At a recent meeting, a business associate shared some dreadful news; a mutual acquaintance gave birth a few months ago and the baby died at seven weeks.
There is something profoundly tragic when a baby dies. The news is as shocking as it is rare; out of over 4 million births in the United States in 2006, 28,500 babies died before they were a year old.
You may have experience dealing with the death of adults and maybe children. But infant death is different and because of its rarity, you may not have much experience to draw from.
It’s important to support the bereaved. One of the best things you can do is to communicate, in person and in writing. Care and concern are very comforting and the bereaved will need it for a long time. When keeping in touch, don’t ask, “How are you?” They’re not going to tell you how awful they feel. Instead, say, “I just wanted to check in and say hello.” Ask, “Do you feel like some company?” or, “Can I bring you a coffee and stay for a visit?”
Expect that they’ll struggle with sadness for a long time. Don’t try to cheer them up or fix things. Don’t suggest what they should do or how they should feel. Instead, let them know that whatever they’re feeling, it’s okay. There is no roadmap in grief and everyone grieves differently and at their own pace.
It’s hard to be with someone in so much pain. But stay with them and keep in touch. Your willingness to listen is a gift as they will need to tell their story over and over again to make sense of it.
Your relationship will shift and become one-sided as they might be unable to engage in your life or meet your needs for some time to come. Don’t lose patience with their lingering grief. Lives do go on and eventually, their lives will too. If you remain a presence in their lives, your relationship will remain intact.
Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available in three individual volumes: "Illness & Death," "Suicide" and "Miscarriage." Additional titles are available as e-books: "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store. Click here to order.