Friends & Family

The charity is asked on a regular basis about what should or should not be said to someone who has suffered baby loss. To help give some clarity and guidance, we have used an article written by Zoe Clark-Coates, CEO and Founder of the charity.

‘What to not say and What to say’

I have been requested so many times to write a piece on ‘what not to say’ to a parent who has lost a baby….and whilst some of my advice is only applicable to those who have lost a child, a lot would apply to anyone in mourning.

Baby loss is now being talked about more openly, as it should be, with around 258,000 babies lost each year in the UK, this is not a rare occurrence. Celebrities who may have once hidden their sad news, are now telling the world about their tragic loss….and I do think this helps the general population, as the more people that open up about baby loss, the more this taboo subject gets exposed.

But with this new found openness, comes a need for the general population to know what to say, or maybe more importantly, what not to say to someone who has just lost a baby.

Now some may wonder why advice needs to be given at all…I mean surely we can all pull out some compassion at a moment’s notice and say the perfect thing Right? Wrong! Weekly I hear from people who have had jaw dropping things said to them, and these remarks hurt, they cause more pain…here are a few of the shockingly insensitive things that have been said to people.

‘Well you have four children don’t you? And as one in four babies die, one of your children was always going to pass away.’

‘Maybe your baby was going to go off the rails when they were older, and this was Gods way of saving them from that.’

‘Why are you so upset about your baby dying, is it because you had IVF so have lost a lot of money?’

Now whilst most people would not even think things like this, let alone utter them….many people can struggle to find the right words, and I hope this simple advice helps.

Don’t say:

‘Call me if you need anything.’

When a person is in the depths of grief, its often hard to think, hard to breathe, hard to communicate…They are just trying to survive the next hour, so asking them to think ahead brings them even more worry. Also most people (yes me included) find it so hard to ask for help, even if it has been offered.

Good thing to say?

‘Is it ok with you if I bring you a cooked meal around each day, which you can warm up when you feel ready to eat…I will leave it on your doorstep, or hand it over at the door, as I know you may want space at the moment.’

So the tip is be practical, offer specific help (that you know you can and will happily follow through on). If they have other children, maybe you could offer to take them to school or collect them each day? Anything that relieves pressure on the person / couple is wonderful.

Don’t say:

‘Even though you have lost your baby, its good you now know you can actually have children, as so many people can’t conceive.’

Firstly no one knows whether they can conceive again following loss – it’s one of those things totally out of our control. Secondly when you have lost a baby or child, you aren’t wanting another child, you want the baby you just lost. It always amazes me that people think this is an ok thing to say to a bereaved parent, most people would never think to say to a widow, ‘at least you know you can find another husband’.

Good thing to say?

‘I am so sorry for the loss of your baby, I know your heart is breaking right now. I am here night or day if you want to talk. I may not always know what to say, as I am aware nothing I say right now will remove even an ounce of your pain, but I will always listen and always care.’

Show love, show care and avoid clichés.

Don’t say:

‘At least you can do / feel / have xyz’ (i.e. at least you lost early on in pregnancy, at least you got to hold your baby, at least you have other children.)

There are NO at least’s when it comes to losing a baby or loved one. Human nature often makes us want to look for the positives and this is a great trait many of us have mastered….however when it comes to death and grief the only person who should be making ‘at least’ statements is the person who is bereaved.

Good thing to say?

‘Tell me your story, tell me how you feel’

Grief and trauma is a surprisingly complex emotion to unravel. Often people’s brains can’t even get to grips with the loss, and gravity of a situation. The best way for people to process the pain is to talk about their experience when THEY FEEL READY to. So try to keep the lines of communication open so if / when a person is ready to open up, you are a safe set of ears.

Don’t say:

All your life’s issues and stresses.  The last thing someone in mourning needs to hear is how life is tough for you at the moment (i.e. complaints about a problem neighbour, or lack of sleep due to a baby keeping you up). Remember they are on an emotional roller-coaster and often have no reserves to offer others support.

Good thing to say?

Feel free to share nice news (of course being sensitive to the subject matter, saying about someone else being pregnant is probably best saved for a future date). Fill them in on your life news etc. I know when I was mourning I loved hearing others news, it gave me moments of respite from the agony I was processing. It was so lovely to not need to think and just listen.

Don’t say:

‘I hear loss is so common.’

Yes loss is sadly common with around 1 in 4 pregnancies ending in miscarriage, but when you are that one in four parent it doesn’t help to hear this said to you. People often feel alone, scared and out of control, and when words such as this are said it can make people feel like they should have almost expected it, like their loss is being disregarded.

Good thing to say?

‘I am so sorry for your loss, nothing can prepare you for the bottom falling from your world’.

Saying something as simple as this says, I get it, I understand the magnitude of your situation and I won’t try and minimise it. You may also like to suggest the Mariposa Trust (sayinggoodbye.org) to people…this charity’s support reaches around 50,000 people each week and they are there for anyone who suffers the loss of a baby in pregnancy, at birth or in early years – offering a vital resource to someone in their hour of need, can be a massive lifeline.

(c) Copyright to Zoe Clark-Coates

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