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Enquiries: 1300 11 BEAR
Email: contact@bearsofhope.org.au

Grief Support: 1300 11 HOPE
Email: support@bearsofhope.org.au

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Early Support

Be There

When a family member or friend suffers the loss of their much loved baby, you may not always know what to do. You may be feeling helpless and powerless and quite distressed yourself. Grieving parents find comfort in knowing that others are thinking of them, are there for them and that their baby is in the hearts of their family and friends too.

To let grieving parents know you are there extends deeper than you know. A simple “I’m so sorry for your loss of ……..Just know that I care and am here if you ever need” through a card, a phone call, an email or a visit is comforting when they maybe feeling really alone.

Know that some parents find it very difficult to call or ask for help during their grieving. To get out of bed, let alone pick up a phone, may be a huge task in itself. Please do keep in contact, and rather than ask if they want help, suggest ways in which you can help. For example,

"I'll come over tomorrow and do your washing for you"
"Can I get you something from the shops today"
"Do you want to go for a walk together?"
"I'll cook dinner for your family tonight"

Bereaved parents may withdraw from friends and family on and off, especially from those who may be pregnant or have a newborn baby. This is not personal but purely a reaction to their loss and how they need to cope during this time. Please be patient and reassure them that you are still there.

Please don’t ignore parents because you don’t know how to initiate or hold a conversation with someone who is grieving. Acknowledgement of their loss is important to them and not making any form of contact or recognition of their loss comes across as not caring or that you have abandoned them.

Initiating a Conversation

You may be feeling quite anxious or scared about initiating the first few conversations with your friend since their loss. It is understandable but please take the time to think about what you would like to say and how you may respond. You cannot make a parent feel any worse than what they already do unless you use clichés which don’t help at all. Here are a few phrases you might like to use.

“I am so sorry for the loss of ……..…. Is it a good time to call?”
“I am so sorry for your loss of your baby. I just don’t know what to say or do but know that I care about you and am thinking of you”
“It just breaks my heart to hear you lost your baby. How can I help you through this?”
“How are you really feeling today?”
“When you are ready, I would like to hear more about your baby”
“How did this happen?”
“Can I come over and help you with……... today” (sometimes it’s better to be specific with help rather than to just ask if they would like help)

Avoid Clichés & Unhelpful Comments Remember that they loved and wanted THIS baby

“Everything happens for a reason”
“You will have another baby”
“I know what you’re going through (unless you have experienced a similar loss)
“I guess it’s God’s way of taking care of those with problems”
“You would rather have lost your baby then look after a child with a disability”
“Sometimes these things happen for the best”
“It wasn’t meant to be”
"You're young, you'll get over it"
"At least you weren't farther along."
"This was probably a blessing in disguise."
"Now you have an angel in heaven."
"It was God's will"
"At least you have other children"
“At least you can get pregnant”
“The baby would have been deformed anyway”
“Everything will be fine next time”
“You can try again”

Also, don’t fill in conversations with unnecessary outside news, including the announcement of a pregnancy or the birth of another baby.

Listen without Judgement

Parents may need to revisit the death of their baby over and over again, especially mothers. Their baby and their pain are in the forefront of their mind and heart. Too often parents, who especially experience a miscarriage, are expected to “get over it”. The lack of understanding and respect for babies lost through miscarriage, still exists through misconceptions and ignorance of today’s society. Parents need to feel they can speak freely of their precious baby without being judged of their thoughts, feelings or of the gestational age of their baby. A parent’s love for their baby cannot be measured by how far along in their pregnancy they were. Their feelings and behaviours may not always seem rational to you but know that this is very real for them.

Try to avoid giving advice or saying anything that minimizes their loss. They need to process their grief and this may be through inconceivable sorrow, anger, guilt or even through questioning their own faith. The stronger the attachment with their baby, the deeper the pain will be felt and expressed. Know that these emotions are very normal for parents to experience. Acknowledge their feelings, listen and provide a trusting, open and caring environment for this to happen. Allow for moments of silence and reflection. Sometimes though, when given the opportunity to talk freely of their feelings, parents may not for fear of embarrassment or being hurt. Just reassure them that you care and are willing to listen. Friends who are good listeners provide an environment for healing to progress.

