The Loss Of A Child

Finding Ways To Cope With The Grief & Move Forward

There is little more painful or difficult to comprehend than the loss of a child. It is one of nature’s harshest and cruelest truths. It becomes a sad reality for families of all kinds—it does not discriminate. Such a tragedy can inflict truly confusing and overwhelming feelings.

Like any other kind of loss, unfortunately, this takes time to heal from. It is a process that can’t be rushed. On the contrary, it must be worked through.

Pregnancy And Infant Loss

Pregnancy and infant loss are terrible things to endure, but unfortunately, they are still quite common. The two types of infant loss are divided between a miscarriage, and a stillbirth, or infant death. Read on to learn more about each category, the difference between the two types of infant loss, and find tips on how to deal with losing a baby.

Miscarriage Versus Infant Death

Miscarriages and infant deaths are two forms of losing an infant child. It should be noted that both situations are obviously heart-wrenching. While neither loss is to be demeaned, there are a few distinct differences in the two types. Read the following sections to understand the differences between miscarriage and infant death.

Timing Differences

The below stipulations are according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Symptom Differences

The symptoms between a miscarriage and an infant death or stillbirth are not the same.

Treatment Differences

The treatments for miscarriages and infant deaths or stillbirths are quite different.

Likelihood Of Occurrence Differences

The likelihood of miscarriages versus infant death/stillbirth occurrences differs quite significantly.

Breaking The News Differences

The need and way in which you would tell your loved ones about the tragedy also differs with miscarriages and stillbirths.

Reaction To The News Differences

The reaction people have to each case can be vastly different. Both miscarriages and stillbirths should be treated with support, sensitivity, and love. In both cases, all the grieving mothers and partners want is a shoulder to cry on, someone to hug, or simply someone who will listen when they are ready to talk about it.

Preventative Measures To Reduce Risk Of Miscarriage Or Infant Death

Although much of what causes miscarriages and stillbirths is still somewhat unknown and there are certain situations considered high risk, there are a few things that can be avoided to reduce the risk of either happening to your family.

High risk factors include:

  • Obesity
  • Chronic illnesses
  • Previous stillbirths or miscarriages
  • Being pregnant with multiples
  • Being over the age of 35

Things to avoid include:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking
  • Drug use

Miscarriages and stillbirths are still not fully understood by doctors and researchers. The best thing you can do as a mother and the mother’s partner is to live a healthy lifestyle, as that seems to lower most associated risks.

Coping With The Loss Of A Child

Whether you have experienced a miscarriage or a stillbirth, you have experienced a loss. Just like with any loss, you should expect to go through grief stages. Remember to give yourself time to move through them as you and your partner need to.

Life after baby loss can be a confusing realm that must be navigated. The reason it’s such a foggy place to be is because it unfolds so differently for each person. It’s unique to everyone. A good place to start, though, is to understand the most common feelings people generally experience while grieving. It also will help to remember that beyond that, there isn’t a linear process.

Grief can be up and down, backwards, and it can even seem to be going in circles at times. It’s best to keep that in mind when trying to comprehend any type of grief, whether it’s parental, sibling, grandparent, or any other kind.

Parental Grief

It is said that losing a child, no matter how far along you were in your pregnancy, often feels similar to the loss of an older child. Despite how intense this experience can be emotionally for many women, it’s also important to note that no one else can tell you how to feel. Some women are actually not that affected by a miscarriage, for example. There are no wrong or right ways to handle these situations.

With that being said, there are a few things to consider when considering the aspects of grief that often comes with miscarriage or stillbirth.

  • Going from pregnant to not pregnant affects your hormones, which can cause changes in your brain chemistry. This can lead to postpartum depression or various other mood disorders. These things on top of dealing with a loss means you are having to process grief at the same time as having quite vulnerable moods anyway.
  • There are five stages of grief alone to consider: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These can fluctuate throughout your grieving process, and you may not find yourself necessarily moving through them in any particular order. It may not even happen in one linear direction. Know that this is normal.
  • As a general rule of thumb, there is no “normal,” and whatever you experience can pretty much be classified as normal for that reason. Give yourself a break, and know that you will have to process it all your own way.

Do Men & Women Grieve Differently?

