Grieving a baby loss can make holidays challenging for carrying to term families. SAVE — Support, Acknowledge, Validate, and Embrace — is a simple model you can use to help.
The holidays are a time when many people struggle with emotions. We may think we are supposed to feel a certain way. If our actual emotions do not align with the way we think we should feel, we are likely to pile on extra sadness and stress over our failure to “strike a holiday mood.”
It makes sense that grieving parents might find the holidays to be overwhelming, exhausting, or grief-inducing, especially given the already overwhelming, exhausting, and grief-inducing experiences they are navigating.
Acknowledgment is the second caring concept in the SAVE model.
SAVE stands for Support, Acknowledge, Validate, and Embrace.
If you want to care for grieving parents in your life, showing your support is one way to start. Another concept is to let parents know you see them, and that you understand how this particular time might challenge them. This is known as acknowledgement.
Prepare Your Thoughts
The power to acknowledge someone else’s feelings begins when you understand and anticipate those feelings. Even for parents who seem to be doing well with a recent loss, or who suffered a loss further in the past, a new holiday season can seem to cause renewed grief. Do not be surprised if you notice a resurgence in grief over the holidays.
As the friends and family of grieving parents, acknowledging that a holiday might be hard for them is important. Your work towards understanding allows you to anticipate their feelings, hold space for their grief, and then offer support as parents navigate their grief.
Speak with Care
Internal acknowledgement will help you show real empathy to grieving parents, but verbal acknowledgement is also important. Speaking to grieving parents about their feelings makes them feel seen and understood.
It also gives them powerful permission to let go of their own holiday mood expectations. Your acknowledgement can help them feel permitted to embrace emotions as they come, experience their grief, and reach out to ask for help from people who love and support them.
Verbal acknowledgement is as easy as saying something like, “I know that this holiday season may be hard for you in light of all that you are experiencing or have experienced, and that is okay. I am here for you.” Even if they are not in need at that moment, grieving parents will feel relieved to know that you are willing to meet and accept them where they are.
Make It Your Own
Acknowledgement does not always have to be verbal, and it doesn’t need to be anything big. It can look like sending a text message to let grieving parents know you are remembering a baby with them. Small gestures of remembering can mean the world to parents. Ideas may include:
- Setting an extra place at the table or proposing a toast
- Lighting a candle, putting up a special decoration, or hanging a stocking
- Including the lost baby in family blessings or lists of things you are grateful for
- Buying or making a gift in honor of that child to donate, or to give to the parents
Acknowledgement can look however you think it should. Ultimately, it is the action of acknowledgement, not the method of acknowledgement, that matters and has an impact on parents coping with neonatal death.
In a season where family traditions and togetherness are highlighted, it is a tremendous gift to grieving parents to see that family and friends remember a child that is not there to participate in all that the holidays bring. Your acknowledgment shows the parents that though their grief may last a lifetime, their baby’s memory and legacy will, too.
Simply acknowledging grief or other feelings is a great way to care for families coping with a neonatal death or remembering a baby this holiday season. Acknowledge is the second concept in the SAVE model. Learn ways you can Support, Acknowledge, Validate, and Embrace grieving parents in our continuing 5-part series.