Support after the loss of your infant

October 14, 2022

Women's Health Mental Health
African american woman laying in a bed looking sad

The death of an infant is an excruciating, painful loss for parents and their family.  Friends and loved ones often don’t know how to support the grieving parents after the loss, which can deepen the feelings of isolation in an already painful time.  Whether you are grieving the loss of a baby or supporting someone who is, there are resources to be aware of that can help the family and friend mourning their death. 

“Families don’t expect to lose a baby. Sometimes they may know something is wrong before they arrive at Labor & Delivery, sometimes they find out after they arrive, and some have days and weeks at home with their infant before their immeasurable heartbreaking loss.” says Rita Hefner, R.N., Bereavement Coordinator at Riverside Regional Medical Center. “You are not alone in this journey and there is support here for you”.

There is no “one way” to grieve

Whether it is an expected or unexpected loss, take time to mourn and do not set expectations around the time you are grieving. Everybody’s grief journey is different, and even the parents may experience it differently from each other. 

Grief feels different at different parts of the journey. Individuals may experience a flood of emotions, feel numb, be in shock, denial or have feelings of anger, intense sadness. And, it isn’t unusual to move between those feelings. 

Grief can also be a very physical experience, which can surprise people who think it will be only emotional pain. Fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, irritability, headaches and trouble sleeping are commonly reported symptoms. Additionally, grief can impact your immune system, making you more susceptible to other illnesses. In extreme cases it can impact blood pressure and the cardiovascular system. 

There is no timetable or schedule for grief. While many want to know when the pain will be less intense, there is no exact answer. And be aware special events or anniversary dates may trigger new waves of grief. Everyone experiences and processes grief in their own time. This is all part of the normal grieving process. 

Take care of yourself

While there aren’t cures for grief, it is important to take care of yourself physically and mentally during this time. Give yourself grace and kindness while you process your loss. 

Some important things to do include:

  • Eat a well-balanced diet: Eating healthy foods will support your body physically through this time. 
  • Be careful with alcohol: Moderate use of alcohol is ok, but it is important to not use it to numb the pain. 
  • Stay active: Maintain your normal routine of physical activity as much as possible, and get outside. 
  • Get adequate sleep: Stick to a regular sleep schedule if you can. Maintaining normal times to go to bed and wake up can help. 

Mothers also need to get postpartum care. Whether it is recovering from a vaginal birth, c-section or addressing your incoming breast milk, caring for your body as it recovers is a critical part of the healing process. Talk to your health care provider if you have any questions or need support in this area. 

Sadness and pain are part of the process, but if you sense you or a loved one is stuck in a persistent state of grief, then it is time to talk to your health care provider. Different treatments are available, and it is important to talk to a professional to get the correct help. Moms, especially, may have trouble differentiating the feelings of grief from post partum depression, which can still be a risk as well. Talk to your health care provider if you have concerns.  

Remembering and honoring your child

With the death of an infant, it can be different than remembering someone who had a chance to live a full life.  But finding ways to remember and honor your child can help. 

Finding special ways to honor and feel close to your infant allows people to funnel their energy into something positive. Planting a tree or flowers, asking people to donate to a cause in memory of your child or doing something else in their honor, can be positive ways to work through your grief. 

Spending time with treasured keepsakes, making a memorial, scrapbooking or visiting the cemetery can also help people feel close to their lost infant.

Siblings may not understand what happened, especially if they are very young. Reading children story books, such as “Something Happened” by Cathy Blanford and “These Precious Little People” by Frankie Brunker & Gilliam Gamble can help them to understand what has happened. Talking with siblings about why mom and dad are sad, or where their lost baby brother or sister is can also help.  


“We want families who are going through their darkest days to know they are not alone, to know that they have the support not only with their nurses here, but also with people in the community, whether it be support groups or online resources, and that there is help out there for them and that it’s okay to not be okay.” says Hefner.

Asking friends to help entertain young children to give parents a chance to rest and grieve is also ok. Many people want to help families grieving the loss of an infant but don’t know how. Asking a friend to organize outings or playdates for siblings, a schedule of when to deliver meals or help with yardwork is something that works for many families. 

Here are additional resources that may provide you and your family support.

  1. Health care provider such as a primary care provider or OB/GYN.
  2. Bereavement counselor- talk through feelings and offer coping strategies.
  3. A care manager or social worker.
  4. Support groups for couples, support groups for moms and support groups for dads or support groups for bereaved family members. Support groups may be online or in person and offer time with others who share your experience and understand what you are going through.
  5. Religious or spiritual leader can offer comfort.
  6. Local memorial events.

For additional information or support, contact Rita Hefner, R.N., Bereavement Coordinator at 757-369-7294.

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