We are all human, so there will always be similarities in the ways we feel and react to tragedy. But are there differences between the way men and women grieve? It’s difficult to completely generalize every man and woman based on the tendencies of their genders—after all, everyone is unique.

There are similarities in the way in men and women grieve. They may choose to avoid the grieving process altogether or they can move along through the process as painful as it may be. There are however vast differences in the way in which men and women grieve.

According to, Men are known to actually focus more on anger amidst their grief. They also tend to stay in their own heads, and to themselves rather than relying on the emotional support of others.

This could be the result of societal reinforcement within American culture, as men have been socialized to grieve less outwardly than is deemed acceptable for women.

Women, on the other hand, do often accept emotional support from others more often than men. They are typically known for relying on feeling, while men are known to depend on their thoughts. Women depend more on connection, while men focus more on independence and “getting on with life.

How The Death Of A Child Affects A Marriage

The death of a child can certainly have an impact on your marriage or relationship. Whether that impact is negative or positive tends to depend on how connected through the grief you and your partner remain. It can be much easier said than done, but there are resources out there which can help you to stay connected.


Going to see a therapist can be a great help for those going through grief. Often, talking to anyone not personally involved in such a tender situation can be relieving. The therapist doesn’t have judgment or criticisms—they’re a neutral party. They mostly listen and offer their unbiased guidance.

If you and your partner are having a tough time, therapy might offer great tools and solutions to help you work through it all together. It can help you maintain an open communication line with your loved one.


Just as it’s important you are allowed to grieve the way you need to, it’s vital you allow your partner the same thing in return. This is where ideas can often clash, or disconnect can occur between spouses.

Everyone is different, and we all deal with things in our own ways. Give each other the time, space, and respect you both deserve amidst the tragedy you’ve experienced together.

  • Overall, never stop taking care of yourself. That’s the best way to keep your grieving process as conquerable as you can. Make sure you’re staying healthy.

Sibling Grief

No matter how old the child is, losing a sibling can be painful and confusing for them. The child may not even be completely sure what they feel. They might even pick up on you and/or your partner’s sadness, and it’s possible that they could be affected by that, too.

The way children process the death can be a little ambiguous overall. One minute, they may be asking questions that are difficult and painful to answer, and the next they might walk off and start playing.

The best way to deal with it is to refrain from having judgment, and just making sure the affected child knows you are still there for them.

You should treat any feelings that the affected child may experience during this time with patience and empathy. It is most important that you give them time and the parental love needed in order to grieve and heal.

Read on to find various ways of coping with this terrible loss you have experienced.

Reassurance & Communication

It’s also important they are reassured of a few things. Firstly, they will inevitably notice a different ambiance that has emerged within your home. They should be made aware that the way you and your partner feel is in no way shape or form their fault.

This is why communication is so important. If this isn’t vocalized to them at least a few times, they might assume they have done something wrong. Even if they don’t verbalize these thoughts, their feelings can begin to internalize without you being fully aware of them.

Answering Their Questions

Young children whose siblings have died will inevitably have questions. After all, they were likely anticipating their arrival the same way you were. Their brains also won’t be able to comprehend the concept of death, and you will want to avoid leaving them even more confused than before, or worse, afraid.

It’s important, therefore, to answer their questions in a way that won’t leave them with any further difficult emotions brewing. You want to give your child the chance to find a sense of peace about their sibling’s death.

Consider Children's Books

Take a look at a few options below we’ve gathered for the very purpose of helping to deal with difficult conversions after your child has lost their sibling.

For toddlers:

For older children:

Have Family Rituals

A good way to help your child grieve the death of their sibling might be to include them in family rituals involving the lost child. This can create a sense of family adhesiveness and unity as you all mourn together.

If you’re unsure about which activities would be appropriate to include your child in, it might help to just ask. They will likely be honest about what they want to see and do, or what they don’t.

Take a look at a few ideas on family rituals in which the sibling could be included:

  • You could have them write a letter or draw a picture for their sibling
  • They could give them a plush toy/teddy bear to be put in their coffin
  • Depending on how you feel on the matter, you could consider letting them see their sibling to meet them and to say goodbye
  • You could include them in the funeral/memorial service if this is something they want (be sure to explain everything they can expect to happen in the funeral beforehand)
  • You could plant a tree or light a candle for their sibling
  • They can help put flowers on their grave or in front of their urn each week or once a month

Counseling As An Option

Counseling might be another great option for helping your other children to process their grief, especially if you’re finding it difficult to talk to them about the situation.

