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Day-to-Day Ways to Help Grieving Parents

Updated: Apr 25




In a recent survey I conducted in March 2024, I asked participants to speak from their own experiences of pregnancy and/or infant loss, to share how friends and family helped and supported them after their loss. It was the simplest gestures by friends and family members that were the most helpful and appreciated.


The losses experienced by the Mothers who participated in this study included miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal loss. I say a big thank you to the mothers who generously gave me their time and energy to share their personal experiences with me in this survey. They included mothers 18 from Australia, USA and the UK.


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If you are feeling helpless, here are some of the most helpful ways you can support your friends and family members who are bereaved parents. Choose what feels right to you. Every little piece of support adds up.

DROP OFF A MEAL.

A meal that can be packaged appropriately to sit by the front door is even better as well as one that can be frozen. Dropping off a meal without expecting to come in is hugely appreciated. If the meal can be frozen, it means it can be saved for a day that suits (in the early days post loss, they might be gifted many meals and this ensures the meals help for longer). Your meal will be hugely appreciated, it's a basic need that is never rejected. The gesture never gets old and is appreciated in the early days as well as months and months down the track.

FOOD VOUCHERS

If you don't feel you are much of a cook, and not sure of any eateries near you that provide pre-made meals, or perhaps you don't live close by to drop a meal off even if you wanted to, a food voucher is also an incredible help. Again, it's a basic need, the need to eat, and always appreciated. The most basic of tasks are unbelievably hard when grieving, including thinking about and preparing food. Food vouchers let your grieving friends/family choose their favourite meals from their favourite eateries.

DROP OFF SOME GROCERIES

Many responses in the survey spoke about how difficult it was to be in a social setting when grieving. The grocery store was mentioned repeatedly. This was an outing filled with too many unpredictable outcomes that was enough to deter most of my survey participants from going to the grocery store. Firstly getting enough energy to get dressed and attend the shops was one issue. Possibly having to engage in conversations was another. It was easier to just stay home. A delivery of essentials such as milk, bread, snacks for young children etc is always an appreciated gesture. Not to mention comfort foods such as chocolate and sweets. There is no timeline on this gesture either. It was often the grocery drops that were gifted months after the loss that were appreciated as much as the immediate ones. A text message to say 'hey, I'm heading to the supermarket, do you need some milk?' is another thoughtful and helpful gesture.

SEND A TEXT MESSAGE

You may not get a reply, or any sign for that matter that your message has been read, but many survey participants noted how appreciated the 'thinking of you' messages were. Messages to acknowledge their grief showed them how much they were cared for. Don't worry about saying the wrong thing. Message from the heart and it will be well received. There's no timeline on sending text messages, so whenever you think of your bereaved friends/family members, don't be afraid to reach out with a text to tell them that they are in your thoughts.

HEARTFELT CARDS AND GIFTS

This one can be tricky, sometimes not knowing what to buy. A card with a heartfelt message was mentioned by a number of the mothers I surveyed, the heartfelt words were always well received. If you find a present idea that you feel is the perfect gift, these are always appreciated too. While it's not about gifts and flowers, it's really about acknowledgement. Anything to show that you acknowledge their grief and loss is meaningful and acknowledgement of their baby, a very real human being. Some gifts were for the parents such as a robe for one of the bereaved mothers for snuggling in on days of needing to feel comfort. Other gifts included keepsakes, personalised with baby's name. The thought behind the gifts was always greatly appreciated.

HELP WITH THE CLEANING

If you feel you are in a position to help with cleaning or gardening, this is also an appreciated gesture. In one response, a family member would regularly come and mow the front lawn, do some weeding and then head back home. They never announced they had arrived, they just did their thing and then left, without needing to be thanked or acknowledged. This was a HUGE help to the grieving parents who didn't need to worry about their garden over-growing.

SITTING AND LISTENING OR JUST SITTING IN SILENCE

Grief can feel very lonely and isolating. Many survey responses appreciated friends and family members willing to just pop by and sit. No expectation on where the conversation would or wouldn't go. Sometimes no conversation at all. Sitting with someone who is grieving is a non-verbal way of telling them, they are not alone.

ACKNOWLEDGE THE SPECIAL DAYS

Receiving cards on Mother's Day were mentioned as being very special from friends and family by bereaved mothers. Especially when their baby was stillborn, or in the instance of a neonatal death. Once a mother, always a mother. Acknowledging that they are a mother carries great significance to bereaved mothers. Be gentle with your words, offering support and love in your message. It is not an easy day for them by any means, but showing that you care, acknowledging their loss, and speaking their baby's name will be very significant to them. 

DON'T BE AFRAID TO SAY BABY'S NAME

This one may be last on the list, but it is by no means the least. Bereaved parents love to hear their baby's name, they are forever a loved baby, they are just not physically here. Say their name loud and proud, just as you would for any other baby. It really will mean so much.



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