, but was NOTHING like a heavy period.

    Here are some other insensitive things i heard after my miscarriage:

    “Well at least you know you can get pregnant now”

    “Next time you should wait until you’ve missed two periods before taking a pregnancy test, so if you miscarry, you will just think its a heavy period” (this is not only insensitive but also made no sense, considering i actually missed 4 periods and i had labor pains and huge blood clots)

    But, what really bothers me the most is the over-medicalization (made up word i think) of the situation in general by society and my midwives, ect….

    The best experiences i had were when other women i knew who also had been through miscarriage talked to me in honesty about what they went through emotionally and prayed for me. Just knowing that there was someone who understood filled a place that even my husband, grieving as he was, couldn’t understand. I also had a friend give me a teddy bear to hold on to at a baby shower shortly after my miscarriage, and i held on to that thing for weeks. Also, my sister sent me flowers and the note just said, “i love you very much”

  15. This is a great list of “You should”s.

    I don’t think I’m a particularly rude person, but the first list made me feel really insensitive. It seems like there are so many ways to offend people…I worry that I would not remember all of the things to not talk about. (Some of them seem really obvious, but there were several on the list that surprised me.)

  16. This is a wonderful article. I lost my middle daughter at 16 months and I was truly shocked at some of the things that people say. I tried to remember that people were trying to be comforting, but missed the mark.
    I’ll be sharing this, thank you!

  17. Jessica K says:

    Just one note on the don’ts… Don’t forget the daddies. I know when we had our loss people were very concerned for me but most people just brushed off any pain my husband was feeling. The baby was his too and it was like many people did not expect him to feel pain. I definitely had to grieve but he did too and I felt like people didn’t see that. Thanks for the great post.

    Anna Reply:

    What a good comment… and so true. The hurt is different for men, but definitely there. I would add that my husband’s method/means of grieving and desired support was different than mine… and that was okay.

    Adam Reply:

    @Jessica K, Well stated.

  18. Thanks so much for writing this. Today was the perfect day to read this-2 years ago today I found out I was pregnant and lost my little a few months later. I was amazed at the things people (especially my family) said during those initial difficult (and still difficult at times) days after the loss.

  19. I just lost a baby in November, and already people are acting as if nothing ever happened. I had a lot of complications and missed almost 2 months of work, it was physically and emotionally very hard for me. I miss my baby so much and want to hold him or her so badly sometimes it aches. I have been having more good days than bad lately. It is hard for me to think about it now, because I would have been 5 months pregnant now and probably starting to show. I never had a due date because the baby passed away before I could have gotten one. I believe it would have been sometime in June though. Thank you for posting this. It helps to know that I’m not the only one that has these feelings.

  20. Thank you for this post. We are almost at the one year anniversary of of losing our first baby. We named him Benjamin (though he was only eight weeks and we could not have known his gender, we decided to name him). We pray for him and ask him to pray for us.

    You are correct that grief is so personal and everyone thinks differently. I also lost my Aunt a few weeks later. I really hated being told that she was holding my baby in heaven. While I missed her and pray she is in heaven, I did not want to hear such “comfort”.

    While it may be God’s will to allow us to lose our babies and for Him to take them from us early, it is incomprehensible to us while first grieving and can drive one away from God. Please please remember that God never punishes us, never wishes us to hurt. Take your time to heal, remember your baby, he/she was formed in your womb and fully known to God as well as loved by you and your husband.

    May God bless you and keep you. -Lisa

  21. I wrote about my miscarriages and our yellow trike (our memorial for our babies) on my friend Amy’s blog. I hope it can bless those of you who have suffered the loss of a baby. Here’s the link:

    http://amysfinerthings.com/repeated-miscarriage

    It was so important to me for people to Just Talk about it! Even if they blundered, it was such a blessing when they opened up the subject with me. We can be so scared of saying the wrong thing that too many times we allow the person who is grieving to keep grieving alone, never telling them that we care, that we think about their loss, that sometimes we cry, too, as we think of their sorrow.

    Don’t let fear keep you from ministering to someone who is hurting.

  22. This is an excellent post! I think something that you should not say, even if the mom has more than the usual amount of children is “Maybe God is trying to tell you something.” or “Don’t you think you should give your body some time to heal for awhile, get your health better.”

    AH Reply:

    @Martha, I agree! I felt so bad when I saw and heard comments from people about Mrs. Duggar recently. It is still a great loss!