Alternatively, if they are in need of talking to someone besides you or your partner, getting some counseling could also be of some help.

It can help kids learn to make sense of the loss they’ve endured, while also helping them to process their feelings in a healthy way. Find the closest grief counselor to you who fits your children’s needs and give them a call to talk about setting up an appointment.

Grandparents Grief

Grandparents, unfortunately, are often pushed into the background. They are sometimes known as ‘neglected mourners’ who are expected to stay strong and support their own kids’ grieving—the primary grievers. They are forgotten in the intensity of the parent’s pain.

The reality is that their loss is at least similar to that of the parents’, and should also be acknowledged. They were expecting a grandchild, and they lost them.

According to Dr. Alan Wolfelt, a renowned grief counselor, the grief of grandparents is unique because they feel the loss twice—once for their grandchild, and another time for their own child’s suffering.

Parents play the roles of both mourner and protector. They are naturally protective over their children, and the pain of not being able to ease their child’s pain can feel almost unbearable.

How To Help Your Child Cope With The Loss Of Their Child

The painful and ugly truth with the loss of a child is that, as the grandparent, you can’t protect your child from this pain. Your natural instinct is to shield them from hurt, yet this is something you simply can’t fix for them. That is a part of what makes this tragedy so painful for grandparents.

The best way you can help your child cope is to love them. Be there for support like you always have. Let them grieve however they need to, and give them space whenever they need it. Just gently letting them know you’re there if they need someone to talk to goes a long way.

Instead of trying to force your child’s broken pieces back together again, be patient and present until they have healed in their own time. It can feel impossible to watch them suffer, but pain is a natural and healthy response to grief. They will have to take time to heal in whichever way works for them.

How To Help A Friend Cope With Losing A Grandchild

Offering practical help is a great start. You can offer to help take care of their household chores whenever possible. Small, mundane things like that can seem like huge tasks for someone grieving, so these offers can go a long way.

Another way to help a grieving grandparent is to avoid clichés when trying to console them. Even as well-meaning as they may be, it can be hurtful in contrast to be given such cookie-cutter advice when they have lost a one of a kind little person.

When in doubt, the best way to help a grieving grandparent is to simply listen with a compassionate heart. Acknowledge the fact that you don’t know how they feel, but you are there for them in any way you can support their feelings, and without judgment or criticism. Usually, this is all a grieving person needs.

What To Expect After The Loss Of A Child

The parents of a child who has died are often still reeling from the loss for months following the incident. Therefore, it can be extremely difficult having to go about life and ‘business as usual’.

There are emotions and situations that will present themselves after the loss of a child that parents, friends and family should be aware of. This can help you to know that what you're feeling is not only normal but allow others to be the best possible support system for the family.

Crying Is Normal

It’s a natural reaction for some people to try and hide their feelings, especially crying. However, it’s important to let your other kids know that crying is okay. They should learn that crying is a healthy way of coping with grief. Ensure they know that you’re crying because you’re sad, but also that it is in no way their fault.

Asking Why

If someone you know has experienced the loss of a young child, they might feel at a loss for why and how this could happen. The best way to help the grieving parent or close family member understand why is to actually not try to offer any rationalization at all. It’s best to offer simple, yet genuine support and love.

Something like, “We’re thinking of you and your family in this time,” or “He will always be your son/She will always be your daughter,” work much better than anything not properly acknowledging their loss.

Assigning Blame

It isn’t uncommon for people dealing with infant loss to look for someone to blame. Often, the parents or siblings will find a way to blame themselves. If you are close to someone dealing with such a tragedy, be sure to steer them away from these kinds of thoughts. After all, it’s nobody’s fault that this has happened.

Taking Care Of Baby Items

From the nursery to clothes and diapers purchased in anticipation of the birth, there are baby items that need to be taken care of. Keep in mind there is no timeline and absolute sensitivity to the parents feelings and wishes should be paramount.

Baby Room/Nursery

If you have experienced a miscarriage, you may not have gotten quite as far as getting the baby’s room set up yet. If you had a stillbirth, it is more likely that you have. You have a few options with how to handle the baby’s room, and it will come down to your own, and your partner’s feelings on the matter.

