Friends and family
You may never know the value of the support you give, but don’t let that stop you from offering it
We often get contacted by friends and families of those who have suffered the devastating death of a baby and are wondering what support they can offer. People may feel scared to bring up the death of a baby and worried that they will upset their grieving loved ones. This year, Baby Loss Awareness Week is an opportunity to help banish the taboo and empower people to provide support to those affected by a child bereavement.
We have asked some of the bereaved families we work closely with to share examples of something that someone said or did that helped them in the weeks, months and years after their baby died. A collection of these quotes are listed below.
This is not meant to be a ‘to do’ list for supporting bereaved families, as everyone is different. We hope that sharing this list gives an indication of how important the support offered by friends and families can be and how it can be remembered for many years to come.
“Always mention the child's name. If you knew the child, talk about any memories you may have. Of course tears will be shed - but that is natural and nothing to be worried about. In fact it might be a temporary release and bring some relief to the bereaved.”
“Ask how the person feels THAT day. Grief comes in waves and every day is different.”
“Ask them if they want to talk...and be prepared to hear the same details again and again as this is a way of processing what happened.“
“Acknowledge and accept ALL feelings...that it is OK for the grieving person to cry in front of you, to get angry or to break down.“
“If you genuinely do not know what to say, don't hide how you feel...for example say, ‘I'm not sure what to say, but I want you to know I care’.”
“One male friend said he didn't know what to say other than that he loved us. This may not sound like very much but to us, it meant a lot.”
“Offer any practical help – ‘Tell me what I can do for you’ - perhaps offering to help with other children, shopping, chores - all of which can seem too much for a while.”
“I had some brilliant friends who contacted Mum and my sisters and between them, they made sure I was never on my own. They all made themselves available for me anytime I needed.”
“If you have gone through a similar experience, share it if you think it would help.”
“A girl I didn’t know very well started emailing me. Her sister had lost her baby to SIDS and she would email me, ask me questions and tell me about her sister’s experiences. It was very unintrusive and I found it hugely helpful and supportive. She emailed regularly and I didn’t have to respond; I could read it if and when I was ready and she reached out so often I could feel her love and care for me.”
“My close family and friends didn't go quiet after a few months, as so many people do thinking that we needed time to grieve, but they went with their instincts and I had a phone call every day from one of them.”
“My sister came and stayed with me. Her children were a great joy to me – the spark in their eyes. She was around and just listened. She took me away, shopping, anything that took my mind off what was happening and didn’t judge me or try to make me stop crying when I cried.”
“Grief causes many emotions: anger, hatred, sadness, blame, guilt... My biggest problem was blame/guilt. I blamed myself and everyone around me, until the day in courtjudge looked at me and said ‘This was not your fault. You could not have done anything more for your son than you did. Lose the blame, lose the guilt and make a difference to others’. Those words echo in my ears still to this day. Do not be afraid to say ‘it simply wasn't your fault’."
"One thing that helped me was having my family and close friends giving me time with their child/baby (which was either related or family by choice) it helped reassure me that I was not at fault and still loved and trusted."
"The morning my son died my Mum was heading to London for the Girl Guides Thinking Day Service. At the time she didn’t have a mobile phone but her travelling companion did. My Dad managed to get a message to her via that route. They duly arrived at Kings Cross, explained to the train company what had happened and this where you realise how kind strangers can be. She was shown to the First Class section of a train back to where we live in Yorkshire, she was shown to a seat away from others so she could be alone with her thoughts and she was kept refreshed with drinks. She was not charged for the train journey. I don’t know who any of the people were that showed such compassion that day but I really do take comfort and am thankful for the fact that they made what must have been a horrendous journey for my Mum, on her own, so much easier."