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How you can help those who are grieving the loss of their child

Your best friend just called you sobbing because she lost her baby in her 10th week of pregnancy. You just got an email from your coworker, and at her 36-week checkup, she learned her baby no longer has a heartbeat. A friend you haven’t seen in a while, but who you follow on social media, just posted her 2 month old daughter passed away last night.

What do you say? What do you do?

There’s never going to be the perfect thing to say or do when you learn that someone you know has experienced pregnancy loss or infant death. But the worst thing you can do is stay silent. Here are some ideas on how you can make an impact on the life of a grieving family:

1.) If their baby was named, use their child’s name. It’s not a horrible reminder to those of us who have lost a child. It’s a beautiful memory.

2.) Don’t wait for the family to ask for help—take action. Many families are in shock after their loss. They might not know how to ask for help or want to be around others. Drop a meal on their front porch or send a care package.

3.) Remembering milestone dates is very meaningful. Send a note or even a text message on the due date, baby’s birthday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and/or holidays. Many people are afraid this will “remind” people of their loss. The reality is we never forget, and knowing others remember our child is comforting.

4.) Hold their hand. Give them a hug. And listen.

5.) Be mindful of saying things that could be hurtful to the family. Don’t say: It happened for a reason. You’ll get over it. Don’t be sad. The baby is in a better place. You can have another baby.

6.) Forever Footprints offers online fundraising pages. The pages allow friends and family to make donations in honor of the baby or babies and send words of support. Donations benefit the work Forever Footprints is doing to bring support, education and remembrance to those who have experienced the loss of their baby or babies. Click here to create a fundraising page.

7.) Grieving mothers often receive an outpouring of support during the first month. But as time goes on, that support fades. Any of the above items can be done not just following the loss, but in the months and even years that follow.

8.) Give the family resources on how they can seek help and support. For more information on how Forever Footprints can support a family, click here.

9.) Consider the siblings, father, grandparents, and other family during a loss. Everyone close to the baby or babies will be grieving. It’s important to check in on other members of the family and offer support to them, as well.

10.) Be patient. Everyone grieves differently, and grief has no timeline. Remember that the mother has lost not only her child but her dreams of mothering that child.

Kristyn von Rotz is the Founder and Chair of the Board of Directors for Forever Footprints, a nonprofit organization that gives support, education and remembrance to families who have experienced pregnancy loss or infant death. In honor of her son Joseph, who died at birth in July 2005, she has worked for twelve years to improve the care families receive after the loss of their child or children. She’s the mom to three living children and works as a freelance writer and editor.

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