Written by: Kristine Brite McCormick
The following advice is based on my experience as a babyloss mother. I can't be
responsible for the reaction of your friend, you or anyone else. Please consult
professional help should you have further questions or concerns.
Copyright 2012, Kristine Brite McCormick.
You may freely distribute this eBook to others without prior permission from the publisher or
author, as long as it is NOT altered and this eBook is distributed in its entirety.
You may freely give away this eBook, link to the book directly or link to
http://www.corasstory.com to download this eBook. You may not sell this eBook for money.
Table of Contents
How Do Babyloss Parents Grieve?
Immediately After the Loss
What Not to Say
What Comforts Her
Remembering the Anniversaries
Getting to Know the New Her
Helping Him (Don't Forget Dad)
Resources to Give Her
Resources for Her Friends
52 Ways to Help
Every single day for the past year, at least one person has reached my blog,
www.corasstory.org, searching for information about how to help a friend after her
baby dies. Hardly a week goes by that I don't get a few messages asking me advice
from compassionate friends that want to help, but don't know how. I decided to create
this eBook--to circulate for free- as a resource for babyloss mothers to give to their
friends and for friends to stumble upon when they need it. You are absolutely free to
print it, share it and pass it on to anyone it may help. Just don't sel it or change it.
I'l start with some words about terminology. Words become both daggers and
soothing massages after the loss of a child, and there's a whole new language to learn.
In this book, a baby is baby no matter the age of the child--a few weeks after
conception, hours after birth or 32 weeks in utero. After all, as Dr. Seuss wrote, "A person
is a person no matter how small." Mothers that lose their child often refer to themselves
as "Babyloss mothers." Everyone has a different preference when it comes to
terminology though. Some mothers don't like their baby called an "angel" while others
are comforted by the thought.
When I wrote a series on my blog about what to do, and what not to do, after a
baby dies, I started each post with a huge disclaimer. Every mother is different. We all
grieve differently. Writing a book about how your friend might be grieving is a daunting
task. That's exactly why this book is needed, though. Often our friends become
paralyzed in fear of saying the wrong thing or helping in the wrong way, or they assume
that the mom doesn't want much from them because she doesn't reach out. We
babyloss mothers can be a scary group to reach out to. Our hearts are ful of love for
our babies, but half the time, we're not sure what we want. I don't assume to tell you
exactly how your friend feels. No one can do that. I urge you to ask her whenever in
doubt. I hope this book helps you understand some of the feelings, thoughts and
behaviors of mother's that lose babies.
Mostly, I hope this book helps you truly accept and honor how your
friend decides to grieve and remember her child. There is no wrong
way to grieve.
Your friend wil need you. Thank you for thinking about her and how you can best
This book is meant to be read however is best help to you. Read it straight
through or use the index to find sections that you're interested in reading.
Before I go into specifics about helping your friend, I want you to get to know
me, and learn about what happened to me. Chances are you might be mildly curious,
and I think if you know a bit about me, you'l understand my words about helping your
I found out I was pregnant with my first child on Easter Sunday 2009. The
pregnancy was unplanned, but overnight, I became a mother. I loved her before I
know she was a she. My pregnancy was normal. Fast forward nine months to November
29, 2009. My water broke as I stood at the kitchen counter. I cal ed my husband, cal ed
the on call doctor and off to the hospital we went. Nearly 24 hours later and my
daughter was born. She scored nine on both Apgar tests. I took her home two days
later the picture of good health.
Three days later and my entire life changed in one moment. I was nursing Cora,
and everything was going wel . I looked up for a split second to tell my husband I loved
him. I looked back down, and Cora wasn't breathing. She was limp and gray. We
rushed her to the hospital, but it was too late.
Babies in my family didn't die. I didn't even think my baby was sick. I found out
later that she was indeed sick. She was born with a congenital heart defect.
The immediate outpouring of love and support from friends and family was
incredible. I mostly noticed how people I barely knew were there for me. I became sad
when people closer to me weren't there for me.
I don't think my friends knew what to do. I think they saw the new person I was
becoming and didn't know how to react. I think they thought I was pushing them away.
I think they were scared of saying something wrong. Or maybe they thought I wanted
our relationship to go on how it was before. At that point in my life, I didn't talk to most
of my friends on a daily or even weekly basis. I needed them more, but didn't know
how to tell them. Whatever the case, I was left feeling alone and abandoned. I know
they wanted to help, they just didn't know, thus my motivation for this book.
If you've read this far, I have no doubt that you truly want to help your friend
after the loss of her baby. I hope to give you some real ways you can help, and while
you'l never quite understand what your friend has been through, I hope after reading
this you'l have a better understanding of life after your baby dies.
Thank you for being a friend to the babyloss mama in your life. She's going to
How Do Babyloss Parents Grieve?
They all grieve differently.
No exact path through grief exists, at least that's the picture I have from my
experience and readings. The five states that popular culture uses to describe life after
grief sometimes don't apply. Sometimes the parents might go through those phases all
at once. A babyloss parent doesn't "get stuck" on one phase. You do not need to
goad her to "move on."
In her book, Remembering for Good, Cath Duncan, a social worker and
babyloss mother, explains that the Western world's views on grief are often untrue. I've
personal y talked to many grieving moms that feel society pressures them to get over
their loss quickly and report feeling judged for how long they grieve or how they express
I know these feelings of worry about how your friend grieves come in most cases
from a place of concern. You, our friends and family members, want to make us all
better. Our child died. You can't bring our child back. We are not sick. We can't be
healed. Don't expect us to get better every day. Also don't place a time limit on our
grief. We will miss our baby for life.
When our child dies, a piece of us is missing. We can never replace that piece.
We can only learn to live without it. After a while, we become better at it. We might
even find the edges around the missing piece mend themselves, but that doesn't bring
that piece back.
We aren't sad, mad or happy simply for attention. We aren't "milking" our grief.
In fact, our grief is out of our control.
Unless you've lost a child, you simply can't ever understand. That's okay. I never
want you to fully understand. I can only hope that you forever stay on the other side of
the table, and my only wish is that you can never relate to the pain your friend feels.
GRIEF IS NOT ABNORMAL. HER REACTION ISN'T ABNORMAL. SHE IS NOT DOING A BAD JOB GRIEVING
HER CHILD. HER REACTION IS NOT UNEXPECTED, SUBSTANDARD OR ALARMING. WHATEVER YOU DO,
DON'T MAKE HER FEEL ASHAMED FOR GRIEVING.
Your friend might laugh a few days after her child dies, or the day after. She
might not stop crying for months. She might run out of tears. She might get mad and
lash out at you or others. Something you might not expect might happen. She might be
fuller of love and joy than ever before. She might feel better for having held her child,
rather in her arms or in her body for even a short time.
As a powerpoint presentation from SIDSMA.org points out, when a child dies,
friends and family members might become uncomfortable with the intensity of these
emotions. From my experience, your friend might feel uncomfortable with the intensity
of her emotions as wel . I know I wasn't comfortable crying in front of many people after
the first few months, and sometimes thought the intense sadness, anger and fear might
kil me. Prepare to battle the hurricane with her.
"Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory
no one can steal."
Immediately After the Loss
When a baby dies, the effects are felt across the entire community--her
hometown, friends, family and even virtual community. Chances are you'l never forget
where you were and what you were doing when you learned your friend's baby died.
You grieve yourself for her loss. If you found this book by searching, you probably
searched within days of the death. You want to help. You want to make her feel better.
You can't. Nothing can.
"Immediately after the loss" means something different to you and your friend.
For the purposes of this book, since I'm talking to you--the friend--immediately after
loss means the minutes, days and weeks following loss. Your friend wil probably think of
her loss as recent for years to come. Time changes when you lose a baby.
Your phone buzzes indicating a new text message. You read it and start crying or
begin to shake. Your friend's baby died. You hurt for her and want to help. You might
be wondering what you should do. Do you drive over to help if you're near? Do you
give her time to be with her family? Do you call over and over?
My suggestion is to go to her home. I remember people pouring in the day after
my daughter died, and it helped. It got me through. If for some reason she doesn't
want people around, she won't answer the door. Even if you aren't best friends, your
presence wil make her feel loved. It goes without saying to be gentle and not expect
her to host you. Don't make her feel like she needs to do anything for you, but don't
stop her if she's reacting with a burst of energy.
You might next be wondering how you can comfort her the day after her baby
dies and the days fol owing. Some ideas for the first few days:
Bring food. Even if she can't eat, she'l have other visitors and possibly
other children. If she has children, bring food they might like. Also bring
something easy on the throat. I remember someone sending a fruit basket
to my home. My throat was so raw from crying that the fruit was the only
thing I could force down. If you bring food, don't bring something and ask
for the dish back later, she won't remember.
Ask her how you can help. She might not know. Don't take an "I need
nothing," or "I don't know," as a sign to not help. She might not be
capable of thinking of such things. If she asks for something and you
volunteer, make sure to follow through and accomplish the task as soon
as you can. Take initiative.
Offer to rub her feet or her shoulders, if she doesn't like her feet touched.
She might turn you down, but insist unless you think she doesn't want to be
touched. My aunt rubbed my feet, and it helped.
It goes without saying to listen to her. Don't worry if she doesn't want to
talk. Don't make her talk, and don't feel like you have to fil the silence.
Clean her home, even if it's just pitching in to do a load of dishes or to
pick up items and stack neatly.
Make sure she has a comfortable spot to sleep and cry. Make her bed
and fluff her pillows, or if she wants to sleep with the rest of her children,
suggest pul ing the mattresses out into the living room if one bed isn't
enough for the whole family. I'l never forget sleeping as a family on a few
mattresses pul ed into the living room after my dad died when I was a
Ask her if she has someone to accompany her to the funeral home to
make arrangements. No mother should ever have to face that alone. Do
not make comments about her choices that are negative. Remember it's
her child's funeral. Unless you've been there, you might not realize that
holding her child's body and even taking the body home are normal.
Suggest to her to ask the funeral home that they keep a lock of the
baby's hair--if they don't automatical y. I real y wish I had a lock of my
Do not judge how she mourns. She might have brought her baby's body
home for a few hours or even a day. That is not uncommon, and while it
might seem odd to you, it's quite normal.
She might want to keep her baby's items just as they were when the child
died. Do not touch anything that belonged to the baby without her
permission. Do not throw any of the baby's items away. If she wants them
out of site, store them for her somewhere safe. Do not wash any of the
baby's dirty clothes.
Attend the visitation and funeral. Watch your friend and if she looks
unwell, offer to find her a chair, water or a small bite to eat. I checked out
at the visitation. It was too hard for me to bear. If she seems to space,
allow her to. It's not alarming, and might be how she's coping.