How to support someone after baby loss

Do you know someone who has lost a baby, and aren’t sure how best to help them? Find out how to support someone after baby loss.

Baby loss is all too common; every minute, 44 women around the world will miscarry their baby. And yet it is a subject we know very little about.

New research commissioned by the baby charity Tommy’s has uncovered gaps in the UK public’s understanding of different types of baby loss:

  • 72% of UK adults have heard of ‘miscarriage’, but 28% are unfamiliar with the term
  • 42% say they would feel ‘very confident’ explaining what miscarriage means
  • 71% have heard of stillbirths, but 29% do not know what this means
  • 9% have heard of molar pregnancy, and 43% have heard of neonatal death

On one level this isn’t surprising as it is a difficult and emotive subject to talk about. But our lack of knowledge means we can be poorly informed and equipped when it happens to us, and feel ill-equipped to help if it happens to someone close to us.

As a result, 65%of people who responded to the survey agreed that more awareness is needed on the topics of miscarriage and neonatal death.

It is also important that companies create pregnancy loss policies so they can help employees who lose a baby.

It’s time to raise awareness

Amina Hatia, qualified NHS midwife and Tommy’s Midwifery Manager, says:

“Being a kind, compassionate person is worth its weight in gold to someone who is feeling the sadness of baby loss.”

“People who have experienced loss feel guilty and at the time frustrated by how their loss affects others. They feel like they shouldn’t speak of their loss or grief because others can’t cope, or they become responsible for making you feel better when they are still grieving.”

“Learning a little about baby loss – such as the terminology of different types of baby loss and how many people are affected – can make people feel more confident when talking about this subject”

How to support someone after baby loss

What are the practical ways you can be there for someone when they need it most? Amina has shared some helpful insights on how to approach conversations around baby loss.

Avoid saying anything that expresses some sense of requirement of the bereaved person

Rather than burden a bereaved person with questions like “what do you need?”, Amina says that simple acts of kindness, like a card through the door, a takeaway voucher or a food gift, can go a long way.

The words ‘at least’ make no sense when someone has lost a baby

As Amina suggests, trying to ‘look on the bright side’ at a time when someone is experiencing unimaginable sorrow could cause greater upset – and understandably so.

Be willing to express openness and availability

By simply communicating that you’re here to listen, you may give someone the encouragement to open – should they wish to do so. Amina says it may be worthwhile to say something like, “I know that you may not want to talk about what has happened but please know that I am here to listen if you ever do”.

Where appropriate, share your own story

Amina advises that it’s important to be cautious with this approach, as everyone’s experience of loss is personal. However, there may be some value in saying something like: “I don’t know exactly what you are going through but I have gone through something similar so am here if you need me”.

Be guided by them

Ultimately, the person whose feelings matter most is the bereaved. Or as Amina says: “If they are not ready to talk, respect that.”

The full breakdown of research and Amina’s advice for talking about baby loss can be found here

Photo by kevin laminto