Baby Loss: What NOT to Say and What TO Say

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Studies have shown that 10-25% of all pregnancies will result in a miscarriage.  Some of these miscarriages go unnoticed if they occur very early on in the pregnancy, but most change the lives of SO many.  About one in every 200 births results in stillbirth.

If you know 9 women, chances are, at least one of them has lost a baby.

Often, it can be hard to relate or have the right words when a friend, family member or even an acquaintance has lost a child.  If you have not experienced a baby loss your self, it may be difficult to imagine the grief and pain that the parents are experiencing.  Here are some tips on things you can say that would be helpful and well received and things that may be well meant, but are more hurtful than helpful.

What NOT to Say:

  • “You were only X weeks along, so at least you weren’t that attached.”  A mother is attached to her baby from the moment she sees those two lines on a pregnancy test.  Whether the loss is at 2 weeks or 42 weeks, the pain is just as intense and REAL.
  • “You have X other children.  You should be grateful for them.”  Just because parents are grieving the loss of a pregnancy or baby, doesn’t mean they are not grateful for their other children.  This is a thoughtless remark and inconsiderate of legitimate feelings!  You wouldn’t say to someone who just lost their mom, “You should be grateful you still have your dad.”
  • “You are young.  You can try again next month!”  Unfortunately, a lot of moms have a lot of stress and fear after a loss.  It’s not as easy as just BAM, getting pregnant again.  A woman has to emotionally as well as physically recover from a miscarriage or stillbirth.  Most of the time, the following pregnancy is very hard due to the fear of the same thing happening again.
  • “You weren’t past the gestation of viability, so it wasn’t much of a baby yet.”  A baby is a baby is a baby.  Did you see my sweet Indigo?  He stopped growing at 10 weeks and 4 days.  Tell me that is not a baby.  
  • “At least you can get pregnant.  X had to use a surrogate.”  I’m not sure why anyone would think that making a mom feel guilty for her grief is ok.  It’s not.  Never say this to a baby loss mom OR dad.  
  • “Everything happens for a reason.”  How do you know?  There is no good reason to lose a baby.  Even if it means that another child is born because this one is lost, saying this is not something baby loss parents want to hear.
  • “God had special plans for your baby.” or “Your baby was needed in heaven.”  Please realize that this is an assumption that the parents are Christian or religious.  Even those that are could be angered by this.  Mom and Dad needed their baby.  They also had special plans for their baby.

What TO Say (or DO):

  • “I’m sorry.”  This is simple and sweet.  It doesn’t need embellishing.  A simple hug also works.
  • “What was her/his name?”  Acknowledging the baby or calling him or her by their name is important.  This shows the parents that their baby was important and deserves to be remembered by their name and not just as “it” or “the baby”.  
  • “Is there anything I can do to help?”  Maybe offer to watch the older children while mom recovers.  Take over a meal.  Offer your services wherever you think they may be appreciated.
  • “I lost a baby too.”  Share your story.  Let them know they are not alone.  It’s easy to feel alone and like you’re in a dark hole when you lose a baby.
  • Memorialize their baby.  Send a card or flowers.  Release a balloon and send pictures to the parents.  Send the mom a necklace with her baby’s name on it.  Tell them their baby was loved and special.  Tell them their baby will never be forgotten.
  • Refer them to a Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep photographer.

Sometimes no words are better than saying the wrong thing.  Miscarriage is a sensitive topic and it should be treated as if the parents lost any of their other children.  When you lose a child, it doesn’t matter how old they are.  It doesn’t matter how young they are.  It doesn’t matter how big or small they are.  It doesn’t matter if you are as close as close can be or you haven’t spoken to them in years.  Losing a baby or a child is devastating.  Please be thoughtful and respectful when you learn of someone’s loss.  

Photo Credit: David Castillo Dominici at

Comments on this post

I feel so much like “You have X other children. You should be grateful for them” is a way of silver-lining things, which isn’t being empathetic, according to the video on the power of empathy. It reminds me of the comparisons/silver-lining of other things — like someone who doesn’t like a certain food, and when they’re told, “Yeah? Well, someone in Africa would be lucky to get that, so you should feel lucky, too.” Patronizing one’s feelings isn’t helping, and it’s never the right thing to do.

With that said, as a stepchild who has been on the receiving end of some of the (I call it) political feedback and ways to respond to child loss, which quickly taught me to try my best to not react (i.e. to freeze), simply out of fear of saying the wrong thing and being even more hurtful… or getting yelled at. Nowadays, the topic makes me uncomfortable, especially since there’s only so much you can look up online regarding the proper social behavior/protocol regarding miscarriages.

Miscarriage and stillbirth really is an uncomfortable, taboo topic for a lot of people. Maybe the more we talk about it, we can one day normalize it. More women can share their stories and not feel afraid or like they have to hide their grief. I have learned just from posting this that many women feel ashamed to want to spend time with their lost little ones and that is just heartbreaking.