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How to support staff impacted by the loss of a baby

October 15, 2022
HR Support

A special thank you to Tara Rowberry-Duignan for writing this blog for us. 

This week the amazing Gloucester based charity footsteps has joined Baby Loss Communities across the world to mark Baby Loss Awareness week (October 9 -15) and many will join the Global Wave of Light.

Baby Loss Awareness Week aims to break the silence around pregnancy and baby loss and is an opportunity for those who have lost a baby through Miscarriage, Stillbirth, Termination for Medical Reasons, or neonatal death to unite and commemorate their baby’s life however long or short. It is a hugely supportive and symbolic week for bereaved parents but sadly I know personally it’s HARD for those who are without their baby.

For many bereaved parents this week will bring to the surface once more the sadness that is carrying a baby in your heart instead of in your arms.

Here’s what you can do to help break the silence and support a bereaved parent this week (and beyond):

Get involved

When a baby is lost, parents don’t just loose ‘a baby’, they lose every future milestone they should have had, and where these milestones ‘should’ fall serve as perpetually painful reminders of the baby who isn’t where they should be.

Unless you are yourself bereaved it’s not likely that you’ll be able to spot most of the trickier times, but BLAW is a good opportunity to remember the path people are on and provide support to all of the bereaved parents in your organisation.

Get involved by:

  • Resharing information about BLAW inside your organisation
  • Use social media to turn your profiles Blue and Pink to mark the week
  • Go all the way and light your building or areas of your workplaces Blue and Pink to remember lost babies and show support to bereaved parents.
  • Join the wave of light 15th October, 7pm
  • Donate to one of the BLAW charities or events
  • Distributing BLAW pins for staff who may want to wear them
  • Hold a social event on the day so bereaved parents can get together and share their stories.

Talk about baby

I can assure you a grieving parent hasn’t forgotten about their baby, no matter how long ago they were lost, and no matter the circumstances. You mentioning it will not ‘remind them’.

Talk to bereaved parents and help break the silence that likely surrounds their loss. Please be mindful that everyone deals with grief differently and try to use your best judgement as to how to talk to someone:

Stuck for what to say? Try:

  • ‘I was thinking about your baby this week, I’d love to see a photo if you’d ever like to share one’
  • ‘I know I don’t mention it much but I haven’t forgotten about your baby. If you’d ever like to talk about them I’d love to hear about them.
  • ‘Baby loss awareness made me think of your baby, I hope this week is okay for you’
  • ‘Do you join the wave of light on the 15th? I’ll be joining this year and will be thinking of you and your baby’

Say their name

Most bereaved parents don’t get the opportunity to regularly say or hear their baby’s name. Sensitivity using baby’s name reminds parents that their baby isn’t forgotten. If you don’t know baby’s name – ask. If baby was lost early ask what names were on the name shortlist, or if they had a fond nickname for baby.

Think about your language

When parents go on to have other children after a loss, or if baby was poorly, there is a tendency to presume all is ‘okay’ as there is now a new baby, or it’s okay ‘because’ baby was lost because they were poorly. Often the sentiment is well intended but distressing for bereaved parents. No baby can be replaced and no loss is ‘okay’. We don’t culturally assume it’s ‘okay’ when a Dad dies because there is a Mum around, and we don’t think it’s ‘okay’ when someone’s Mum dies ‘because’ they were poorly, the same applies here.

When discussing baby loss don’t be tempted to say things which try to minimise the loss (‘It’s probably for the best’ ‘At least it wasn’t a baby yet’ ‘You can try again’ ‘Time to move on now’) there is no comfort in this for bereaved parents.

Don’t know what to say try:

  • ‘I can’t image what it’s been like for you, I’m so sorry this happened’
  • ‘I’ve been thinking of you and your baby’
  • ‘I’d love to hear about your baby if you’d like to share them with me’

Mark Baby’s life

If you can mark an individual baby’s life (not just in BLAW but especially immediately after a baby is lost), it can bring huge comfort to parents. Usually doing so privately is best unless you know the parents well and you have their permission to share such gestures more publicly.

Just be careful to be consistent in marking the lives of all babies lost irrespective of their gestational age or the circumstances.

You could:

  • Donate to Sands, Tommy’s or a local charity like Footsteps who might have supported the bereaved parents in memory of the baby.
  • Donate to any fundraising the parents may be doing
  • Plant a tree dedicate to the baby if you have an outdoor space
  • Send some flowers with a note saying ‘remembering your baby’

Organisations that can offer further support: