33 answers

How to I Deal with a Stillborn Death in the Family?

This is the first time I have asked anything on here so I am not sure how much to write. But here is my problem. Yesterday my soon-to-be sister-in-law had a stillborn baby. I have never had to deal with anything like this in my life. It is absolutely devastating and I have no idea what to say to her or the daddy. I don't know how to comfort my fiancee's family. I want to say the right thing but I know there are some things that no one wants to hear. Has anyone had to deal with this personally or even in your extended family? If so, please give me advice. I also want to do something special for my sister in law at my wedding, any ideas about that would be appreciated also. Thanks in advance for any and all help.

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

Well all you need to do is let them know that you are there for them. Tell you sister-in-law that you are there for her to sit with, listen, and even if she wants to blame, yell or scream her lungs out you'll be there with her to do it. Give support, just be there.

WE have lost a baby in the extended family also, just being there helps.

There have been many suggestions about planets and trees and such. Another thought is a star.

Hi, this is such a hard thing to deal with and sensitivity is the key here. I am the editor of a website called TheJewishWoman.org and we have a pretty extensive section on Fertility Problems and Loss which deal with miscarriage and stillborn. While the material in many cases is based on the Jewish perspective of loss, there are many articles that anyone will be able to find useful, including many pieces giving practical advice and suggestions (as well as personal stories). The link is: http://www.chabad.org/theJewishWoman/article_cdo/aid/3134...

One particular article in the section of Helpful Hints is called "I Don't Know What to Say" and deals with the do's and don'ts of dealing with someone's loss, here is a direct link: http://www.chabad.org/theJewishWoman/article_cdo/aid/4101...

Hope this is helpful!

More Answers

Hi A.,

I am so sorry for this loss in your family. On the 27th of this month, it will be 9 years since I lost my first baby. It was early on, but it was still earth shattering, and it didn't help when exactly 7 months later it happened again. There have been so many nice thoughts from so many nice people on here already.

The best thing that you can do is just be there for your sister-in-law and offer any kind of help or assistance she may need. Early on for me, it was just so hard to hear people say they were so sorry, or just say anything about the baby, but after some time passed, it was nice to know that anybody cared. Don't forget about it, she never will.

Also, personally, I wish people would at least remember me on Mother's Day. They don't have to send a card or anything, but just let me know that they remember me and the little ones that I lost. I think that in the future that would be a nice thing for you to do, just let her know that you are thinking of her on Mother's Day.

I am now a step-mother and that also brings a lot of mixed feelings, but thats another story. I am hoping to try for another baby this year after me and my fiance get married and in some ways I can't wait and in some ways I am terrified because of what happened before. If your SIL decides to try again, that will be another time when she will need all your love and support. Sorry for the length, I just wanted to let you know that I am thinking about and praying for you and your family.

1 mom found this helpful

I'm so sorry this happened. Death is never easy, but babies... I'm about to cry.
My best friend lost her baby at 20wks. She complained that her house smelled like a funeral home from all the flowers (but she liked the few potted plants she got). I gave her a pretty journal and a pen in her favorite color - she said that really helped her thru the grieving process. Her son's ashes were scattered at a local rose garden, and she visits every year. Roses now have an extra-special meaning to her.

I like the idea of having a memory candle at your wedding - what a thoughtful gesture! Also, jot down the date wherever you record birthdays/anniversaries so you can send a little card or something every year to let them know you didn't forget about their precious angel.

Hugs to your family.

1 mom found this helpful

Hello,
I'm sorry for your loss.
I don't know how much help I can be, but last spring a good friends of mine delivered a beautiful still born baby girl. In this day and age, it seems like an impossibility and that makes it that much harder to deal with.
I too struggled with finding the right words to express my sympathy and provide comfort for my friend and her family. I found the best comfort I could offer was just to be there and listen.
I hope someone else will have a better handle on this for you, I just wanted to offer some support however small.

Dear A.,

My heart breaks reading your post and it looks like you have already been given some excellent advice.

I was given a wonderful book that I still treasure. It is called "I Am Wherever You Are."

Here is how the website describes it -
I Am wherever You Are is an exquisite collection of angel portraits with inspiring prose and poetry. This book is intended to offer hope and healing, especially to those who have lost a child.

http://www.nanoel.com/Controller?action=product&id=105

There are some wonderful support groups in the area that can be very helpful. Her loss is still so fresh that she may not be ready to go to this kind of thing. I would be happy to talk to her if she needs to talk to someone who has been through a similar loss. I was involved with local infant grief support group for a while and would be happy lend some support or give you resources to turn to.

Also one thing that I have not seen mentioned is to remember the husband is grieving as well. He will be ignored by others and other guys will be treating him like
he is infected with a disease. Let him cry and talk as well, have your fiance spend time with him and let him speak his mind.

My prayers go out to your family,
C.

I think the only thing that needs to be said is that your so sorry for their loss and if there's anything you or your family can do to help them through this, all they have to do is ask.

Hi, this is such a hard thing to deal with and sensitivity is the key here. I am the editor of a website called TheJewishWoman.org and we have a pretty extensive section on Fertility Problems and Loss which deal with miscarriage and stillborn. While the material in many cases is based on the Jewish perspective of loss, there are many articles that anyone will be able to find useful, including many pieces giving practical advice and suggestions (as well as personal stories). The link is: http://www.chabad.org/theJewishWoman/article_cdo/aid/3134...

One particular article in the section of Helpful Hints is called "I Don't Know What to Say" and deals with the do's and don'ts of dealing with someone's loss, here is a direct link: http://www.chabad.org/theJewishWoman/article_cdo/aid/4101...

Hope this is helpful!

I am very sorry for your loss. The worst thing anyone said to me during the horrible time after my son died was, "don't worry, you are young and you can have another one". The next worst thing was " Obviously something was wrong and God took him before he could suffer". These comments fail to honor the value of my little one and the incredible grief I was feeling.

What helped the most was when people didn't say much, but just stood by quietly and let me cry as often and as much as I wanted. At that time, the little tokens of afection, like a card, or a meal brought the most comfort.

A.---I lost my first-born son and the very best things my friends and family did for me was just say "I'm so sorry and I love you". No-one who hasn't experienced it knows HOW IT FEELS--so don't say that for sure---and those "platitudes" of "your young and be thankful you can have more children--etc etc." DO NOT HELP. I love all of my children, however, not one to take the place of the other. So, even just admitting that you don't know what to do or say to make it better--and saying I'm sorry and I love you, is the best thing I think.

I too have lost a baby. I had identical twin girls. My firstborn was live. My second was stillborn. She had just died in utero just prior to delivering. The way that I dealt with it, and still do, is that I immediately told myself she is with the Lord and He knows His reason for taking her which surpasses my own understanding. I have faith He knows what is best. I will one day see her. When it is my time. I also take comfort knowing hereon earth no one can ever harm her. And, since I know whom she is with and where she is, I cannot argue that. This happened 22 years ago, by the way; and, as a parent who lost a child, while you never totally get over it, you do hopefully take comfort in the very things I mentioned. Encourage them to talk,talk,talk, name their child, & join an online grief blog to write out a description of what that child was to them & brought to them. Some of us are here for a very long time but some are here only a short time; but, we are all here for a reason. Prayers.

Hi A.,

I'm truly sorry to hear of your family's loss. I know you have had many responses to your request, and I haven't read them all, but I wanted to share with you what helped me when I lost my babies. My water broke at 5 1/2 months and I was in the hospital for 2 weeks before my babies were born. During that time my friends mother brought me a journal to write to my twins, something they could read when they were older. I was only able to write in that journal twice before my babies were born. The doctors said (and I'm paraphrasing) that there was no point in trying to save them because they were not far enough along. I held my little boy and my little girl in my arms, as they gasped for air, until they passed on. I blamed myself completely for what happened. I was enraged at the doctors and nurses, the hospital. I wanted to die. I wanted nothing to do with anyone. I turned off my phone and shut myself in for a few months. I realize now that just talking about it may have helped me get through it a little easier. But I kept that journal, and I wrote in it everyday for a month or two. That was like my therapy, my way of communicating to them. That helped me tremendously with the transition from being a mommy to being childless. I still write in the journal when sorrow creeps up on me or on holidays, their birthday. It will be 2 years on Feb 8th and it hasn't gotten any easier. Having another child doesn't take the pain away. Prayer is the only form of reassurance I have. I don't know where you or your family are spiritually. I am a Christian, and I firmly believe that I will see my babies again......knowing that (and my new little one!) keep me going everyday! Frankly, I'm not sure how anyone could deal with this sort of thing without faith! We bought a small chest that we keep our babies' things in, such as the hospital records, birth, death and cremation certificates, their Bible, and a few other items.

