Pregnancy and baby loss is often a taboo subject. When a friend loses a baby it is hard to know what to say or how to show your support.
This article was written by Dawn Tait for Baby Loss Awareness Week in 2018. Dawn is Mother to Roseanne who was still born in 2016. She can be contacted through Teardrop Support Group and runs specialist Mother Nurture Yoga classes through Teardrop.
Ten Ways To Support a Friend Who Has Lost Their Baby
- Say Their Baby’s Name.
It is music to any bereaved parents’ ears. We won’t hear or see it often.
- Send a Card
Send a card. You could make your own, or Hallmark do make cards for this occasion. I didn’t even realise this until we received them. Google some things to say if you struggle to find the words, but “I’m sorry, sending my love” in a simple card really is enough. Other companies are starting to recognise and be more inclusive of babyloss. The Mother Box do a “loss box” postnatal gift package for mums following a miscarriage, stillbirth, or neonatal loss.
- Offer Practical Help.
In the days weeks and months following their bereavement cooking, shopping and housework could often be at the bottom of the to do list. I know a couple who had a group of friends create a rota and each night for a month a food parcel would arrive on their doorstep; no knock at the door so no pressure for small talk if they couldn’t face it. We had people walk the dog and drop off shopping.
Don’t worry if you don’t know what to say – just be there to listen. I told Roseanne’s story so many times over in the first weeks. There were lighter moments, we’d made memories in our short time together, and I was a proud new mummy. If they have photos ask to see them if they’re happy to share; they are unlikely to be as alarming as you might think they could be.
- Keep In Touch
My closest two friends messaged me every day for best part of a year, but many of those days it was only a couple of emojis. There’s no good answer to “how are you” so they wouldn’t ask that. If I wanted to talk I could strike up a real conversation in response. If I didn’t have the energy or words I didn’t have to reply. But they always checked in, were never put off by my silence, and were there waiting when I was ready.
- Thoughtful Gifts
Flowers are fine, but lots of people will send them and it can be a bit overwhelming. We had a number of rose bushes given to us with beautiful names and it’s been lovely to see them flower in the summers since; I don’t remember any of the flowers we were sent at the time. There are also books written by parents that have experienced loss. Ask Me His Name by Elle Wright, Saying Goodbye by Zoe Clark Coates and Life After Baby Loss by Nicola Gaskin are just some of the most recent ones. You could adopt an animal in their memory or name a star after their child. Initial or engraved jewellery, anything featuring feathers / stars / hearts could be a lovely option. Most people will have something that symbolises or reminds them of their child; for us it’s balloons and roses, my friend’s baby Alfie is remembered with elephants, and baby Frankie is remembered with stars. Take your inspiration from them.
We’ve had friends organise a sponsored walk, run endurance races, hold a remembrance ceremony, collected for charity in place of wedding presents. These types of things have been particularly helpful for those that find it difficult to talk about Roseanne and prefer to do things to show that they care.
- Remember Anniversaries
Remember their child on special days or special occasions. Birthdays and Christmas are obvious days, and lighting a candle and sending a picture or a simple message saying “thinking of you and ….” can help somebody through a hard day. Any family or social event can be difficult as they’re child will be missing. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture; we have been handed a balloon upon leaving a christening and were told “that’s for Roseanne”. Another friend named a cupcake recipe after Roseanne for a coffee morning she knew I’d be attending.
- Still a Mother. Still a Father.
Recognise us as parents. We parent very differently to most, but we do have a child and we do parent our daughter the best we can. It means so much to us when people remember us on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. I’m proud to wear the fmly store “Mother” jumper my friend bought for me.
- Trust Us, It’s Complicated
Other people’s pregnancies and babies might trigger us to feel intense sadness and anxiety but it is not because we’re not happy for you; it is simply a reminder of our loss. We may run a mile from newborns and politely shrug off invitations to baby showers. Or, we might love indulging in snuggles with new borns and feel all excited at the sight of a bump; it does not mean we’re manically deranged and in some sort of denial. It’s complicated.
Grief never ends because it is just love with nowhere to go. There is no time limit, “getting over it” or “all better” or “fixed”. But that doesn’t mean we will never be happy again. In fact, there were light moments and laughter even in the darkest of times, just as there there can be bitter sweet moments. Take your cue from your friends and try to understand that we’re still figuring it out too, and we appreciate everything you do.