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Grieving Grandparents

How can grandparents help after a pregnancy loss?

The best thing you can do is to be there and to let them know they are not alone. Listening for cues from them will help you discover ways that will aid them on their grief journey.

Here are some specific suggestions we have found to be helpful.

  • Respect your children’s privacy and give them the space they need
  • Offer to stay in the hospital
  • Allow parents time alone with their baby
  • Ask if you can take pictures with your camera: Tangible memories of their baby will bring them much comfort later
  • Offer to buy a special outfit for the baby or pick one from home
  • Bring a family keepsake to include in the pictures
  • Buy the mom an outfit that is not maternity to wear home from the hospital
  • Clean up at home for them but don’t touch the nursery—it is therapeutic for them to put away things in the nursery when they are ready
  • If there are other children, offer to babysit
  • Run errands and provide food as needed
  • Remember the grieving parents on special days (Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas, the baby’s birthday or original due date)
  • Send special notes to them and let them know you have not forgotten
  • Save some of the condolence flowers to dry and put in a glass ornament for Christmas
  • Talk about your grandchild occasionally and use his or her name in conversation (these references encourage your children to feel you are a safe outlet for sharing their emotions)
  • Don’t force them to talk if they’re not ready
  • Avoid telling them what they should do
  • Trust them to make decisions that are right for them
  • Give them a journal and encourage them to write down their feelings
  • Encourage them to attend a bereaved parent support group
  • Take the mom to a mother-daughter lunch

Take care of yourself

  • Allow yourself to grieve
  • Find a confidante
  • Journal your feelings
  • Get plenty of rest, healthy food and exercise
  • Educate yourself on grief

Things not to say

“You are young – you can always have more.”
“What did you do wrong?”
“The child wouldn’t have been healthy.”
“It was not meant to be.”
“At least you have other children.”
“Maybe next time you can take better care of yourself.”
“Life goes on.”
“You aren’t going to the same doctor next time.”
“Try to get pregnant as fast as you can.”
“You’ve got to be strong.”
“Don’t cry. Everything is going to be all right.”
“Can’t we talk about something else?”
“Just be glad you didn’t get to know the baby; then you’d be really sad.”
“It is only a miscarriage.”
“I know just how you feel.”
“It won’t happen again.”
“I understand.”

Things to say

“I don’t know what to say, but I’ll be glad to listen.”
“You must feel devastated.”
“I’m here if you want to talk.”
“Is there anything I can do to help?”
“Help me to know how I can best be there for you.”
“What do you need me to do?”
“I’m so sorry this has happened.”
“I love you!”

Losing a child is one of the most devastating events that can happen to a parent – and watching your child experience the loss of your grandchild is one of the most devastating events that can happen to you. Your natural inclination is to want to comfort your child and his or her partner, but you cannot make their pain go away.

It is essential to allow parents who have lost a child to grieve so that they can recover. There is no wrong or right way to grieve, and your child and his or her partner must grieve in a way that is helpful for them. Allow them to explore grief – even despair – and to do the hardest thing of all: Say good-bye to their precious baby.