How to best approach those grieving from infant loss
A year ago, one of our dear colleagues experienced the agonising loss of her child, lost during childbirth.
We had all celebrated this baby’s imminent arrival, clinked tea cups together during a baby shower, and waved our dear friend off on maternity leave – never imagining that she would arrive back at work (weeks later) with no baby and a very broken heart.
Though her and her husband’s grief was of course the greatest, we were all left feeling bereft and especially unsure on how to approach when she came back. That led to us inviting Graeme Broster to come and chat with all of our staff about how to make our grieving colleague’s return to work as gentle as possible.
As the founder of Born Sleeping (a support group for those who have lost their babies), and a dad who has himself had to live through this loss, his advice was beautifully practical and so helpful for us all.
Here, he shares it in written form for you to learn from too. It is relevant to not just colleagues, but to anyone close to those grieving…
Advice on the return of a colleague to work after the loss of a baby.
The first thing to be aware of is that this is a messed up, complicated, horrific situation. There is no “right” way to approach it – there is nothing “right” about anything to do with the situation, it is all just “wrong”. As a result, you will probably, at some point, mess it up and say/do the wrong thing, but the worst thing you can do is not engage with her at all, or try and avoid the situation.
In addition, what is right for her on one day, may be wrong the next day, or even the next hour – her emotions are in a constant state of flux. Allow her to dictate the content and pace of your interactions – some days she will desperately need to speak about her baby and her loss and her grief and on other days, she will not want to talk about it at all and just get on with doing her job. At the same time, be aware that she may not have the emotional energy required to reach out when she needs help, to talk or even articulate what it is that she needs. This means that it will sometimes require you to initiate conversations and make specific offers to help (e.g. babysitting, laundry, housework, meals). Don’t be offended if these are rebuffed though.
Things to remember:
- She is hurting, physically and emotionally.
- She is angry – at God, at the hospital, at people who have had babies/are pregnant, at people who can worship God just at the moment.
- She is struggling with her faith – how can God allow this, how can God allow this to happen *to me*, does God even exist?
- She may well fear the (perceived) pity of others.
Things to avoid saying – although you may believe them and they may even be objectively true, right now, these are not helpful things to say:
- At least you still have another child.
- You can still have another child.
- God keeps the best for himself.
- This is all part of a plan/God has something better in store.
- Quoting Scripture (given the big faith questions she is struggling with right now, Scripture is not always helpful).
- I know how you feel (even if you have lost a child, each grief is unique, do not project your experience onto her).
- Vague offers of assistance (e.g. If you need anything…) – these place the burden on her to initiate/decide what she needs.
Things you can say:
- I am so sorry for your loss.
- How are your husband and child doing?
- If/when you see her husband, make sure to ask how he is doing – husbands are often forgotten as the wife is the major “victim” of the loss.
If you’d like to find out more, or get in touch with Graeme, here are links to the Born Sleeping website and email address: