Stillbirth, Miscarriage and
A baby’s death is one of the most painful and traumatic experiences a parent
will confront in a lifetime. Although nothing can take away the pain you feel right now, it may
be helpful to know what others have experienced or found comforting as they struggled to deal with
the intense grief that followed the death of their child.
It is important to give yourself permission to grieve. Grieving the death of a baby may last far
longer than you and others expect. Frequently those around you may be uncomfortable with the
intense emotions you experience. Be patient with yourself and do not expect too much too soon.
No matter what age, your child was and is a part of you, and when your baby died, so did many of
your hopes and dreams for the future. Choosing a name as well as having a funeral or memorial
service can help affirm that you are a parent and have the right to grieve as long and as intensely
SYMPTOMS OF GRIEF.
When a baby dies, normal symptoms of grief are varied. Parental reactions and intensity of feelings
may differ. Typical reactions include the following:
Crying, loneliness, a feeling of isolation.
A need to talk about the death and the details of what happened.
Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, depression.
Anger, guilt, blame.
Loss of appetite, overeating, sleeplessness, irritability.
Inability to concentrate, comprehend or remember.
Loss of goals and aims in life, a sense of desolation about the future.
Aching arms, phantom crying, frequent sighing.
Grief can last far longer than you or others may expect and has many ups and downs. The first
year can be especially difficult when parents ask themselves painful questions or torment
themselves with the following statements:
Why did this happen to my baby, my child?
Why did this happen to our family?
Why didn’t I know something was wrong?
Why didn’t I go to the doctor sooner?
It’s all my fault!
If only …………….
There may be no adequate or satisfying answers to these questions or statements. Anger and
guilt are common reactions and usually accompany grief. Try to share and express these
feelings as a way of releasing them, eventually forgiving yourself and others. Also, many
parents find it helpful to take time to acquire information that deals specifically with this
loss and to become familiar with the problems associated with infant death.
THE IMPACT OF GRIEF ON MARRIAGE.
The reaction to the death of a baby is as individual as the person experiencing it. Spouses
or partners often grieve in different ways, frequently misunderstanding each other’s reactions
or needs. You may be reluctant to express feelings of sadness when your partner had a “good day”
or vice versa. Some partners may not want to talk about the death but still feel comfortable
when the other needs to do so.
Crying is another area where partners may differ. It is an acceptable and healthy expression of
grief but many fathers may find it difficult to allow themselves to release built-up tension
through crying. Fathers often feel the need and are encouraged by others to be strong, but
crying is a normal and healthy reaction.
Grieving is emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausting and does not leave much energy for
anything else. Communication may be difficult but it is essential so that misunderstandings and
intense emotions do not lead to problems in the marriage. Grief, however, is stressful and couples
need to be aware that grief does not always bring partners closer together.
It is helpful when spouses recognize these differences and do not blame each other or feel the
other does not care or is not hurting. It is more likely a difference in the ability to express
intense feelings rather than a deliberate attempt to hurt.
Continue to share your feelings and keep in mind that outward expressions of grief may indicate
only a portion of what a person is feeling or experiencing.
Husbands and wives may react differently to intimacy as well. While one partner may need and
seek this closeness and the assurance that not everything has changed, the other partner may
take the suggestion of intimacy as an affront, not understanding how anyone could think of
intimacy when a baby has died. Recognize that these reactions are normal. With time and
patience, most couples re-establish intimacy when both feel ready.
It is important for couples to understand that there are no simple solutions to these problems,
no timetable, or recipe for recovery. Every effort should be made to share what you are
feeling. Your relationship may be uncomfortable for a while as you cope with these intense
feelings and emotions.
COPING WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS
Friends, relatives, and co-workers may be uncomfortable around you. They may not understand
the intensity of your grief or may feel helpless to console and comfort you. Consequently,
many offer clichés or platitudes as a source of comfort. You may hear some of the following
You will have more children.
You were lucky it was early in your pregnancy.
You are still young enough to have more children.
You’re lucky you did not bring the baby home from the
These statements hurt but there is little you can say or do to answer these platitudes offered
by people with sincere intentions of helping you. Since they have not had your experience,
it will be difficult for them to understand the length and depth of your grief and sadness.
Another way family and friends offer comfort is to suggest you have another baby. Let your
family and friends know how important this baby was to you and ask them to be supportive by
The decision to have or not to have another baby belongs to you and your partner. There is
no “appropriate” waiting period after the mother’s recovery.
No matter what decision you make regarding a subsequent pregnancy or adoption, it will
probably not change the length of your grief for your baby who died. When planning another
pregnancy, be aware that aside from the physical stress, subsequent pregnancies can often be
Young siblings grieve too and can be passed over for support as being “too young to understand”.
Encourage your surviving children to talk about their baby brother or sister. Many
bereavement organizations have support groups and reading material especially for bereaved
children. It might be helpful for your child(ren) to share their feelings with other children
who have experienced the death of a brother or sister.
QUESTIONS ABOUT RELIGIOUS FAITH
Your baby’s death may cause you to challenge or question your faith or philosophy of life.
For a time you may feel that life is unfair and meaningless, and that you have nothing to
live for. Some of your anger may be directed at God and you may need time to re-examine
your religious beliefs. These feelings may be frightening but it is important to allow
yourself the freedom to raise these questions without feelings of guilt. A sense of purpose
and control will return to your life, but this is a gradual process and there is no time limit.
For many, however, faith provides support and often helps parents to accept the unacceptable.
It may be tempting to dull the pain of grief by using alcohol and/or (prescription) drugs,
but this may only delay and therefore prolong the normal grief process. You cannot escape
the pain of grief and disappointment until you have faced the intensity of these feelings
SOME THINGS YOU MAY FIND HELPFUL
Pictures and other mementoes seem to help parents grieve. Parents, however, who experienced
miscarriage or infant death, may have few of these. Many parents create memories by keeping a
baby book or a special box containing hospital records, certificates, sympathy cards, pictures,
Spend time with and talk with other parents who have experienced a similar loss. Sharing with
these parents, in an atmosphere of acceptance and understanding, can ease the loneliness and
isolation of grief. Those who have “been there” can truly understand and accept your grief.
These parents can help you to understand that the most painful aspects of grief will soften over
time and that you are not alone in your grief.
This brochure was funded by
Adrian and Cynthia Horner in loving memory of their sons.
Copyright 1996 The Compassionate Friends