How can you care for carrying to term families as they grieve the loss of a baby, experience primary and secondary losses, and live while remembering a lost baby or babies?
It can be difficult for family, friends, and other supporters of bereaved parents to know how best to support them in grieving a baby loss. The carrying to term journey is complex, filled with devastating primary and secondary losses. It can be overwhelming for supporters to contemplate.
It is not your job to lessen the experience of grieving a baby loss. No one expects you to fully understand that which you have not experienced for yourself. But you can learn meaningful ways to support these parents by understanding how critical remembering a lost baby can be for them.
Think about it in the context of parenting living children. Parents want to see their children somehow leave their mark on this world. It does not have to be big or revolutionary. They do not need to see their child grow up to cure cancer or be president. Parents simply want to watch their children engage with the world with kindness or courage.
It is not that different for the parents grieving the loss of a baby or babies. They want to know that their baby or babies live on somehow. Beyond infant loss keepsakes, they want to know their baby or babies have a legacy — something that suggests they were here, they mattered, and they continue to affect people beyond just their parents.
You can give bereaved parents the gift of remembering a lost baby or babies, and continuing to remember through the years and experiences of life’s journey.
What does remembering a lost baby look like?
You can support parents grieving a baby loss by continuing to remember that loss over the long haul. It can simply mean checking in at key times to let parents know you remember. It looks like:
- Sending a text on a morning four months after the loss to let parents know they were on your mind.
- Reaching out when something reminds you of their baby or babies.
- Making sure to support these parents on every holiday.
- Using the full name or names when talking about their baby or babies.
- Remembering to send a text, make a call, or mail a card on the anniversary of the baby or babies’ birth and death.
When you take these actions, you are showing parents your acknowledgement of the fact that while they do not have a baby to hold, they are still parents. You are making space for them as parents who might want to:
- Share the story of their baby’s birth and life year after year.
- Speak about their baby without fear of being judged or “stuck in their grief”
- Keep, treasure, and share infant loss keepsakes
- Be recognized as no different than any other parent who shares about their children with love and pride.
Finding the motivation to remember
Support network, take heart. Remembering a lost baby can seem to you like a daunting and heavy responsibility. It is okay to feel that way, but I encourage you to ask yourself two questions.
- “How much impact does my remembering have on the parents?”
- “How much does it really cost me to remember?”
To answer the first question simply, your consistent remembering has tremendous impact. Think of how good it feels when someone remembers your birthday. Now, imagine how a parent might feel when someone remembers the birthday of the baby they lost.
While it costs little time or effort on your part to support bereaved parents by remembering a lost baby or babies, the impact on them is priceless. It says to the parents that the little life they love more than anything had importance. Importance that stretches beyond diagnosis, pregnancy, and the weeks and months following death. Importance that lasts a lifetime.
Please know that no one expects you to be perfect. Grief is messy. Supporting someone who is grieving is messy. No one expects you to commit important dates to memory. That is the beauty of a calendar alert on your phone.
The purposeful action of setting such a reminder, and acting upon it time and again, communicates to bereaved parents your desire to remember and honor the baby or babies. This is beautiful support.
“Simply put, always err on the side of remembering and reaching out over staying silent.”
Worries about the impact of remembering
If you make a point to remember, you may find yourself struggling with worry. As a supporter, you might wonder if sending a text or card out of the blue might make parents sad, or remind them of their baby at an inopportune time.
Rest assured that if that happens, the fact that you reached out will far outweigh their initial emotional reaction. Simply put, always err on the side of remembering and reaching out over staying silent.
You cannot control their response to you remembering. Trust the parents to tell you if your mode, method, or frequency of reaching out is too much for them. You can also get more guidance on communicating with bereaved parents.
If you are still worried about upsetting the parents you wish to support, ask them. Directly ask whether the ways you have been reaching out are okay for them. Let them know that you want to know what is helpful or hurtful. They will appreciate your caring approach.
The gift of remembering
As months and years go by, there is no greater support you could give parents grieving a baby loss than by honoring the life or lives that were.
Trust that while it might not feel like enough to you, the act of remembering a lost baby has a meaningful and positive impact on parents grieving such a loss.
When you remember and reach out, you are speaking life into their loss. You are honoring the parents’ desire that their baby or babies not be forgotten. Doing so is a priceless gift these parents will always remember.