How To Cope When A Newborn Dies

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When I hear a certain lullaby it takes me back to an exact moment in time. The phone rang. It was late at night and I was holding our precious newborn son. I rocked steadily hoping the soft music would lull him to sleep. I was excited and thrilled when the phone call confirmed my dear friend was in labor. We were due just days apart but I had elected to get induced and she was much more valiant and had waited for nature to take its course. Just that morning I had called and she was scrubbing the kitchen floor. She was practical and calm. I was fearful and worried. She was a nurse and her husband a doctor. They were an amazing couple that seemed to take life in stride.

I waited through the night wondering how things were going and couldn’t wait to see the sun so I could justify calling to check on them. But a frantic phone call arrived before the sun had a chance to peek for the day. The messenger said something was wrong with the precious little boy my friend had delivered just hours before. Their son had something desperately wrong and was being air lifted to the nearest big city in our state.

It was shortly after we all learned their new son was born with a major heart defect. As long as he was attached to his mommy he was fine. But once they cut the umbilical chord he stood no chance of breathing on his own. Our friends would hold their son and watch him slowly die in their arms.

The funeral was crippling. Here I held my healthy new son. They had an open casket and there lay a beautiful, what seemed perfect, full new life. But without a heart he could not be part of this world. You couldn’t do anything except allow yourselves to know this had to be part of God’s plan. But my heart ached for my friends. I want to offer sympathy. I wanted to help somehow.

The next days were important. There were lessons learned through all.

  • Remember that the hurting will not ever go away. It will lessen but it will always hurt. It is more important to listen than say anything. Be there for the moment they need to talk. They will learn to walk through this season but it may take a life time.
  • You cannot walk through this difficult time for your friend or family member. You can come along side of them. Only they will be able to decide the best way to travel this treacherous path. Allow them to respond different than you think you would have. Their emotions may surprise you and each parent may respond differently.
  • Memorial gifts throughout this season are not only important, they are crucial.
  • It is important to acknowledge the grandparents and siblings of the lost infant. Memorial gifts for them are important as well. They often get lost in the remembrance of those hurting.
  • Meals during the same season can be a huge help and provide a sense of stability if there are other children in their home.
  • A personalized sympathy/memorial gift with the baby’s name can be a huge help. It will be an item they cherish and hold onto. A stuffed animal or baby blanket with the Child’s name on it lets the person know you want their memory to be upheld.
  • Getting away. Offer to take the friend on a drive to a location in nature that can provide a place to pray, think or rest away from the home.
  • Having new baby items and an empty baby room to come home to is crushing. Ask the spouse if you can gather 3-4 or items in the room and place them in a memory box.
  • Get a group of people from the workplace, neighborhood, church or family and create a living sympathy basket. Gather things that are alive or will offer inspiration. There are great web sites with sympathy basket gift ideas. You can scroll through the many different ideas or choose one they have made. This is also a great idea if you live far away but want to offer your sympathy.
  • A child’s book on loss can be a great tool for the children as well as the parents. As they take their children through the steps of grieving they too will be healing. There are lists and lists of books at your local library or book store.
  • As time moves on, offer to help the married couple get away. Send them away for a night or two and watch their other children if they have any.
  • Finally the best Memorial gift you can give is yourself. Keep asking how they are. It can be through a card, email, phone call or your mere presence.

write by Ivor

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