Talking to Children about the Loss
Children who were expecting a new baby may ask where the baby is or why the baby is no longer in your belly. The thought of talking to your child/children about losing your baby may seem overwhelming, but giving them no explanation for the loss may cause more fear and confusion.
Children need clear and honest information. Questions and reactions may vary depending on a child’s age and personality. This guide is meant to provide some suggestions for talking to and supporting your child/children following a loss.
- Young children may not understand what is going on, but they may sense that something is different at home.
- If your child asks about the baby, provide a simple answer. For example, you could say something like, “Our baby did not grow big enough to be born, and he/she has died.”
- Provide reassurance that no one did anything wrong and that you, as their parents, are both OK.
- Young children may ask you the same question over and over. This is their way of trying to better understand what has happened. Reply with the same clear answer each time and make sure that all other caregivers (e.g., grandparents, babysitters, daycare providers, etc.) are using your same language to avoid confusion.
- Storybooks can help you talk about the loss as well as help your child identify the feelings and emotions they may be experiencing (see “Books for Children" resource page).
School-age children and adolescents
- Children in this age group are able to think more logically, but they still need clear explanations.
- Start with a simple explanation such as, “Our baby did not grow big enough to be born” or “Our baby did not grow big enough in mom’s belly, and because of that our baby died.” Then listen to what questions or thoughts they have.
- Provide reassurance that no one did anything wrong and that you and your partner are both OK. It is OK to say, “Sometimes this happens with babies and we don’t know why.”
- They may not respond right away and may come back to you at a later time with questions.
- Your children may demonstrate different behaviors as a result of the loss. Keep the communication open and let your children know that they can always come to you with questions, thoughts or worries.
Emotions and feelings
You can also support your children by putting words to the emotions that they may see you exhibit or that they experience themselves. It is OK if your children see you cry; you can say, “Mommy is sad right now because the baby died and I miss him/her, and sometimes when we are sad, we cry.”
Again, provide reassurance that even though you are sad, you love them very much and they have done nothing wrong. Reading children’s books about feelings and emotions can also help (see “Books for Children" resource page).
If you have questions or need further support, your children’s pediatrician is also a good resource.