So what can you do to support someone (this could be a friend, your partner or a relative) who is having another baby after the loss of a previous child? In this blog post you will find suggestions of things that you can do to make this time easier and happier for everyone involved while still allowing the parent/s to mourn the loss of their previous child.
The one thing that the majority of parents who experienced the loss of a child want is for their dead child to be acknowledged and remembered. They fear that their child who has passed on will be forgotten by everyone except themselves and if their child had a name they fear it will be forgotten too. These feelings can be exacerbated by the news that they are expecting a new baby and they will need a lot of support during this time.
1. You can remember their child, talk about their child, say his or her name, buy something special for the parent/s that commemorates the child who has died and also includes the new baby. Make sure that while you are celebrating a new life, a living baby, that the other child is also remembered and included in these celebrations.
2. Make sure that the parents know that you are thinking of them, and that you haven’t forgotten the child that they have lost.
3. This doesn’t mean that you can’t celebrate the new baby, you still can. Make the parent/s feel special, loved and supported, this new baby is a gift and is extra special to the parent/s because they already know what it is like to lose something so precious. At the same time make sure that they are aware that you haven’t forgotten their much loved child who died.
4. Do something special for the parent/s. It can be cleaning their house, looking after any other children for a day or night so that they can have some special time together, doing a bulk cook up for them so they can have meals in the freezer, get a special gift for the both of them, do something in honour of the baby who has passed away. There are so many things that you can do.
5. Involve any other children (if they are old enough to understand) and family members in preparations for the arrival of the new baby. Get them to help in doing something special that will be “from” the baby/child who has passed away “to” the parent/s and the new baby.
6. Remember the dates. Just letting the parent/s know that you are thinking of them on the birthday of their lost child and on the anniversary of the day their baby/child died can be a big help to grieving parent/s, especially when there is a new baby on the way and they are feeling alone and may be feeling guilty about having another baby.
7. Keep involved. A lot of grieving parent/s note that people drift away from them after the loss of a child and if they become pregnant again they are very lonely and don’t have the support network that they used to have during their last pregnancy. Stay involved in their lives, pop by for a visit regularly as they will appreciate it a lot, call them regularly to see how they are going. Continue to be a part of their lives.
8. Ask them how they are “really” feeling. Many grieving parent/s hide how they really feel from others, including their own families. They feel like they can’t talk or that no one is listening or that if they do talk they will be told to “get over it” or be considered silly or stupid. Really talk to them and have in depth conversations about how they really feel. It will help them. Listen to them, be an open ear for everything that they need to talk about, even if it is the same things over and over and over again keep listening to them and supporting them because they really need your help to work through it all and may need to say these things a thousand times before they can start to heal or before they accept that they will actually be having a living baby to take home.
9. Make them laugh. When you are still grieving and are expecting a new baby it can be very hard to see the funny side in anything. Help them to see the funny side again. Help them to laugh and enjoy themselves again. Let them know that you care about them deeply and you don’t want to make their child’s death seem like it is nothing but that you want to see them smile and laugh again as you miss that part of them. Tell them that it is ok to be happy to be having a new baby after a child has died, that it is ok to enjoy things again.
10. Help them to heal. Losing a child breaks your heart. It isn’t something that ever goes away, it is always there in the back of a parent/s mind. Their hearts ache when they think of their child. In the early days they may cry a lot, maybe all day. Many grieving parent/s cut themselves off from the world and refuse to leave the house or do anything in general. Be there for them during this time, support them, remind them of the good times, cry with them when they are having a really bad day, hug them when they need a hug. When grieving parent/s are expecting a new baby all of these things can come back and affect them, and it can seem like it is happening all over again. They may need the same support that they needed back then. They may need more support. They will need to know that they are not alone anymore and that you will be there for them.
All of this will help them to heal from the intense pain that having lost a child prior to expecting a new baby brings, and while it will never go away and they will always be changed by this experience.
I hope that this will help those who are supporting families through a new pregnancy after a loss.
Student Birth Doula
FOOTPRINTS & RAINBOWS