Speak of their Baby’s Name

Parents need to hear their baby’s name spoken. The acknowledgement that their baby existed, not just died, is very important, and using their baby’s name is like music to their ears. It is actually healing to hear their baby’s name spoken. Avoid calling the baby a “foetus” or “it” as this can be quite distressful.

Offer Practical Help

There are many ways you can offer practical support, especially in the early weeks when feelings of shock and grief are so acute.

Funeral Service

You may like to offer running errands, keep their house tidy, transportation, typing/printing service leaflet, pick up of balloons, taking and making phone calls, submitting funeral service details in newspaper, handing out service leaflets, taking photo’s or video of the service, holding or helping with the wake.

Regular Help

House cleaning, cooked meals every week, keeping the yard tidy, taking the kids here and there, feeding and exercising the pet, picking up some groceries, going for walks with your friend/getting them out into the fresh air. Do not offer to pack their baby’s things away. Parent’s will do this and need to do this as a part of saying goodbye.

He Lost His Baby Too

Dad’s are grieving the loss of their baby too. Father’s can often be overlooked as they are appear to be “strong” and “doing well”. It is a known fact that every body reacts to loss differently, however there is a noticeable difference between men and women. The father’s tend to take on the strong stance to further protect his partner from suffering. They usually are the ones to fill in the paperwork, take and make important phone calls, screen visits, and become more active sooner than women. Their need to get on with things does not reflect a lack of emotion; rather it is their way of coping. It’s important to ask father’s how they are feeling too, to include them in on conversations, give them a hug, and let them know you are also there for him. Your friend will let you know if he’s not up to talking about their baby, or you can simply just ask.

Understand Emotions Change

Grief entails many emotions. To make an analogy, grief rolls in as a mammoth tidal wave when parents find out their baby has died. It is only as parents accept and progress through their grief, does that tidal wave begin to break down into waves. Over time, the distance between those waves become longer and parents begin to get through some days better then others. Underneath however, is a current that can be changed very quickly and a large wave can just break out of no-where. When parents appear to be having a “good” day, this doesn’t mean their grief is over. On the other hand, if they have a really bad day, it doesn’t mean that your friend needs psychological help either. Parents need time and both parents will grieve differently from each other. Their lives have been completely shattered so it’s unnecessary to expect them to cope with this. Grieving and healing requires a lot of strength, patience and understanding from friends and family.

Other Babies & Pregnancies

Please understand that for many bereaved parents, they are not capable of seeing or being around pregnant women and babies for some time. It’s extremely painful to face and a clear reminder of what they don’t have. Parents may distance themselves from these friends or family members until they feel they are “ready” to do so. Please don’t take it personally if they don’t go to a baby shower for someone close to them, a celebration, or even to visit a family member/friend who has just had a baby themselves. Bereaved parents need to put themselves first during this time. It can be difficult for some friendships, but if you can keep the door open and know that these parents need to take the time to work through their grief, it will be of benefit to all. Please also know that some parents don’t want to hear about the birth of another baby or pregnancies of other happy and joyful couples.

Gifts

Many parents find comfort in receiving gifts and looking for keepsakes to have at home, to be surrounded by tangible belongings and reminders of their baby. Some things you might like to give as a gift initially or down the track (where appropriate) are

  • Memory box, a baby blanket you had already made or bought, a piece of jewellery, angel ornaments, picture frame,
  • A Sympathy card
  • A “congratulations on the birth of your baby” card, where appropriate
  • A Recognition of Life Certificate from Bears Of Hope for parents who experienced the loss of their baby before 20 weeks gestation
  • A Bear Of Hope or Monetary donation in honour of their baby to Bears Of Hope or other charity to support another family.
  • A plant or tree significant to their baby’s birthday or name e.g Angel Face Rose, Jasmine Tree, their baby’s Birthday Flower
  • Create an online fundraiser in honour of your friend's baby
  • Inspirational poetry or a poem you have written
  • Books to offer comfort and healing
  • Drawings your children may have done of their ~angel~
  • A personalized candle
  • A personalized bauble or a special ornament for their Christmas tree (each year)

Support Groups and Services

If you feel your friends or even yourself may benefit from further support, or you would like to let them know what is available please refer to our Bears Of Hope Services and other Australia-wide Services.

Ongoing Support