I hope form all of these responses you find ideas you're comfortable with. Please let her know that talking about it will help (something I still haven't done enough of yet!). There are support groups online and if you want, please feel free to email me at ____@____.com - if either one of you want to talk. It helps to know that you're not alone!

Love & Prayers,
J.

The anniversary of my miscarriage was the hardest b/c no one remembered, but me. So, I mourned the loss of our baby by myself. It would have been wonderful to have someone recognize that it was going to be a difficult day. It almost felt like my little girl didn't matter to anyone, but me. I'd suggest on the days leading up to the anniversary that you send a card & then call on the day. And also mention to her that if she would rather you don't to let you know. For now, ask her what she needs. Do you want my company or to be left alone. Do you want to talk about the baby or go see a funny movie to help take your mind off things for a bit. My best friend came over & we laughed until the wee hours b/c it made me feel normal. I also told all my friends what I needed. I didn't want all the sad looks & I didn't want to hear the I'm so sorry's. And I didn't want to be hugged by anyone but my husband. But that was me.

A.,

I too have dealt with a stillborn death in my extended family. And the BEST advice I can give you is to PRAY. Whatever your faith may be, cling to it. Allow the Lord to give you the words to help the pain your family may feel at this time. So many times in life, circumstances/situations take place that we don't understand. But we have to remember that the Lord has a plan for our lives. He is a healer, a comforter, a protector and an awesome God. My prayers are with you and your family at this difficult time. Take care and God Bless!!!

Hi A.,

I gave birth to a daughter who did not survive as well it all felt like dream when it happened,
It really was hard to get over but I think the best thing for you to do is to listen....

I love the idea of the candle at your wedding or a single rose that would be so sweet and I am sure it would touch here heart.... for many years to come

Did she take pictures I know it sounds kinda gross but that was a big help maybe you could ask to see them and share them with her.. We were scared to hold her but know when I look back on it we were so glad we did ... she was my first so I really was a little scared and schoked at the same time that she was not alive....

Here are some things I did that helped me & my husband grieve, maybe you could suggest it to her in due time...

I wrote a letter to my little girl about me and my husband and told her what we looked like and how she looked like us, and that we would miss her dearly and were sad we would not get to share more time with her... gosh this was almost four years ago and I am starting to well up.... I then put the note in a box and i keep it in a special place in my house...

We also went to group that our hospital had for parents that had lost children... it really helped us heal, we did not feel alone and got to share our story with other moms and dads..we even made a few friends we stay in touch with now...

I hope that helps, I just remember I hated when people tried to avoid me rather then talk about it with me .... talking really seemed to help:) Or just knowing someone carers...wich you do....

H.

HI,
My daughter had a stillborn baby girl in 2005. We had a funeral and every year we mark her birthday or the day she died with a balloon release. This year we each burned a candle for 2 minutes in honor of her 2nd birthday. There are many things you can do but I think the most important things is To act like the child never was. Sometimes it helps to if the parents name the child. Our granddaughters name was Cameron. Best wishes to you all.

A. - I am very sorry for your loss. I have been the Aunt of babies who didn't make it and I had a baby who was stillborn in December 2005.

My advice is to be as caring as you can with your SIL/BIL. Saying things like, "I cannot imagine your pain" is much better than saying "it's all for the best"...

Also, for me, I wanted people to talk to about my baby, why it happended, about having other children, but a lot of my relatives tried to avoid the subject. I really needed someone to talk to about it.

My siblings purchased a tree that was planted in our yard in honor of our baby. This was a really thoughtful thing that they did for us. They also offered to attend the memorial service and some relatives help us tend the grave, which is in another state from us (we buried our baby next to his Auntie, who also died as an infant).

I hope this helps.

First, I want to say how sorry I am to hear about your loss, it is absolutely the worst thing that can happen to parents. We dealt with something similar in our family several years ago, the baby was born with major complications and died a week later. All I can say, is to just be there for them, don't offer the cliches "that it will get easier" or "that you understand" (unless you've been through the same thing, you can't possibly understand. I think doing something at your wedding in memory of her baby is a wonderful thing, if she's ok with that. I think the best thing you can do is to support her and let her cry, talk, scream whatever it takes. And every once in a while, let her know that you're thinking of her and the baby. I think sometimes people want to avoid the discussion and try to forget about the baby. But that was her child and having people acknowledge that is important.

