Dealing with others as you grieve
It's really hard to think about dealing with family and friends when you're grieving. You may wish people would go away and leave you alone. But your baby's death affects your family and friends, too. They love you and want to help, but they may be afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. They may feel helpless because they're not sure how to comfort and support you. Here are some ways to deal with others while you're grieving:
- Tell them that their calls and visits are important to you.
- Let them know if it's OK for them to ask questions about what happened.
- Tell them you want their support, even if they don't know the perfect thing to say. Hearing honest words like, "I just don’t know what to say to make it better," or "I want to help you but I don't know how," can be comforting. Sometimes people may say things that are not helpful to you like, "It was for the best." Or "You can always have another baby." Try to remember that they are doing their best to support you, even if what they say is hurtful.
- Tell them exactly what you need. Do you just want someone to listen? Do you want them to spend time with you at home? Do you need someone to bring you a meal or do your laundry? Try and tell them specific things they can do to show their support. For example, they could take your children for an afternoon or do your grocery shopping.
- Ask them to use your baby's name and to remember your baby. Let them know that, even if you get pregnant again and have other children, you won't forget the baby who died.
- Thank them for their patience and support.
Grief takes time. Some people may expect you to limit your grief or get over it in a certain amount of time. Take as much time as you need to cope with your loss. Even though you may feel better with time, you won't forget your baby.
As time goes by, support from your family and friends may lessen. This doesn't mean they've forgotten about your baby or that they don't care. You may need to tell them that you are still grieving. They will support you as long as they know you need it.
Children of all ages grieve. They may be afraid, act out or need special attention. Some children may think that they're going to die, too, or that they are to blame. They can cope better with grief when they know what's happening. Here are some ways you can help them understand the baby's death:
- Talk with them about death using simple, honest words. You can say things like, "The baby didn't grow," or "The baby was born very tiny." Don't use words that may confuse or scare them, such as "The baby is sleeping," or "Mommy lost the baby."
Read them stories that talk about death and loss. Your funeral home, library or school may have children’s books that may help them understand death.
- Encourage them to ask questions. Give as much information as your child needs.
- Be aware of changes in your children's behavior. They may be hurt, confused and angry, just like you. Younger children may be clingy or cranky. They may act in ways or do things that they haven't done since they were younger. Older children may be worried about school, friends or sports. Or they may show no reaction at all to the baby's death. They also may ask questions that you think are rude or uncaring. These are normal reactions. Be as patient and loving as you can.
- Tell them they are not going to die.
- Tell them that no one is to blame for the baby's death.
- Ask them to find their own ways to remember the baby. Older children may want to go to the memorial service or funeral. Younger children can draw a picture or make a keepsake for the baby.
- Ask a counselor to meet with you and your children to help all of you understand your feelings.
- Tell your children's teachers and other caregivers what has happened so they can support your children, too.
Order our resources for grieving families, including the booklet From Hurt to Healing.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you know if you’re clinically depressed?
Some grieving parents may show signs of depression. This is a medical condition in which a person has strong feelings of sadness that last for a long time. If you’re depressed, you may need special treatment from a health care provider.
Some signs that you may be depressed include:
- Having little interest in usual activities or hobbies
- Feeling tired all the time
- Gaining or losing weight
- Having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Having trouble concentrating or making decisions
- Thinking about suicide or death
If you think you may have depression, talk to your health care provider. Your provider can help treat your depression.
How long does grief last?
There’s no right amount of time to grieve. It takes as long as it takes. You may feel better in a few weeks or months. Or it may take longer. If you feel like your grief is lasting longer than it should, talk to your health care provider.