Coping with a Stillbirth - Help with Grief

Elizabeth Postle, midwife and health visitor, helps you to cope with the huge sadness of a stillbirth. 

The unthinkable has happened, and your baby has died.  You'll be in shock, you'll have many many questions and you'll wonder how you will survive this.  

This page should help you to work your way through this grief and learn how to cope.  

Why Did I Have a Stillbirth?  

Why did my baby die?  What went wrong?  Did I do something wrong?  

These are questions you will be bound to be asking yourself.   

The first thing to remember is that it is never your fault.  

Only your doctor can answer the question why, so don't be afraid to ask. Sometimes it is a genetic illness or a placenta problem. Often this wonderful baby was just not viable with life.   Make sure that you have all the answers to your questions, or go back and see the doctor later when you have had a chance to process what has happened. 

Pink Protea Flower for Grieving a Stillbirth

Keep Memories Alive after a Stillbirth

It is important that you spend time with the baby, give him or her a name. Photographs of the precious bundle in the favourite outfit you bought for them will be a comfort in the future, although this is not something you can envisage at first.

Have a look at this website by a photographer of stillbirth infant pictures. He has created some very sensitive and beautiful images which would help families to remember the life that they spent 9 months nurturing. It may help you to understand why these photographs might be a comfort to you in the future. 

Another way of keeping the memory of your child alive is to wear a piece of memorial jewelry perhaps with a lock of hair, or a pinch or ashes.  

How to Cope with Grieving a Stillbirth

  • Have close family with you, to see and hold your baby, to share your grief.
  • Plan a funeral - help with this, it will be so so difficult, but again it will be a comfort to you in the future.
  • This child is an important part of your life. For many, many years you will remember the birthday, how old they would be and wonder what they would be doing.
  • Going home as soon as possible is good but try not to be alone, take everything a day at a time. Have close friends and family around.
  • Talk about your loss. Friends may find it impossible to bring up the subject of the baby, but show the photographs, tell them the name you chose. This gives importance to your precious baby’s short life.
  • Handle the clothes you bought, feel sad, cry. This child has as much right to be mourned as someone living to 70. It is the loss of your dream, the life that might have been.

Grief is the price we pay for love, it is a painful pathway, but we all take it a day at a time and we survive.

The comfort is that you shared all of this child’s short life.

Babies in the womb can identify parents voices and can listen to music. You shared the joy of knowing that you were pregnant and seeing the development on scans. You had the joy of feeling them kicking.

This child cannot be replaced but with luck you will be able to go on to have other children in time.  

My mother had a boy stillbirth. She often wondered how he would have grown up, what career path he would have taken. Sadly for her he was given no name, no photographs were taken. It was when these precious bundles were whisked away from families.

After a Stillbirth, Support Each Other and Any Other Children

Supporting each other is essential when coping with a stillbirth

Support each other as a couple. Have close friends or a counsellor to help you through the early dark days. Get through a day at a time and you will find acceptance. Get more advice in "Help Grieving the Loss of a Child".

Children also need help coping with a stillbirth in the family

Explain the death of your baby to your other children.

If the baby was to be part of the family with older children, then it is important that you explain to them clearly what has happened. Tell them the name you chose. Answer any questions they may have honestly.

Don’t just say they have gone to heaven, as young children may think it is a place from which they will be coming back. Explain that the baby won’t be coming home.

Read “Children and Grief” for more on helping children cope with grief.

Let your children’s school or nursery know, so that staff can answer any queries they may have and be aware of any problems.

Get grandparents and other relatives to help and do ask for help when you need it. Friends want to help but often don’t know how.

This heartache does become bearable. Shock and numbness help for a while. You will cope for your other loved ones and yourself.

Trying for Another Pregnancy after Stillbirth

Many parents are naturally very concerned about even trying for another child, in case this tragedy happens again.

This is when it is a good idea to have a meeting with your consultant to discuss all the issues. The consultant can also say whether you are physically and emotionally ready for another pregnancy. This varies from person to person.

Many parents who have experienced the terrible grief of a stillbirth go on to have happy, healthy children. 

Pink Flowers for the Loss of a Child through Stillbirth

Recommended Reading: 

Related Pages: 

Memorial Keepsakes

Memorial Jewelry 

> > Coping with a Stillbirth

Sales from our pages result in a small commission to us which helps us to continue our work supporting the grieving.  

Memorial Magnolia Tree

The Magnolia is one of the earth's oldest plants, with a spectacular flower which dates back 95 million years.  What a beautiful specimen to commemorate a life. 

These trees are grown by the foremost magnolia nursery in the country and they will send a variety most suited to the recipient's climate. 

The flowers in spring will bring joy to the bereaved and help to heal their heart.

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