What Shall I Write When A Baby Has Died?

Writing a card for a baby who died? If yes, what shall I write?
I don’t want to upset the parents…

Today, this great and important question reached me by email.

I have a friend who has just given birth to twins very prematurely. One of them was unfortunately born dead and the surviving twin is understandably very ill. I want to send a card to them but also want to congratulate them on the birth of their surviving daughter at the same time acknowledging the death of the other. Any thoughts of a message I could use?

I can only answer from my personal experience and with my preferences.
Obviously you should always take cultural, religious and societal differences into consideration, when writing a card.
Think about the parents’ situation and not yours (in terms of religion, for example).

Writing a card - Find more grief support here www.grievingparents.net

Acknowledgment

Acknowledge the babies and parents

First of all: always acknowledge the babies born, born alive and born still. 

When I gave birth to my twin girls, I loved and appreciated those people who sent me cards congratulating me to twins.

  • “Congratulations to the birth of your [two] daughter, sons, children.”
  • “New parents are being born – congratulations to the birth of [names].”

A baby born still

As for the situation when one has been born still:

  • “I’m [so] sorry to hear that [name] was born still” or
  • “I’m sorry to hear that he/she died before he/she was born.”

I personally wouldn’t use ‘born dead’, even though it’s the reality, it sounds harsh.

A baby that is ill or unsure to survive

As for the situation where the surviving twin or a single baby is very ill (being premature or otherwise):

  • “I send you [courage, strength, love, hope… (chose one or two)] for the time ahead.”
  • “I’m thinking of you.”
  • “I’m praying for you.” (if you’re religious and feel the recipient is not opposed to prayers.)
  • “I’m here for you.”

Miscarriage, Stillbirth, Neonatal death, SIDS

A loss is a loss, no matter the age of the child.

If you feel close to someone and know they had a miscarriage, you could write a card. I would.

I have written cards to people for miscarriages and they have been very touched to be acknowledged in this way.

Remember that as a supporter you are supporting the parents by acknowledging them and their baby.
By talking about their baby you don’t ‘remind’ them of something they would otherwise have forgotten.

Don’ts

Refrain from using

  • Any sentences starting with “At least…”
  • Clichés like “Maybe it was for the best.”
  • Advice like “You need to…”
  • Comparison “I know how you feel, I lost…”
  • Thoughtless phrases like “At least you have your other children” or “You will have another baby.”
  • Silver linings like “At least he didn’t suffer.”
  • Advice on how to grieve
  • Beliefs and spiritual phrases like “It was God’s plan” or “She did what she came here to do”

Any of those statements may be said (and believed) by the parents’ themselves – it is their privilege.

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