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After your stillbirth

Supporting friends after a stillbirth

When your friends experience the loss of a baby, it's hard to know the right thing to say or do. What will be most helpful is to just listen when your friend needs to talk and to be there when they don't want to be alone.

There are no magic words to take away the pain a parent feels with this kind of the loss. Tell your friend that you are sorry for their loss, and ask what you can do to help or support them. They may not have an answer right away, but let them know you are there for them. Recognize what this baby meant to the parents. Call the baby by name if one has been given. Be as open, responsive, and available as possible.

Let the grieving parent guide you through their own experience of the loss. It can sometimes take time for parents to learn how to effectively cope with their ongoing grief. Give them time for this. There's no set time limit for grief.

Parents, children, and grandparents affected by the loss of a baby will move in and out of periods of significant grief. It will be different for each parent and they may each learn to cope in their own way. Some parents may go through a more feelings-based response, other parents will go into a thinking or doing response. Learn more about how we feel grief.

After this type of loss, your friends may take a long time before they're able to attend family gatherings, social events, and celebrations, especially if there are babies at these events. Grief can resurface around holidays and special events. The anniversary of the loss can be particularly difficult.

You may choose to show your support by helping your friends with the ways they choose to remember their baby such as:​

  • recognizing or participating in symbolic occasions like the due date and the day the baby was born
  • cards
  • holiday remembrances
  • keepsakes to help remember
You know your friends and may find other ways that are meaningful to help them through this journey.

What to say

  • "I am sorry."
  • "How can I help right now?"
  • "I want to listen to you, understand, and help in any way I can."
  • “Tell me about your baby.” (ask about things like the baby’s name, size, special features, and feelings during pregnancy)
  • "When is a good time to call or visit?"

What not to say

  • "You are lucky you have (or can have) other children."
  • "It was meant to be" or "It was part of life’s plan."
  • "It is better you didn’t have time to know the baby."
  • "You need to move on."
  • "Don’t cry" or "Don’t be sad."
  • "Call me if you need anything." (you’ll need to reach out to them)
  • "I’ll pray for you." (unless the family has asked you to pray for them)
  • Comments about God and angels

Other ways you may be able to help

It's important not to take over unless you've been asked to. Parents still need to have a sense that they have control. Ask them what would be helpful, and check with them about any specific wishes.

Things you might do to help include:​

  • Prepare meals or help with things around the home, or even organize a few people to help at different times in the weeks ahead.
  • Help with notifying others, if the ​parents ask you to.
  • Offer to drive parents to appointments.
  • Assist with funeral arrangements and attend the funeral or memorial service.
  • Help with ways to remember the baby. Write a poem or letter, or give a special keepsake to the family like an ornament, jewellery, art, or ceramics.
  • Offer to take care of any other children.

A very important way that you can help is by recognizing the signs of someone who may need professional support or crisis support. Look for these continued or significant signs:

  • sleep disturbances
  • changes in appetite or activity
  • thoughts of blame or guilt
  • talk of suicide
If you notice any of these, let your friend know that professional help is available. They can call Health Link at 811 to talk to a nurse about how they're feeling.​

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