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Dos & Don’ts for friends and family

It can be very difficult to know what to say and do for a friend or family member who has lost a pregnancy or a baby. Here are some suggestions of things to do and to NOT do when a friend/relative is bereaved.

 

Golden Rule no. 1:  It is always better to say and/or do something to acknowledge their loss. After that, follow their lead (if they change the subject, it’s on purpose.)

  

I don’t know what to say:

  • Say nothing at all! You don’t need to explain why this has happened, put things into perspective, or cheer her up. All she/he needs to hear is that you care.
  • Write instead of talk. A little card through the door to say ‘We’re here for you’ lets your friend/relative know that you’re thinking about her, and rescues you from the awkwardness of not knowing what to say.

 

DO:

  • Say (or do) something! Once you’ve acknowledged their loss, you can talk about it – or not – as your loved one wants. Don’t just ignore it.
  • Make a meal. What’s best is if you can organise a meal rota so that they don’t get three meals on the same night or eat chicken every day.
  • Send a bunch of flowers: especially helpful for that ‘I don’t know what to say’ feeling. Flowers are always nice; but unless they’ll be in hospital for a very long time or expressly asked for them to be delivered to the hospital, send them to their home so that the family doesn’t have to transport lots of flower arrangements.
  • Offer to look after their other children, if relevant. The first few days are very exhausting, even if a mother doesn’t need alot of physical recuperation (which is often the case). A couple also need time alone together to talk and convalesce.
  • Talk about something else; pregnancy loss does not define them. But also:
  • Be willing to talk about the same thing, over and over again. Follow your loved one’s lead.
  • Be silent with them.
  • Include them in your celebrations: Even if they are baby-centric, it’s better to invite them (privately or in writing) and let them choose whether or not to come than to leave them out.

 

On a personal note:

Help to arrange the burial – my husband took all the responsibility of making sure this happened upon himself and this was quite stressful.

 

DON’T:

  • Avoid your friend/relative. Acknowledge what they’ve been through (in person or in writing), and then ‘be normal’.
  • Assume they want to be ‘left alone’. Everyone needs space to mourn in, but a woman/man who has lost a baby is feeling isolated enough already. No need to make it worse. A short phone call or even a text can let him/her know you are still there for them without intruding.
  • Be offended if all your offers are turned down. A couple has a right to know what is best for them. If they want to keep their children close to them, nurture their family themselves, eat their own food or spend time alone, permit it.
  • Stop offering; a week or two later she might need that babysitting/meal she refused at the beginning.
  • Take it personally-especially if you have a baby. The mere sight or mention of a baby, especially a baby the same age as theirs would have been, can cause infinite pain.
  • Assume your friend is feeling/reacting the same way you did, if you went through it yourself.

 

Top Nine things to avoid saying (these are unfortunately all real-life examples):

  • It’s all for the best – he/she would probably have been disabled, anyway
  • I know exactly how you feel …
  • What can you do, these things happen
  • Its ok, you’re young, you can still have another one
  • You’re lucky, at least you have children/have a husband/made it through
  • You shouldn’t have/everyone knows that … (nothing can redeem these words)
  • Its just as well, otherwise your Yomtov (Festival) would have been so busy
  • G-d has His plans and we can’t question them
  • It’s so hard being pregnant

 

If you are a professional care-giver, this list of ways to help a family may be helpful for you

Posted in Friends and family.

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3 Responses

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  1. miriam says

    This is great. i agree with every one of them yet sometimes you forget how to act.. it’ll be good to have a checklist

  2. Rachael says

    Thank you for this. I have lost 3 pregnancies. I am sorry for your loss.

  3. Sarai says

    I have one to add to the list of things never to say: “Thank G-D he died!” Said by a mother-in-law after learning that the baby had a few problems which may or may not have been an issue. Saying its better for my child to be dead then possibly having a disabilty is not even remotely helpful or comforting.



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