When a baby dies it is devastating. It is an unexpected and heartbreaking tragedy. It is very possible that people might not know what to say and that makes sense.
They may wonder how could words ever be enough to take away the pain? What could one possibly say to remove the burden of losing a child?
The truth is that words will never take away the pain. The burden of losing a child is one to be carried forever. But that is not a reason to be silent.
A person living without their baby lives with enough silence.
They endure the shame and the stigma that silence brings, but they shouldn’t have to. Their support system can use words to help to fill the silence. It is a delicate task and mistakes will be made, but that is not a reason to stay silent.
When a baby dies, how do we start the conversation?
So often, people are worried about upsetting the person they are supporting, so they say nothing. When someone’s baby dies, they will never forget it. You are never reminding them when you speak up.
When you speak up with thoughtfulness and sensitivity, you are showing how much you care.
Because even if you’re uncomfortable and even if you aren’t sure what to say–you are willing to talk. It is a far better thing to be known for your willingness than your apathy.
Together, we can end the shameful silence of pregnancy and infant loss when we find the words and start the conversation.
I’m so sorry that your baby died.
Skip the euphemisms. It’s okay to say died. So often, we try to gloss over what happened by saying the baby was “born sleeping” or they were “lost.” The truth is, the baby died and you’re sorry. It’s okay to say just that.
What did you name your baby?
If you’ve ever named a child or a pet or even a car, you know the joy and passion that goes into choosing a name. Now imagine that you’ve picked that name and you rarely get to hear it. This is what it’s like for the person whose baby has died. Ask about the baby’s name and then say the baby’s name. If there isn’t a proper name, then ask: What can I call them when I’m thinking about them?
How are you feeling today?
The emphasis is on the word today. After a baby dies, every moment is riddled with complex emotions. Overall, someone might feel “fine,” but inside they are so much more than fine. Keep checking in and keep asking.
You must miss them so much.
This one can be a bit controversial because it holds the hint of presumption. It is generally a good rule to avoid any statements that begin with “I know” or “You must.” Most of the time, you may have no idea what the person is going through and it not your job to assume. But, I guarantee a grieving parent is missing their child and it might give them comfort to have that acknowledged.
What are you needing today?
Again the emphasis is on the word today. They may say they don’t know or they may be very specific. Whatever they say, check back and keep checking back. Check in on holidays and special occasions and any day in between. A grieving parent is missing their child every single day.
These aren’t the only words that should be said.
Do not think that you can say one of these phrases and your job is done. These are simply conversation starters. It is time begin a dialogue and make sure people are listening.
These are the words to help us break through the silence and truly begin talking about the heartache of pregnancy and infant loss.
No words can change the fact that babies die, but words just might have the power to prevent some of these deaths from happening. If we continue to hide issues like miscarriage and stillbirth, no one will pay attention. If no one pays attention, then babies will continue to die at devastating rates.
Our words have the power to make change and most importantly, the power to demonstrate compassion.
Together, let’s find the words.
Let’s have the conversation.
Let’s end the silence.