My friend lost their baby: What should I say?

Corinne Laan 4 August 2022

There's no perfect thing to say when somebody has lost a baby or experienced a miscarriage, but these expert tips will help you to provide support

The trauma of losing a baby is immense. The death of the baby may also bring up old emotions and feelings about your own loss experiences and the grief which accompanied your loss.

It is important to take the time you need to understand and deal with your own emotions before you are able to support the grieving parent. When you hear such sad news, the first impulse is to help make things better but the bereaved parents do not expect you to fix their grief.

Illustration showing two grieving parents embracing

Not knowing what to say

Sometimes it feels as though there are no right words to express your condolences when somebody has lost a baby.

The fear of not knowing what to say is often what stops us from approaching a bereaved parent and offering emotional support. You may be nervous but it is still important to say a few words. Here is some advice.

What not to say to grieving parents:

  • It is better this way. It does not matter what the family situation is or if there was a health issue with the baby. It is never acceptable to pass judgment or to present yourself as knowing what is best for the parents
  • You will have another baby. Another comment which is intended to offer hope but can actually be very hurtful and not helpful. Their baby is a unique individual and cannot be replaced by another.
  • At least you still have ______ It does not matter how many children the parent already has. They are still grieving the loss of their baby

Illustration of two women hugging

What to say to grieving parents:

  • I am sorry for your loss. This is completely fine to say to someone who has lost a baby. Grief is grief no matter if it is an adult who has passed away or a baby.
  • This is heartbreaking. I am sorry this happened to you and your family. Acknowledging the loss and the pain the parents and close family members are going through is important as it helps the parents feel they are not alone and shows that you understand the impact the loss has on them.
  • I don’t know what to say. Being honest is often a good approach. The bereaved parent does not expect you to know what to say but simply acknowledging the loss is often greatly appreciated.
  • I am here for you. How can I help? This can help the bereaved parent open up and ask for the help they need.
  • Let me cook you a meal and bring it over. This is especially helpful when parents have lost a baby and they have other children to take care of. When someone is grieving, preparing a cooked meal is not a priority. Offering practical help is often well appreciated.
  • You and _______ are in my thoughts. If you know the baby’s name, don’t be afraid to say it when you are talking about their loss. It can bring comfort to the bereaved parent to hear their baby’s name.

illustration shows a grieving mother receiving a text message

Is it OK to send a text message to grieving parents?

It depends. Are you close to the bereaved parents or do you live far away and cannot be physically present?

The bereaved parent may want to grieve alone and does not wish to be surrounded by lots of people. In that case, it is OK to send a message.

When you are crafting a message, don’t expect to get a reply. It is however still important to let the bereaved parent know you are sorry for their loss and offer your sympathies.

illustration of two phone screens, friends reaching out to each other through the screens

Remembering birthdays and anniversaries

After a few months have passed, people tend to get back to their routine and forget to stay in touch with the grieving parents.

If the baby passed away shortly after birth or after an illness, set a reminder in your calendar to contact the parents on the baby’s birthday or on the anniversary of the baby’s death. You can simply say you are thinking of them on this day. It is of great support to parents to know they are not grieving alone.

Talking to someone who has lost a baby is not always easy as you do not want your words to sound hollow. In those moments when you doubt yourself, remember that speaking from the heart with compassion and empathy is always well received.

Being present, and offering your continued support, compassion, and empathy are what they need to navigate their grief. Giving a hug or holding the bereaved parent’s hand is often enough and all that is needed in that moment. It shows you care and that you are there for them.

The Art of Grieving book jacket

Corinne Laan is a natural healer, grief specialist and author of The Art of Grieving: Gentle self-care practices to heal a broken heart (Rockpool Publishing, £16.99)

Read more: How to cope with Mother's Day after miscarriage

Read more: How to cope with the loss of a loved one

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