  23. THANK YOU FOR THIS, Donielle!!!

    I wrote about this a couple of years ago (http://www.modernalternativemama.com/blog/2010/12/8/healthy-pregnancy-series-miscarriage-and-loss.html)…but your list is soooo much better/more complete!

    One thing that I would encourage every mama to do is to write about it. Several times, even. As soon as you can and then revisiting/rewriting 3, 6, 9 months later. Especially, if like me, you’re a “bottler”.
    In my experience: even though several years had gone by, and even though I had spoken with a lady about the experience, and even though I’d had two healthy children subsequently, there was still a LOT of pain bubbling beneath the surface that I was totally unaware of until I sat down to write this post. I asked my (amazing!) husband to proofread for me and he was flabbergasted that I still had that much emotion churning around about Baby #1, because I’d never talked about it with him. It was a good and healing experience for both of us.

    And, to the earlier commenter who said that she felt really insensitive after reading over the list – please don’t beat yourself up. Different women are at different places in life and different beliefs dictate different reactions. I know a sweet Christian lady who was carrying twins and lost one of them. She sincerely believed that there was no problem with this and didn’t mourn a bit. I, on the other hand, would have been devastated. imo, we need to do the best we can with what we have and, when in doubt, we need to shut up, love silently, and pray earnestly. The one comment that can never be interpreted as anything other than love is this: “I’m praying for you.”

    God bless you!

  24. Wow, this list is wonderful! We had some really hurtful words spoken to my husband & I after losing our little boy, but there were also some great friends who gently held our hearts and walked with us through the grief. My biggest fear is that he will be forgotten. My husband said that maybe some people will, but our hearts and our close friends, never will. Thanks for sharing this!

  25. Stephanie says:

    My heart grieves with all of you ladies also. I’ll be making sure to say a prayer for all of you after I finish this post. It’s been 11 years ago with Cole, our son, and a little over 11 years and a couple of months since our dautger Chloe. We were blessed enough to be come pregnant 3 months after Cole, but Chloe decided to come early also. I still remember each of their passings, but would never regret being pregnant with them. They still give my heart a wonderful leap when I think about them along with tears in my eyes, but I know the second thing I’m going to do when I get to heaven is give my two beatiful children a hug and tell them that I love them so much. (Not that they don’t know it.) The Lord did bless us with our son in our third year of marriage and I do remember when the pregnancy stick was positive. The joy and fear flooding me at the same time. I remember the prayer at the time of saying, Lord this is your child. I’ll be happy with just this one… please let me have it (I didn’t know it was a boy at the time). The Lord was faithful and gave us our son. Yes, I do believe he will be the only one… I know ironcially I’m looking on a fertility site. :0) But I believe that this is a wonderful site and I’m working on bringing my health back on track with the female side of things and partly for my son, who has been asking for a brother alot lately (He’s 8). Sorry for the rambling ladies. My heart goes out to each and everyone of you and grieves with you. I pray that in each minute that you need it that our Lord with scoop you up and hug you and cry along side of you. Take each day at a time. Grieving is different for each of us… just like the post said.

  26. Hi, I thought this was a great list. Most of these exact things can easily be applied to someone who can’t have babies at all. Experiencing infertility feels like you’ve lost all your dreams for babies all at once and from your list it seems like people react similarly.

  27. Hugs to each of you who have walked down the path of losing a child or children or who wanted them but for one reason or another was unable to conceive them. I agree the list is quite well written. Like one of the responders wrote, I had someone who said the Lord wanted my mom to hold her 1st grandchild (Joseph Charles or Victoria Ruth) who went to heaven in the 5th week of my pregnancy in March ’07. True, she meant it to be comforting, but at the time, it was not what I wanted to hear. My husband & I have a daughter who was conceived slightly before our 1st due date, & she keeps us quite busy, & she has also helped us deal some with our loss of Elizabeth Ruth as a full-term stillbirth in October of ’10 & our miscarriage of Margaret Helen or Eric Wesley nearly 19 weeks ago in the 12th week.

    Another thing that I had said to me that I did not agree with was “I had a miscarriage, so I understand your pain.” That was said to me when we lost Elizabeth, & I said I have had both, & they are different, since you actually put a face with a stillbirth & get to hold your baby. Miscarried babies do not always develop far enough to have all of the features.