Don't say: The baby's in a better place, it wasn't meant to be, the baby is one of God's angels now, God has a different plan for you, etc. The baby was a person, not a thing -- always remember to use his or her name if the mother gave a name. Do NOT EVER say: I know how feel, I can imagine how you feel, etc. You do not know unless you have been through it. Not only did that baby die, but her hopes and dreams for the future of that baby also died.

Do say: I'm here if you need to talk. Can I make dinner for you guys? Do you need help with the baby's things? (Assuming she had cradle etc. etc. set up already. She may want to store them, or donate them. If she recently had a baby shower, she may want help returning things.) Perhaps you could ask: Is it OK if we mention him/her in the wedding program, such as "altar flowers in loving memory of ..."

Never assume something will be received well - always always ask first.

My baby died at birth almost 11 years ago. It comforts me to see several people leave flowers at her grave at Christmas. I personally would not want a gift every year on her birthday. It would mean more to me to just know I'm not the only one who remembers her.

My condolences to the family. It is so hard when a baby dies.
K.

My first baby was stillborn almost 12 years ago and my brother was also stillborn. Please feel free to email me at ____@____.com is a GREAT resource for you/your family.

Take care,
MaryBeth

I am very sorry to you and your family for your loss. My husband's brother and his wife lost their first baby three years ago (stillbirth), and it was very difficult for our whole family. I know that it's hard to express how sorry you are. My husband and I are very close to both of them, but I think that they appreciated that we just let them grieve and were just there for them when they needed us. Although we had so many questions about how and why this could have happened, we didn't ask. We decided to just let them take their time, and when they were ready they shared the experience with us. In addition to helping them plan a memorial for Ethan, we made a donation in his memory from our children to First Candle, an organization that researches SIDS and stillbirths. They received a letter from First Candle acknowledging the donation, and they still have this letter on their refigerator, so I know that they appreciated the gesture. They also now have two children, a boy and a girl, and they still celebrate Ethan's birthday with a small cake so that his younger siblings will know him as well.

Hi A.,

I am so sorry for you and your family's loss. I had a stillborn 12 years ago. I wish I could tell you that she would move on, but not a day goes by that I don't think about her.

The best thing you can do is listen. If she wants to cry, let her cry, if she wants to scream, let her scream. My friends and close family were absolutley WONDERFUL in all of this because they were there for me. They let me "vent" to them and that is exactly what I needed.

My cousin was married about a month after this happened. She lit a pink candle, we had a girl, on the altar at the church with on single pink rose for her. She has told me that she was doing this, but everyone knew just from seeing it and the priest just simply said that this was a symbol of the loved ones that had gone before us.

If I can help in any other way, please let me know.

Hi A.,

I am sooo sorry to hear about the loss of this precious baby. I really feel for her and my heart goes out to them.

I have gone through this personally. For me it's a little over 9 years. I was 6 months pregnant with her when she passed away. It was the most devastating day of my life when I found out she was dying (fortunately I had a few days "warning" prior to her dying). I agree that the best thing you can do is be there for her if she needs a shoulder to cry on or someone to vent to.

The one thing I really liked was getting cards from alot of people. I still cherish those cards to this day since I don't have much else to bring out on her birthday. Another thing that we did to "comfort" us was to have a memorial for our "heavenly" daughter. We actually had a stone put at a cemetary for her and had a service and we left balloons go up to heaven. This was kind of a closure although to this day I still shed tears for her. Somedays it still seems like it was yesterday even though I have had a beautiful son since her.

L.

Well all you need to do is let them know that you are there for them. Tell you sister-in-law that you are there for her to sit with, listen, and even if she wants to blame, yell or scream her lungs out you'll be there with her to do it. Give support, just be there.

WE have lost a baby in the extended family also, just being there helps.

There have been many suggestions about planets and trees and such. Another thought is a star.

Hi A.,
Sorry to hear about your loss. I say "your" because you lost that baby too! When talking to your sister-in-law, do not ignore the fact that she lost her baby. Most people act like it never happened, like she could not have developed feelings towards her baby. Acknowledge her loss and sympathize with her. Encourage her to name her baby if she did not do so, acknowledging the baby as a real person and not an "it" will help her overcome her loss. Allow her the freedom to talk about the loss when she wants to. Time will heal. Be her friend.
Do you want to do something special just because of the loss? Or was it something you planned anyway?
Just acknowledging her as you new sister and thanking her for welcoming you into the family will go a long way!
Good luck!
V.

