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By Zaya Care
October is Infant Loss Awareness Month. Each year about “10-15% of women will experience a miscarriage, about 24,000 U.S. babies are stillborn each year, and over a thousand babies die each year in the U.S. of SIDS.” The grief that parents and their loved ones experience seems never ending and as if life will never be the same again. For many, carrying the memory of the baby who passed, can be very impactful and can help with moving forward after such a heartbreaking situation. But for the friends and family that are also affected, it can feel hard to understand how to navigate how to speak about the baby who passed. We’re here to walk you through how to support and care for your loved ones who lost a baby.
Allow The Parents To Process on Their Own Time
It’s too often that people try to rush the grieving process. Saying things like “hey, you’ll get over this” or “you won’t feel like this forever” is not always as helpful as you might think. Allow the person to be honest with you about what he/she is feeling. Maybe it’s anger or rage- or maybe its hopelessness or emptiness. Whatever the feeling is, allow him or her to process on their own time. This feeling is not something that will go away immediately. It could take years for someone to move forward after losing a baby, and by letting them feel the way they want to feel, it can help the process a little bit more.
Try Not To Assume
It’s only natural to want to cheer up someone sad, and especially in a time like this, you’ll want to offer some sort of hope for the parents. But the truth is that you really don’t know how they will feel in a few months or a few days. The best thing you can do is to be supportive and keep in contact with someone. Maybe it’s sending a text every few days, or ordering food for them once a week. Letting someone you know that you’re there for them during this time- is the true hope they need.
Be Gentle When Talking About Other Children
At first, you might find it respectful to not speak about other children, or bring your children when visiting their house. But eventually, time moves forward for everyone, and just like you- the parents will be around children again. This will likely be a very painful experience for the parents, and it’s understandable. For weeks, months, maybe even years to come, try to be gentle when talking about your experience with children (if you have them). You won’t have to completely avoid talking about children, but be aware that it isn’t every conversation that you have. This is likely something that the parents will have to work towards getting acclimated to again.
Let Their Memories Live On
Often times (unless the parent’s request), the parents will want to remember the happiness their baby brought them when they were here. Ask the parents if they want to have a yearly event where it’s dedicated to having the memory of their baby live on. This could look something like a dinner where everyone goes around and names the best memory they had with him/her. Or it could be something like sending a card to the family every year on the baby;s birthday. Whatever you choose, it’s best to ask the parents beforehand and make sure it’s something that they’re comfortable with. Your job is to be there for how they wish their baby to be remembered.
Reassure Them That They’re Still The Parents of the Baby They Lost
Just because they lost a baby, doesn’t mean that they aren’t the parents. Whether they had a miscarriage, stillbirth, or an infant loss- that will always be their baby. Reminding them this is something that they can hold on to forever.
Zaya Care is a virtual network of licensed nurse midwives, doulas, and lactation consultants with the mission to help moms feel physically and emotionally supported during their motherhood journey. Join here to message with a maternal & newborn expert and ask anything from milk supply to labor pain management for free. Statistics from March of Dimes.
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