Usually when a baby dies, it can be hard to know how to offer support to the grieving parents.
To be honest, what can we really do or say in the face of such sad occurrence? While no one can make the grief go away or bring the child back, there are several ways you can support your friends or family following such a tragic loss.
Keep in touch
After visiting the family or calling them for the firs time, keeping in frequent touch with a friend or family member after their loss is one of the best ways of offering support. Sending Whatsapp messages or emails or even texts can be subtle ways of letting a friend know you’re thinking of them without them feeling like they need to respond.
Be selective with your words
It’s really hard to know what to say to a parent when the unthinkable happens. Simple, genuine statements like, “I’m so sorry,” or “I’m here for you,” are safe choices. I know most Nigerians will also say, ‘God will give you another one’ or ‘The child that will stay is coming’ etc
Holding a hand, touching a shoulder, giving a hug is the same thing as saying, “I’m here. I care.” By letting parents talk about their pain, you can help them come to grips with it.
You shouldn’t assume that parents “don’t want to talk about it.” And it’s okay to say, “I don’t know what to say” – it’s honest, and it opens the door for the parents to share their feelings.
Some words that help include;
- “I’m sorry.”
- “What can I do for you right now?”
- “I’m here. I want to listen.”
- “This must be hard for you.”
On the other hand these well-intentioned statements cause resentment or prevent the expression of grief;
- “You’re young, you can have others.”
- “You have an angel in heaven.”
- “This happened for the best.”
- “Better for this to happen now, before you knew they baby.”
- “There was something wrong with the baby anyway.”
- “Don’t be sad. Don’t cry.”
- “Don’t dwell on this. Just put it behind you.”
Those who have never experienced a loss may find it very difficult to understand how a mother can grieve and mourn for so long. But the truth is that a loss like this, stays with a mother for a lifetime.
Also because grief affects everyone differently, it’s impossible to know how parents will react to their baby’s death. But most people go through multiple phases of powerful emotions that may be hard for you to understand. So keep this in mind and even though parents had little, if any time to “know” the child, the parental attachment is still strong. This attachment can begin even before conception, as parents dream of the baby’s first birthday or Christmas or Ramadan etc.. So when a baby dies, parents lose a future they looked forward to sharing with that child. Realize that the death of a child means your friend/family member won’t ever get over their loss although they will get through it. Respect the parent’s rights to express whatever they feel or think – regardless of how strange it may seem to you. Give them time to grieve. Most of all, accept them for who and what they are, parents. Being a compassionate witness to your their grief is one of the best ways you can help.