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Support After Stillbirth: What Not to Say & What TO Say

what to say after stillbirth

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There are a lot of things I want to say in regards to how to give support after a stillbirth.

Let’s say you heard the tragic news that someone you care for is going through an unimaginable loss and you want to do something for them; you want to support them. 

But you want to ensure you don’t say the wrong thing. 

I’m here to help you because I lived this. I went through the trauma; I still hold onto the loss, and I heard some of the most ignorant things that could possibly be said. If I can save another broken-hearted mom from hearing ignorant comments, I’m here for that

My words may seem harsh, but that is not my intention. My intention is to help you give your loved one the tiniest bit of comfort while she grieves the loss of her child.

Believe me, what not to say is just as important (or even more important) as what to say after the loss of a baby.

My Story

You can hear my full story on The Realistic Nutrition Podcast (was then known as The Healthy Mama’s Podcast) below.

I was almost 21 years old when I was told that my baby died. The experience was pretty traumatizing as no one would tell me anything. 

The ultrasound tech wasn’t allowed, all she told me was she didn’t like what she was seeing and asked me to drive to my doctor’s office. 

My doctor was on vacation, so I saw a sub. I waited in the waiting room for what felt like the whole day. Then the exam room for about an hour until the doctor finally came in.

“I don’t know what to say.” That’s what he muttered out.

“Just tell me,” I said, trying to hold it together while my voice was cracking.

“Your baby died.”

My healthcare team made mistakes over the next day or two in arranging a delivery for me, until we took matters into our own hands and called the hospital in the next city.

After 22 hours of labor, I left the hospital with a card, a pair of booties and hat, and a broken heart.

Over the next few weeks I had to deal with the morgue, the funeral home, and picking out an urn. Things I never knew had to be done. 

Each task was gut wrenching.

I unplugged my phone for around a month; I couldn’t talk to people. This caused friction as  people were upset that I wouldn’t talk to them. I would get messages over Facebook that were meant to be supportive but were littered with phrases that I’ll list below. 

This is how I learned the things not to say after a stillbirth.

What Not to Say After a Stillbirth

First of all, if you don’t know what to say. That’s okay.

You can be supportive just by acknowledging their pain. A simple, “I’m so sorry. Please let me know if you need anything during this time (a meal, me pick up your groceries and leave them at your door, other errands, or even a load of laundry done). If you need to be alone, I’m here when you’re ready.” Anything along those lines will work, but there are so many things not to say after your friend’s stillbirth

After everything I went through, I decided to list the things you shouldn’t say to someone who has had a stillbirth. They are in no particular order:

  1. “Are you okay?” – You have the best of intentions, I know, but trust me – they are not okay.
  2. “You can try again.”
  3. “It wasn’t meant to be.” Or anything in regards to God’s plan, or “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”
  4. “Chances are next time this won’t happen.”
  5. “Time will heal all wounds.”
  6. “Everything happens for a reason.”
  7. “At least you can get pregnant” (this also falls under “next time…”).
  8. “It’s probably best/it’s for the best” – this was said to me after I gave the news our son had down syndrome. This still hurts me to my core. I also know a close friend who had this said to them. Don’t ever say this.
  9. “He/she is in a better place now.” I know you mean well, but this is a reminder that our baby is not in “our” arms.
  10. “I don’t know what I’d do if this happened to me.”
  11. “This happened to my friend/cousin/bobby-jo down the street and they have 5 kids now.”
  12. “I know how you feel.” 
  13. “At least this happened now and not after you had the baby.” Actually said to me.
  14. “At least you didn’t get to meet the baby first.”  Also said to me.
  15. “At least you weren’t further along / thankfully you weren’t further along.”

When in doubt ask yourself…

  • Is what I’m about to say about me or about the person who is hurting?
  • Is what I’m about to say referring to their future without their baby?
  • Is what I’m about to say going to show that I am here for them? If so, then okay!

Supportive Things to Say After a Stillbirth

Please acknowledge the loss first and foremost. Some things you can say include”

  1. “I’m here for you.”
  2. “I love you.”
  3. “Don’t feel like you have to answer my calls when I check in. I know you will reach out when you’re ready. I just want you to know that I’m here for you.”
  4. “I’m dropping off food for you and the family tonight at 6pm. Don’t feel like you need to answer the door.” 
  5. “I’m here to listen.”
  6. “I don’t know what to say, but I’m so sorry and I’m here for you when you’re ready.”
  7. “Can I bring you food?”
  8. “Can I get you groceries? Or have groceries delivered to you?”
  9. “Can I go to town for you/run errands?”
  10. “I know how much you loved this baby. I’m sorry.”
what to say after stillbirth 2
Sometimes dropping off groceries or other necessities is all you need to do.

Other Lovely Things You Can Do for Your Friend

  1. Set up a meal train with your circle of friends. Try some of these easy meal prep recipes or any of these recipes from my archive.
  2. Be there for the long term. Don’t just acknowledge her loss in the beginning. Check in throughout days/months/years.
  3. Put together a self care basket to drop off (but remember that your friend just gave birth or had a c-section and she may not be able to have a bath right away). LINK SELF CARE FOR LOSS POST FROM RANDA NUTRITION YOU’RE WRITING
  4. Send over an UberEats/SkipTheDishes/DoorDash gift card, or give them a heads up you’re ordering for them that night.
  5. Send flowers.
  6. Gifts are lovely. Here are some gift ideas for infant loss.

When in doubt, just be there. Everyone grieves in their own way. If they want company, be there. If they want space, understand it. Your support will help your friend grieve in what way is right for her.

This post was written by Randa Derkson from Randa Nutrition.