How to support friends or family after baby loss

Woman supporting friend

by Emily Gilbert |
Updated on

However it happens, losing a baby is one of the most devastating and traumatic events someone can go through. Your whole world suddenly changes in a split second. If you are a friend or family member of someone who has experienced baby loss and you have not experienced it for yourself, it can be hard to know what to do or say. You want to get it right, but what if you get it wrong?

Emiliana Hall, founder of The Mindful Birth Group® and birth and postnatal doula, shares a guide on how to approach caring for your loved one during this time.


This may surprise you, but you do not need to say a lot to someone who has experienced baby loss. Just be with them and be guided by them. If they want to talk, simply listen. Don’t feel as though you need to respond to what they are saying and fix anything or make them feel better. Being able to talk and be listened to can be extremely therapeutic in itself. You can’t ‘make’ them feel better, and that is OK.

If they don’t want to talk, don’t take that personally or fret that they ‘should’ be talking more. Just keep giving them the opportunity to talk and if/when they are ready to, they will. Sometimes it can help to speak to someone you don't know so you may wish to share support resources outside of family and friends that they may find useful.

Partners need support too, and being there to listen to their own experiences and feelings is important as they may need somewhere safe to talk to. Often they feel that they need to ‘hold up the fort’ but that isn’t sustainable when they are also suffering from losing their baby too.

Acknowledging the baby

As time goes on, people can start to think that the baby is in the ‘past’, but for lots of parents, they never leave their minds. If you're supporting someone after stillbirth or miscarriage, it's important to acknowledge and ask the parents about how they are feeling about their baby. This can be much more comforting than ‘not’ talking about them.

Using their baby’s name if they named them and have shared it with you too. Giving parents the space to talk about their experience if they wish to and again, listening rather than trying to reply to everything they are saying unless they are asking you a question or for your thoughts.

Offer practical help

Giving the parents space to grieve and staying away can feel like the natural thing to do. However, taking them food, offering to walk the dog, playing with an older sibling or taking them to the park- anything that helps to lighten the load can be incredibly comforting. Imagine these gestures as a big invisible hug enveloping them.

Rather than saying ‘Can I do anything to help?’, be more specific and ask ‘would you like me to walk the dog today’ or ‘I’m making a batch of stew, I can drop some round for you later?’.

Losing a baby at any point can feel extremely lonely and so knowing people are there thinking of them and looking after them can be very comforting. If the parent has been through labour or birth of any kind, they will be needing to physically recover from this too. Think about how you can do things that will enable them to rest.

Be understanding

If you are pregnant or have children of your own, understand that parents who have lost a baby can often find it very tough to be around mums-to-be or little ones or to attend events such as baby showers, christenings or birthday parties. This doesn't mean you shouldn't extend the invitation but instead, gently acknowledge that you appreciate they may not wish to come.

Similarly, if you are personally struggling with parenting and could do with offloading, it's worth looking for support elsewhere as it's understandable they may resent your feelings at this time. That said, you should take the lead from the parent themself as some may take comfort in being surrounded by children.

What not to say

You should steer clear of anything that devalues their baby or how they are feeling. For example, “It wasn’t meant to be”, or “these things happen for a reason”. The pain of losing a baby is not something that should ever be brushed over.

Even if you are curious if the parents are going to try for another baby, this delicate subject matter should not be bought up unless the parents themselves do so in which case you should remember that another child won't be a replacement.

Remember the baby

For many of us, grief will always stay with us in some way or other and "moving on" is not a quick or straightforward process, nor is always even possible. In the future, it can be helpful to reach out to parents on certain dates such as birthdays, due dates, anniversaries, Baby Loss Awareness week and Mother's or Father's Day to let them know you are thinking about them. Again, this will be individual to every parent as to whether it is something they would personally want.

Be led by the parents and be there for them as they need you to be. It’s likely they will need you, in some way or another.

About the expert

Emiliana Hall is the founder of The Mindful Birth Group® and continues to teach Mindful Natal® courses and support families as a birth and postnatal doula and hypnobirthing expert. It's a topic she's been passionate about since 2014 since the birth of her first baby. Emiliana also has training in dealing with trauma around birth, baby loss. As well as having a passion about training and supporting families through their birth prep, she also became a surrogate for her close friends. She lives in Tring in Hertfordshire with her husband and two young children.

A journalist since 2015, Emily Gilbertis the Features & Reviews Editor for Mother&Baby and has written for the website and previously the magazine for seven years. Emily writes about everything from the top baby products to pregnancy, fertility and maternal mental health. Specialising in product reviews, Emily is the first to know about all the exciting new releases in the parenting industry.

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