Friends & relatives

“My world is painful, and when you are too afraid to call me or visit or say anything, you isolate me at a time when I most need to be cared about.”

When someone you care about suffers the loss of a baby or child to cot death you can have a sense of bewilderment about what you can do to help them. It is important to remember that your support and love will be of comfort to them, even if they don’t appear to respond to your attention.

You should also remember that everyone will react differently to grief, so there are no “rules” about what you should or shouldn’t do. But the one the thing you shouldn’t do is try and avoid them, just because you are unsure of what to say or do, as this only adds to the pain and isolation felt by parents. The following suggestions are offered to assist you, but the best thing you can do is ask them what they want:

“Do’s and Don’ts”

Do

  • Get in touch and let them know that you care and are sad about their loss
  • Make sure they know that you are genuinely available to listen
  • Offer your help with practical things, such as helping with their other children, cleaning, ironing and meals.
  • Allow them to express as much grief as they are feeling at the moment and are willing to share. Accept silence; if the family doesn’t feel like talking, don’t force conversation. * Follow their lead.
  • Encourage them to be patient with themselves, not to expect too much of themselves and not to impose any “shoulds” on themselves.
  • Allow them to talk about their baby.
  • Give special attention to the siblings of the baby or child that died.
  • Offer reassurance that they did everything that they could
  • Encourage them to seek outside help, either from a health professional or another bereaved parent.
  • Remember the family on the baby’s birthday, anniversary of death, Mothers Day, Fathers Day and other significant occasions.
  • Be patient with them. Coping with the death of their child may take a long time. Stay in touch.

DON’T

  • Don’t let your own sense of helplessness keep you from reaching out to the bereaved family.
  • Don’t avoid the family because you are uncomfortable.
  • Don’t say you know how they feel (even if you have lost a child of your own, you still can’t fully know how they are feeling.)
  • Don’t ask for details about the death. If the family offers information, listen with understanding.
  • Don’t tell them what they should feel or do. Don’t impose your religious or spiritual views on them.
  • Don’t change the subject when they mention their dead child. It is important that they know they can talk about their child whenever they need to.
  • Don’t point out that at least they have another child; or could have more children in the future.
  • Don’t blame anyone for the death. Don’t make comments which suggest that the care in the hospital, at home, at the childcare provider’s or wherever was inadequate.
  • Don’t try to find something positive about the baby or child’s death.
  • Don’t use clichés and easy answers.
  • Don’t avoid mentioning the baby or child’s name out of fear of reminding them of their pain.
  • Don’t say “you ought to be feeling better by now” or anything else which implies a judgment about their feelings, or sets time expectations or limits their healing process.