  28. What a wonderful post….seems like I needed it tonight. We lost our first daughter, Grace, over 6 years ago at 29 weeks due to a cord accident. Since then, I have had 2 miscarriages, and 3 stillbirths at 13wks, 16wks, and 20wks. After 6 losses over the years, we had thought that having our own children would have been something that wouldn’t come to pass, but with the Lord’s favor we were given our precious miracle daughter who arrived kicking and breathing at 27 weeks weighing in at just over a pound. She will be 3 this spring and has no ill affects on being so tiny at birth or coming into the world 13 weeks early. I have heard it all…for years and some of it was hurtful and others were uplifting. All in all, our prayers and hope of being parents to a live baby is what kept us going after all those losses. Pray for hope…babies mean hope…I pray for all the parents who have lost, who have issues with fertility and those angel babies who have went before us. It’s a sad group to be in, parents who have lost children, but giving the message a voice helps.

  29. I think one of the most surprising things about my miscarriage experience was how sensitive and supportive all of the medical staff were. I came in for a 10 week check up and when the heart beat couldn’t be found an ultrasound was done, concluding that the baby had died at 8 weeks. I was completely blindsided and devastated. Fortunately, I got the news from the same midwife who delivered my daughter who was very compassionate and understanding. She found one of the doctors in the practice to come explain the D&E (more commonly called D&C) procedure and he was also very helpful. The whole office staff was understanding. Even at my pre-surgery blood work and the anestisiology consultation, everyone expressed sorrow for my loss. I believe that this post is correct that it can be easier to over medicalize, but don’t sell all medical personnel short. There was not a single person I dealt with who wasn’t understanding. The doctor who performed the procedure was especially sensitive, before and after the procedure. The surgical nurses even came to visit me in recovery to see how I was doing. I was provided with followup information for both my husband and myself on support for grieving the loss of a child and we were even asked if we wanted separate funeral arrangements made and if we wanted to attend the service the hospital chaplain holds each week for all of the D&E babies. It was a horrible experience I never hope to repeat, but at the same time I was overwhelmed by the support I received both from friends and acquaintances and medical staff. I’m sorry for those of you who had very negative medical experiences in this regard. I was really afraid that no one would think of this as a real loss. But every medical person I dealt with was careful to refer to this child as “my baby” and not by any other biological or medical term.

  30. hippie4ever says:

    I cried the whole way through this post and the comments. I miscarried August 12th-13th. It was horrible. Our baby was not that far along so not many people knew. Only 3 of the people who knew even spoke to me about it. I’m sure they don’t know what to say. But it hurts, and my baby does matter, at least to me. I wrote a poem:

    Slipped Away

    As my Baby slipped away
    I sat and prayed for you to stay
    For you to stay
    For you to stay
    For Grace either way

    As my Baby slipped away
    I dreamed of you, a face so sweet
    Of little hands, of little feet
    Of little soles, of little toes
    I want to hold, I want to hold

    As my Baby slipped away
    I watched my son, your brother sleep
    His face so calm, his sleep so deep
    He did not know yet you were here
    What we lost I cannot bear

    As my Baby slipped away
    I thought of all you do not know
    Of trees and seas, of rain and snow
    Of all the good things on God’s earth
    Which you would see upon your birth

    As my Baby slipped away
    I wondered; do you have your Daddy’s laugh
    His smile, his eyes, his crazy knack
    Of knowing just what to say
    To make us smile and ease the day

    As my Baby slipped away
    I contemplated what should be taught
    To do what’s right and what you ought
    To always be kind and share God’s love
    To live as HE would have us live above

    As my Baby slipped away
    I bled you out
    On tissue first, then in a bowl
    I wasn’t sure, but then was told
    But then was told

    As You slipped away
    I cried
    You were not born, yet you died

    Melinda Reply:

    @hippie4ever, Beautiful poem! Thank you for sharing. It is so accurate to all the emotions I felt when I lost my baby last October.

    hippie4ever Reply:

    @Melinda,

    Thank you Melinda. I am so sorry for your loss.

  31. This is great! I lost a baby at 12 1/2 weeks. I wanted privacy. My husband and son (9 months old) were with me at the hospital. My husband called family members to let them know I was going in for a d&c and that I didn’t want visitors or to talk with anyone. One of the hands down rudest and self-centered things to happen, was my sister (who lied her way to the recovery area) to come with flowers and talk non-stop about her miscarriage. She tried to force me to discuss my heartbreaking loss. Which was compounded by my feelings and thoughts, that I had not, would not and will not discuss with her… I was told so many of these things… At least you get to go home to a baby, oh don’t worry you’ll have more, you seem to be handling it well, you look good and have lost a lot of weight….. We had family members come that weekend, it was already planned, and could not understand why I wasn’t eating or couldn’t have my son out of my sight.. Listening to the woman is best, say you’re sorry for her loss and let her steer the conversation, if she moves off the topic don’t try to go back to it or try to ‘bond’ with this….