  • Keep it as it is, making it a kind of memorial room for your lost baby
  • Keep it as is in the case you want to try for another baby down the road
  • Turn the room into something else, if it feels less painful
  • Put everything away, but keep the furnishings until you know what you want to do

Clothing, Diapers, Etc.

These items, depending on your plans for the future, might be things you want to stash away for possible later use. If it feels easier for you, you can give them away to a friend or family member who could use them. You could consider keeping one or two outfits in their memory, and maybe keeping them in the baby’s room.

Magazines & Cards

These things can often serve as painful reminders of the loss you’ve suffered. Unless you plan on trying again for a baby anytime soon, it might be best to cancel those kinds of subscriptions. Even if you are planning on trying again later on, you can always re-subscribe to them later.

As expected, it will likely be hard to know what your plans on right now. For that reason, it’s probably best to cancel them for the time being. If it makes it easier, it might be a good idea to have a close friend or family member do these tasks for you.

How You Can Memorialize Your Baby

Keeping the memory of your baby alive is actually an important tool to help every member in your family grieve properly. It acknowledges the death, and also helps to start the family processing the feelings the come with it. Read on to find a few unique and creative ways to memorialize your baby.

Choose An Urn

Having a little funeral for your baby will be a nice way to memorialize their impact on you and your family’s lives. You can get them a coffin, flowers, and create a little gravesite to visit. If you are having them cremated, the child urn selection can be a way to represent your baby as well.

Keep A Journal

Keeping a journal to write your feelings and thoughts in is a healthy way of processing your grief, while also memorializing your baby’s short life, and steep impact on your family’s hearts. This gives something for you to look back on when the time is right and have that memory of your child.

Memorial Jewelry

Having special jewelry pieces made for you, your partner, and maybe even the child’s sibling(s) is a beautiful way to commemorate your baby. You could opt for this gold plated cremation pendant featuring baby’s feet imprinted on the pendant and place a small amount of ashes insd.

How To Assist A Loved One After The Loss Of A Child

It can seem like an impossible thing to try and “fix”. The best thing to understand with these terrible situations is that, unfortunately, you can’t fix it at all. You can, however, offer your support, know how to be considerate to their feelings, and help them memorialize their lost child.

Offer Help & Support

Offering your help and support means more than you might think to someone dealing with infant loss. You can do this by simply asking them if there is anything you can do for them.

Bringing a meal to their home is a great way to help out. You could also offer to clean their house with the help of another friend or family member.

These little things may not seem like much, but they go a long way in a time when not much makes sense.

Be Considerate To Their Feelings

It’s important that you practice sensitivity around your loved one during this time of loss. Know what to say and what not to say in this very painful and vulnerable time. Find a few “Dos” and “Don’ts” below.


  • Offer to help however you can
  • Offer to listen if they need to talk
  • Keep your condolences simple, without attempt at rationalizing
  • Bring a meal to the family
  • Help them remember their child
  • Check in on them periodically
  • Give them space as needed


  • Ignore the loss. Acknowledgment is important and meaningful to the parent
  • Say, “At least you weren’t further along in your pregnancy”. This is belittling to their pain
  • Say, “At least you’ve already got a child”.
  • Say that he or she is in a better place. Even the most religious people may find their faith shaken during this time, and this sentiment may be difficult and complicated

Consider A Lasting Tribute

A great way to honor your friend or family member’s infant loss is to give them the gift of a lasting tribute to memorialize them. There are options like planting a beautiful magnolia tree or flowers in their backyard. You could also send them a canvas print of their deceased child’s name, worked creatively into a beautiful picture, like a sunset.

Finding Your Way After The Loss Of A Child

The loss of a child is one of the most difficult and heart-wrenching moments in a parent's life. And there is no quick fix or easy way through the grieving process and the impact of the loss is felt by the entire family.

Allow yourself time to grieve and lean on friends and family for support. Understand that men and women grieve differently and don't be afraid to seek the advice and help of a grief counselor. Be kind to yourself and memorialize your baby in a way that brings you some comfort.

Helpful Reading:

Grief and Grieving: Healing After Loss Through The Grieving Process

A Complete Guide To Funeral And Burial Traditions

Create Your Own Memorial Guest Book

September 11, 2020 by Frances Kay