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How to talk to someone who has experienced baby loss

We share some tips for approaching this emotional subject with your loved one during Baby Loss Awareness Week

Mother holding newborn baby's hand
Katie Daly
Lifestyle Writer
13 October 2023
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Supporting a friend or family member through baby loss can be a tricky experience to navigate. 

An intensely emotional and often traumatic experience, as loving friends or family members we want to ensure that we are broaching the subject sensitively and providing support in the best way possible.

As we enter Baby Loss Awareness Week from 9-15 October we share some advice with expertise from pregnancy charity Tommy's for handling this topic tactfully and in a way that will make the person in your life experiencing baby loss feel heard and comforted.

Baby Loss Awareness Week is a time for bereaved parents and their families and friends to come together to commemorate their babies' lives. It's also a chance to raise awareness of how baby loss affects UK families every year.

Be aware of your language

Two friends talking over coffee© Getty
Being sensitive in how your broach the topic with your loved one is important

Though we often broach topics like baby loss with the best of intentions, sometimes there are comments that may seem harmless to you but that can upset someone going through this difficult situation. From a survey of 2,000 people who have experienced baby loss, Tommy's found that 75% were told "it wasn't meant to be", 53% received comments from people saying "at least it happened early" and 49% were told "just to try again". 

Though you may be trying to look for any positives you can find to help your loved one remain optimistic, it is important that you are aware of not making any comments that may make them feel as if you are downplaying their trauma.

Saying something is better than nothing

Friends holding hands© Getty
Simply being a listening ear is often just what someone needs when they experience baby loss

On the flipside, acknowledging their pain can make the person feel validated. Anna, a bereavement nurse who works with Tommy's, told the charity: "Someone may avoid talking to a family member or friend experiencing loss due to fear that they will upset them. Remember, they cannot be any more upset than they already are, as the worst thing imaginable has happened."

Acknowledging their pain will help them to know that you understand that they are going through a very tough experience, even if it is a work colleague or someone you don't know too well. You can broach the topic simply by saying, "I'm so sorry".

Alternatively, you may wish to send a message to a loved one who lives far away or that you know may not be ready to talk about the situation. Sending them a card or text saying, "I'm thinking of you" will remind them that you are there, without adding any pressure to respond straight away.

Acknowledge their baby – if they are ready

A mother and father holding the hat of a premature baby.© Getty
Remembering and honouring their baby's life can be what many people need

You may feel awkward about bringing up their baby but some people will feel comforted by being offered the space to speak about their baby as much as they want to. As long as they are ready to open up, having a conversation that they lead can help them feel better as they are able to acknowledge the baby that they love existed and is remembered. 

Gemma, a mother who has experienced baby loss received support from Tommy's. She recalled: "It meant a lot that, under the care of Dr. Alex Heazell and his team at the Tommy’s clinic in Manchester, Ada was spoken about like the beautiful little baby that she was, not like a medical loss as we had been made to feel countless times before."

Some people may also want to remember their baby by using their name openly. Raj lost his son Rhiann at seven months. He said: "They think saying his name will remind you, as if you're not thinking about him every second." Honouring their life, however long, is special for the parents so acknowledging that as someone close to them is important, especially during difficult times like anniversaries.

Offer comfort, not reassurance

Two women holding hands © Getty
Removing any pressure and letting someone offload can take some weight off their shoulders

Steer clear of phrases starting with 'at least' such as ‘at least you know you can get pregnant’ or ‘at least it was just an early loss’ as these comments are deeply hurtful and don't make the person grieving feel any better. Don't try to talk them out of their feelings, simply listen to them. 

The same goes for asking a parent when they are going to try again. Each person's pregnancy journey looks different and is a deeply personal experience, especially when they are going through bereavement. 

Continue to be understanding

Couple walking in woodland next to river© Getty
Taking time out in fresh air can be what your loved one needs

It is important to remember that grief doesn't have an expiry date. Even if someone has returned to work or is trying to come back to social situations again, it doesn't mean their scars are healed. Some days they might feel strong, other days will be harder to face. Keep inviting them to events but be understanding that they may decline the offer. 

Remember also that certain dates might be difficult for someone who has lost their baby, even years after their passing. These days can include birthdays, the anniversary of their baby's death or other family-centric holidays. 

Don't dismiss the grief of the dad or partner

Man with arm around other man© Getty
Remember to offer comfort to the baby's dad or the partner

It can feel natural to look to the father of the baby or the mother's partner to support her during this tough time but it is also important to acknowledge their pain. If you aren't close to your loved one's partner, try to help in any way you can to create an environment where their own grief is acknowledged. 

Tommy's found that two thirds of partners who have experienced loss have said they needed help opening up. Rob, whose son Theo passed away at two days old, told Tommy's: "People always asked how Kate was, and rightly so, but only a handful of people ever asked me." Recognising that they are grieving too will make this person feel heard and seen.

Other ways to show support

Woman delivering box of food© Getty
Delivering food will ensure they are fed and will take shopping off their to-do list on tough days

You can mark a special date or show someone you're thinking of them through a simple token. Sometimes just a card or a homecooked meal can remind them that they can lean on you for support. Even buying some food and bringing it round to them can take a weight off on days when leaving the house may feel too difficult.

You could also send them a candle for Tommy's Wave of Light – a global candle-lighting on Saturday 15 October to remember the little lives lost.

Although you may fear broaching this difficult topic, finding a way that feels natural to your relationship to show them they can rely on you won't take their pain away, but will help them to feel like they are not going through it alone.

To speak to a Tommy’s midwife about any aspect of your pregnancy, or if need support and advice following a pregnancy loss, contact the team at You can also call them for free on 0800 014 7800 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm) and find more information on their website.

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