  32. Thank you for posting this. It comes at a perfect/ironic time in my life. A good friend of mine just lost a stillborn son, she was about 21 weeks. I just don’t know what to say to her. I’ve sent her cards and left her a couple voicemails. I have not personally gone through a loss of a child and I’m blessed with 3 healthy daughters.
    It’s getting tougher though… just last week, my sister, 29 weeks pregnant w/ her first baby went to her specialist appt and got sent straight to the hospital where she will stay for the reminder of her pregnancy. Her baby girl has Hydrops (she’s filled with fluid) and the drs cannot figure out why/what is the cause. My sister is filling with more amniotic fluid and very uncomfortable. Basically, it’s a tough and sad situation. The neonatoligist said that the baby has only about a 50% chance of surving once born, even if/when she’s in the NICU after birth. This is so tough for our families. I have to stop myself b/c I’ve been feeling like, “why does she not want me around too much” and “why won’t she give me something to do for her”, etc… but I know I just need to get over it. It’s tough not knowing what to say to her or my BIL. It’s so hard to grasp that their baby Reagan, my first niece might now make it home. :(

  33. Great post!
    Several of the shoulnd’t say words also apply to those going through infertility. I’ve been struggling with secondary infertility and several people have said such hurtful things to me… several of the things you listed here. They don’t realize how much pain we are going through. Thank you for sharing awareness and offering support for those suffering.

  34. Thank you for this post. It is so difficult to say the right things and know what to do to comfort someone at a time like this. Thanks.

  35. The other thing people should not do is focus just on the mother. The father is going through the lose of a child as well. Saying something like “You were not pregnant” does not some how magically remove the Father from the pain of losing his child. With each of my wife’s pregnancies I have bonded very quickly with our new little addition. When we lost our second child six weeks along I felt the lose just as much as my wife did.

    The difference between the father and the mother is that the father needs to grieve and deal with his emotions while having no time off of work and taking care of a physically and emotionally recovering wife. The husband also has the add responsibility of dealing many times with hospitals and doctor’s office to arrange for payments and dealing with any other day to day operations which need to be attended to while the mother is recovering.

    It comes down to the truth that Fathers lose a child along with mothers and should not be over looked when dealing with this issue. Father’s need time to grieve as well. Father’s need time to heal emotionally. Father’s need time to heal physically as well.

    The physical part for father’s is not the injury to the body but it is the stress of having the woman they love go through emergency surgery. The stress of picking up the extra duties at home. The stress of caring for his wife. Finally the emotional stress of just dealing with losing a child.

    Everything said above applies to fathers as well. Donielle in a couple places notes the fact this impacts couples and not just women. It is important to help Fathers because they need it.

  36. I know that some of you might disagree with this, but I have to sort of disagree with “You shouldn’t say: “It’s for the best/ It’s better this way.” as I really think it depends upon the circumstances and how it is said.
    I have a friend who had 3 losses in a row. Now, that would be something mean to say about the first two, because there was nothing that could be identified as “medically wrong” and those losses where not for the best.
    However, my friends last loss the baby was identified as having Trisomy 18 (this was after the loss this abnormality was identified). For those that don’t know anything about Trisomy 18, it is pretty much a death sentence (and yes there are children who have survived to their teens, but with major/severe medical issues). My friend needed some perspective (because by the third loss she was a mess, and understandably so) and I said to her that this may have been a blessing for her, the family and the child because the potential suffering everyone would have gone through was shortened (she also has a 6yo at the time). Think of how horrible it would be to sit in the hospital and watch your child die. This doesn’t also discount your loss, you are allowed to mourn, and we are all here for you. She didn’t like this at first, but after a few days and thinking about it, she came around.

    donielle Reply:

    @Danielle, I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree then. Because every mom knows this deep in her heart and doesn’t need it pointed out. I know that my little one had some genetic abnormality – it’s the biggest cause of pregnancy loss.There is always something medically ‘wrong’, no matter how early the loss.

    And yes, it would be absolutely horrible to watch your child die. I have a few friends in the midst of that right now due to midochondiral issues, their bodies slowly disintegrating. It’s absolutely dreadful. But not one of them have ever said they wished they hadn’t known their child.

    Danielle Reply:

    @donielle, We wouldn’t be human if we all agreed, and there would be no good conversation and thought. I think you are right that each person does knows this deep in their heart, and quite possibly somewhere in their unconscious regardless of the loss (old, young, in utero), but I think at certain times and only when done very gently/in the appropriate manner (and also depending upon the deepness of friendship or familial relationship as I know I would be horrified if some random person said this to me or anyone else), it brings that deep down feeling to your conscious, and can help in the healing process. That doesn’t mean that this works for everyone and every time, as the person also has to be ready to hear something like that.
    On a side note, which I neglected to add on the previous post, my friend is less then 6wks away from having a beautiful baby girl. We have been talking about names, and she had assigned a name to all of her losses, and currently she is considering a name that she had previously assigned to a loss. She did ask what I thought about it. I told her that was up to her, but I wouldn’t want to negate the memory of the lost child. She said in her mind, that she felt this was one of her losses coming back to her and felt very strongly that she felt this current child should be named this way. Personally, I know that is not something that I would do, but only she can make that determination.

  37. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I had a miscarriage a month and a half ago, and my sister had one last September. With both of these miscarriages, I’ve realized how insensitive some people are. The hardest thing for me to deal with was (and is) that some people don’t really think of my baby as a child because I lost her so early (7 weeks).

  38. the one thing that was said to me that was the most hurtful when I miscarried at 5 weeks: “did you know you were pregnant?” I don’t know why that statement bothered me so much, but it made me really angry.

  39. I have to agree and disagree with this list – I think it’s a good guideline for people in general, but I know personally I talked about a number of the things on the “don’t” list with another woman after my miscarriages and came away comforted. The thing was, she miscarried just a few weeks after I did, so she was also speaking out of her own pain, and they weren’t just platitudes. And I find the thought of my dearly departed grandfather caring for my babies until I can get there to be one of the biggest comforts. But I think it’s a matter of who says it and how it’s said.

    The couple of comments that mention the father are right on. I’d like to add, if it’s possible, care for the couple is also appropriate. The three years since our miscarriages have been the hardest of our marriage. It’s slowly getting better, but I can’t tell you how many fights and how much pain we’ve had to go through to try to work out the damage done by conflicts caused by differences in mourning.

    donielle Reply:

    @Cory, “But I think it’s a matter of who says it and how it’s said.” Perfectly said and I totally agree with you. there were a few things said to me by women who have had babies pass away during pregnancy that would have taken a different tone if said by someone else.

  40. How naive I was when I commented back on January 26th… even then, I knew this post was spot-on and needed but, oh, how much more I see it now. We learned yesterday that our 4th baby was gone… and there is no one in my family who has ever been through a miscarriage. I am at home, just waiting to lose this precious baby, and I feel like no one wants to talk to me or, more accurately, no one knows what to say/do. Thank you, truly, for writing this… it is, indeed, very needed.

    hippie4ever Reply:

    @JessieLeigh,

    JessieLeigh,

    I am so so very sorry for your loss.

  41. I think this post is so helpful. I wish it had been among the first ones to come up on google when I looked for what not to say/what to say when a loved one is grieving a miscarriage.

    I happen to read your blog and had read this when you had originally posted it. My sister miscarried her baby of 7 weeks today. While I stummbled to find the right thing to say when speaking to my mother (before I was able to get in contact with my sister), I went back and read your post, then immediately sent it to my family members.

    As the mother of an 8 month old that has never previously lost a child, I sympathize greatly for my sister and her family as well as anyone else at has lost a child. There is something about feeling horrible for someone else that turns me into a bumbling idiot. I would have said SO MANY of the things not to say!

    Thank you for your help.

    donielle Reply:

    @Lyndsey, I’m so glad it was helpful to you and your family. Sending much love and many prayers for your sister.

  42. I also wanted to add something to your point that it should not be said that the baby is “in a better place,” not only because after losing a child you feel You want the child with you now, but some people are not followers of that particular belief. My sister, who I spoke of earlier, miscarried today. One of her co-workers offered the condolence that her baby is in a better place, with God. My sister is non-religious and does not beleive this to be true. Needless to say, this comment was offensive in more than one way.

  43. Do you have any suggestions for what to do/say to someone who lost a baby at 23 weeks, and is just trying to pretend it didn’t happen and go on with life? I was shocked speechless when she told me that they didn’t want to see their baby or know whether the baby was a boy or girl, because they feel it will be easier to forget the whole thing happened and have another baby.
    I have lost two babies, both in the first trimester, and it totally rocked my world. I can’t imagine that someone *really* can just forget the whole thing happened…

    donielle Reply:

    @Sonja, That’s so hard when someone grieves so differently than you do. I guess the only thing you can do is to follow her lead. Denial is a normal stage of grief, and many times they’ll feel the weight of their loss later. So just be ready for her then and for now, just let her know you’re there if she needs you.

  44. Patricia says:

    After my miscarriage a little girl in my church would often say to me, “Sister Patricia, you lost your baby” in such a condescending tone, kind of like she was saying “Shame on you!” I knew she was only a child and didn’t know any better, but every time I went to church there she would be reminding me when I was trying so hard to hold it together and heal. I really wish her mother had not just told her about it but had also explained how to be sensitive to someone who is grieving. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the way she said that to me and to continued to say that years after.

    donielle Reply:

    @Patricia, Patricia, I’m so sorry for your loss. And that you had to endure someone who was less than sensitive, no matter her age.

  45. This is a great post ,thank you for this

  46. As someone who just had a third miscarriage, this is such a great post. I HATE when people say, “at least you have your son”. Yes, he is a huge blessing, but having him does not make me miss my 3 babies I’ve lost any less… or take away my desire to grow our family. I had a friend (who doesn’t have any children) say, “well, maybe this was meant to be so that you had more time between babies so that you could have the natural childbirth you wanted”. I found that hugely insensitive. I would have gladly given up any birthplan to just have my baby!

    Wish this list could be available at hospitals/churches/etc to help people know what to say!

    donielle Reply:

    @Annonymous, I’m so sorry for your loss, and sorry too that you’ve heard such insensitive comments. :-((

  47. Thank you for this post! I have heard too many of the “wrong” things since our daughter was born still this past July, but fortunately I have heard a lot of “right” things too. Most people say “I’m so sorry, I don’t know what to say” — and that has been the best thing to say, for me. That simple phrase lets me know that they are there for me, that they care about me, my family and our lost baby girl, but is honest enough to not try and fumble for words that might actually end up hurting.

    donielle Reply:

    @Heather O., Oh heather, I’m so very sorry for the loss of your little girl! Praying for you and your family.

  48. Thank you for this post. We lost our daughter two months ago and the pain is still fresh. Dealing with how other people react to the news is just additional stress that one doesn’t need while dealing with the grieving process.

Trackbacks

  1. […] I urge you to read Donielle’s post titled “What You Should (and Shouldn’t) Say to Someone Who Has Lost a Baby.”  I couldn’t agree with her more. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

  2. […] What You Should (and Shouldn’t) Say to Someone Who Has Lost a Baby ~ It’s so hard to know what to say or do! // […]

  3. […] post on Naturally Knocked Up on What You Should (and Shouldn’t Say to Someone Who Has Lost A Baby, was so timeous as I sobbed my way through a memorial service last week for the lost child of […]

  4. […] What You Should and Shouldn’t Say to Someone Who Has Lost a Baby (via Naturally Knocked Up) […]

  5. […] What You Should (and Shouldn’t) Say to Someone Who Has Lost a Baby – The list of things not to say is rather long and, in all reality, not a one size fits all list. Each woman deals with the loss of her baby through miscarriage in different ways. The biggest help you can be to a friend who recently had a miscarriage is to just be there. You don’t need to share any words or encouragement. Just let your friend know you’re praying and available if she needs anything. […]

  6. […] drafting most of this post, I saw a link my sister posted on Facebook.  This article is very informative.  If you know anyone who has gone through a miscarriage or fertility issues, […]

  7. […] what that pain is like. Two posts that really encouraged me after my miscarriage are these two: What you Should (and Shouldn’t) Say and […]

  8. […] loss, I wanted to call attention to an important point.  I posted a link to the article “What you Should and Shouldn’t Say to Someone who has Lost a Baby.”  As I was scrolling through the comments on that post, one in particular jumped out at me. […]

  9. […] If you’re not one of these parents, and you don’t know what to say to us, that’s OK. We were like you before our own loss. I came across a posting yesterday that brilliantly summarized what to say, and what not to say to those of us who have lost a child. Please have  read here. […]

  10. […] uncertain whether it would be appropriate. Then, I stumbled upon this beautifully written post, What You Should (and Shouldn’t) Say to Someone Who has  Lost a Baby, where Donielle did just that on her blog, Naturally Knocked Up. Donielle, with the help of her […]