What Every Parent Whose Baby Has Died Wants You to Know

At First Candle one of the cornerstones of our work is providing bereavement support to families who have lost a baby to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related infant deaths as well as stillbirth.  We have a 24-hour grief-line, peer support counselors, online support groups and bereavement books and articles

We often have friends and family reach out to us to set up memorials in a baby’s name and also ask the inevitable questions: “How can I help?” and “What should I say?”

People rarely know what to say to a parent whose baby has died.  Honestly, there are no words for the unthinkable but here are a few things that grieving parents would like you to know:

  • “It’s OK to sit and cry with me but I don’t want to end up comforting you.”  It’s surprising how frequently a bereaved parent is the one who needs to console other people.
  • “Please don’t make ridiculous comments like ‘It’s God’s will.’ or ‘You’ll have more kids.’” Whether parents go on to have a rainbow baby (that’s the phrase used for a baby born after a death) or not they are not replacing the baby who has died.
  • “I want to talk about my baby and show you pictures.” Parents want to know that you will always remember their baby as well.  Even if it makes you uncomfortable use the babies name and ask to see pictures.
  • “I might not tell you I feel guilty but I do.”  Every parent who has lost a baby to SIDS, accidental suffocation or asphyxiation or still birth wonders what they could have done differently and/or what they did wrong.  Let them know they are great parents.
  • “Please think twice before saying something that might trigger me.” We all have days with our kids where they make us crazy but for a parent who has just lost a child, hearing what a rough day you’ve had managing your kids hurts.  We’d love to have a tough day with our baby and will never have that chance again.
  • “There’s no time limit on my grief so don’t be surprised if ‘I haven’t gotten over it’ after a year.” We hear a lot about the phases of grief, as if we can check off a box and move on but it doesn’t work that way.  It’s more of a two steps forward one step back situation.  While the pain eases, it will always be there.
  • “A quick text or note on special occasions is nice.” Going back to the point that parents like to know other people remember their baby, during the holidays, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day or the baby’s birthday or angelversary a simple “thinking of you” goes a long way.
Parents holding hands during bereavement support

For more grief support information click here.

First Candle is a 501 (c)(3) committed to ending Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and other sleep-related infant deaths while providing bereavement support services for families who have lost a baby.

Your donation will help support our Straight Talk for Infant Safe Sleep outreach work and our grief program.