I had a stillborn child a little over two years ago. There is really nothing you can do but be there for her if she needs to talk or a shoulder to cry on. Whatever you do, do NOT tell her you understand unless you have been through it yourself. Make sure that she doesn't need anything. Offer to take her out to places or to make dinner for her family. The grief process is a long one. It took me over two years to finally be what most would consider "ok" with it. Give her all the support you can and that's all you really can do.

Oh, that is so sad!! I am so sorry!!!

One thing that comes to mind is a friend once said she hated how people kept reminding her she could still have more children. She needed time to grieve this one, and another child isn't a replacement for this one.

A beautiful book for anyone grieving is Towards Serenity and The Resolution of Grief by Rusty Berkus. I believe it is out of print, but you can still find copies on Ebay and Amazon.

It is a real simple book, a sentence or two per page with beautiful illustrations. As you work through the process, a different page will resonate.

A personal favorite is
"Weep what you must weep. Not only for this loss, but for all other losses you have sustained in this life."

People always love this book when I give it to them, and often they buy copies for other people.

My heart to you.

Sorry to hear about their loss! Whatever you do, don't try to minimize their loss or explain why it happened... that does NOT help. Keeping her from your little girl won't really help either. Be supportive, offer to help if you can or send a thoughtful card. Perhaps you could plant a tree or a flower in memory of their lost child...

Re your SIL at your wedding... I'm try to separate her loss from her involvement in your wedding as much as possible. Losing a baby, even during a pregnancy, is a very emotional experience... and it's pretty unpredictable.

Good luck

Having had a miscarriage, I would say what I would have liked to hear from people would have been something to the extent of "While I can't say, I know what you are going through. I know you are going through a hard time right now. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help. I am there for you whether you need me to run some errands (babysit if they have other children), cook a meal, provide a shoulder, or just to listen."

Then just be there to listen or provide a helping hand where needed. Good luck. Your family (if you are engaged, in many ways they are already your family) is in my prayers.

I had a friend that was pregnant at the same time I was. She had a still born at 25 weeks. It was very hard on both of us to face each other, and we worked together so had to see each other daily. What not to say- at least you can have another baby, or maybe it was for the best. Just say you are very sorry for their loss and state specific ways you would like to help- bring them dinner, or offer to box up baby items until they are ready for them. There is a book called "I'll hold you in heaven" which helps deal with loss. There's also a website, I believe called little angels which helps people deal with the loss of a child. They also sell items memorializing the lost baby. God Bless.

A.,

I am very sorry for the loss in your family. I have experience with this with a close friend. I had a baby - one week old - and was at a social gathering with my friend who was due in one week. We talked our whole pregnancies about how our babies would grow up together and play etc. She went in Monday morning (two days after we were together) and there was no heart beat. She had to deliver her still born baby that day. It was horrible. I didn't know what to say or do or anything. She was depressed for over a year. She wouldn't come out of her house unless she had to. She lost a ton of weight - we were so worried about her. She wasn't okay until another one of her children were in a horrible automobile accident and her attention was diverted to him. Soon after her son healed, however, she got pregnant and delivered a healthy baby girl.

I'm sorry I don't have any good advice to share with you, I just wanted to let you know about my experience.

I'm 33 yrs. old but I have a step sister who is 15 now and was a twin to my brother who died of crib death at 3 mths. old. I would say the best advice to be a reasonably good friend to a family member is to be open to talk about it, but not overly talkative and keep it to a minimum. The most important thing is to reference the child who died whether is was a boy or girl or had a name to the parent often, they were an important part of their lives and the memory of their child although short was very important to them and the more others recognize it makes them feel much better. Be careful and see first how the parents are dealing with it and if they are open to talk, they will eventually it takes time. Treat it with kid gloves so they say, just letting them know your there at first is good too! Hope this helps!

I agree with the advice here. The only thing you can really do is be there-now, next week, next month, in 3 years....
The other thing that I have done for my friend who lost her full term baby was to give her a plant (one that blooms every year about the time of her son's death). I also still make it a point to give her a card or small gift each year (4th just passed). A tree would be nice too as it would be there everyday to remind them of their baby.

Did they name the baby? Maybe you could make a donation in the babies name to some sort of foundation that researches stillborn babies and helps prevent it. Not sure if something like that exist. It could be named in the babies name.

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