How to administer emotional first aid when informed of a miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death

There are many situations in which you might learn that someone has experienced the loss of a child. No matter how long ago the loss occurred, or no matter how well you know the person, their grief is real and I encourage you to validate and support them through emotional first aid. This infographic walks you through how to do that and gives you examples of what you might say.

(If you’re friends with the person and are looking for some longer-term ways to walk with them, here are some detailed ideas for you.)

(Also, keep in mind that tears are totally normal in this type of conversation.)


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How to administer emotional first aid after being informed of a loss

Acknowledge their loss.
– I am sorry for your loss.
– I’m so sorry for the loss of your baby.
– I don’t know what to say, but I’m here to listen.

Assess whether medical or psychological intervention is necessary.
– Does the person indicate self-loathing?
– Does the person indicate an intent to harm themselves or others?
– Does the person ask for referrals to medical or psychological experts?

Ask the person, “How can I help?”
– If they struggle to answer, offer some options:
“Can I put you in touch with some therapists in the area?”
“I would like to bring/send you dinner. Is there a specific night when that would be helpful?”
“Would you share your story with me?”

Provide a listening ear and/or resources.
– Do your best to give the person what they ask for or to point them to someone else who can.
– But most of all, listen.

Help them make a plan.
– I hope these resources help. Will you be able to call them today, or can I help you connect with them later this week?
– You are not alone. I’ll text you tomorrow to see how you are doing.
– Can I have your email address? I want to send you some names in case you want to add more people to your team as you grieve.
– Grief doesn’t have a timeline. If you ever need to talk or there is some other way I can support you, call me.

Take care of yourself.
– Take a break to pray, meditate, breathe, and otherwise ground yourself.
– Find ways to use your energy or emotions to help others, whether this particular bereaved person or someone else.
– Ask for support and assistance from others in your community or network; you are not alone.
– Verbally process with a friend or mental health expert.

Abby the Sociologist Doula

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