“My friend just lost a baby and I’m at a loss of what to do or say. How can I be a support during this time?
I’m often asked this question by caring friends and family members who know someone who has recently lost their precious baby. If you’re asking yourself this same question today I want to start by saying thank you. Just the fact that you’d ask shows that you truly care.
The loss of a child is one of the deepest griefs to face and one of the most complicated to respond to. In those first few months after losing my newborn son I could hardly imagine what I needed, let alone articulate it to someone else. I’m so grateful for people like you who met us where we were at when we needed it the most. While there is no “one size fits all” approach, there were several things that my husband and I found especially helpful as we processed the loss of our newborn son.
Don’t be afraid to talk about the baby. I love it when people ask me about Ethan, or when they say his name out loud. Simply start by saying, “I’d love to hear more about [baby’s name] sometime” and be prepared to hear as much or as little as they feel comfortable sharing. Your loved one hasn’t forgotten their child, not even for a moment, and hearing or speaking their name is one of the greatest gifts a bereaved parent can receive. Consider remembering their baby’s legacy alongside them by joining them at Forever Footprints’ Walk to Remember or by sponsoring a memory box or sibling backpack in their baby’s honor. Don’t worry about “reminding” them about something upsetting–They haven’t forgotten, no matter how much time has passed.
Remember important dates and milestones. Add their baby’s birth date, due date, or other significant milestones to your calendar and check in with your friend on those days. Brief texts of “Remembering [baby’s name] with you today” can mean so much as each month and milestone passes. Even those closest to us tend to move on with their lives after those first few weeks and, while we often understand, it means so much when people remember.
Offer to help. Even better, offer specific ways you can help. While a “let me know if I can do anything” certainly shows that you care (and definitely isn’t a bad thing to say), your friend may not have the energy to identify their needs or ask for help. Feel free to offer specifics based on your unique abilities. “Can I bring you a meal on Tuesday night?” or “How about I watch the kids on Saturday?” can mean so much. Connection with other loss parents can also be helpful–offer to connect them with someone you know who has also lost a baby or refer them to a Forever Footprints Support Group.
Continue to include them. There were days when when we needed to be alone, yet others when we craved normalcy and a day with friends or family was just what we needed. While it was difficult for me to navigate crowded social gatherings or to be near young children in those first few months, it meant a lot to to be invited and to have the opportunity to accept or decline. While everything had changed, I needed to still feel like myself sometimes.
Don’t worry about finding the perfect thing to say. Accept the fact that nothing you can say will “fix” your grieving loved one’s pain–and that is okay. We know you would do anything to find those perfect words if you could. Well-meaning phrases such as “it was for the best” or “they’re in a better place” can feel hurtful or confusing, especially in those first few months. Your friend or loved one doesn’t expect you to have all of the answers. One of the most helpful things someone said to me after Ethan died was, “I’m so sorry. I wish I knew what to say.” To them it probably felt as if their words fell flat, but to me it was refreshing. Simply acknowledge their pain and sit with them for a moment. Give yourself the freedom to not do or say the “perfect” thing. Your presence and your caring heart mean more than you know.
Kristin Hernandez lives in Southern California with her husband Chris and their Queensland Heeler mix, Dakota. After struggling with unexplained infertility for several years, Kristin was thrilled when she became pregnant with Ethan. The celebration quickly turned to concern when doctors discovered Ethan had a serious heart defect and was missing a piece of his brain–likely indicative of a chromosome abnormality. Ethan was born on August 16, 2015 and spent his 93-minute life in his parents’ arms. Kristin is now a mother to five babies in heaven, including four of Ethan’s younger siblings who she has never met. Despite these struggles, Kristin has resolved to embrace the life she has been given and to leave a legacy for her family. Kristin works in communications by day, but can also be found running, camping, writing or having a conversation over a cup of coffee. She writes at www.sunlightindecember.com and is the cohost of the Through the Lens Podcast.
*Top photo by Evan Kirby on Unsplash
I will never forget the first time I felt it. I was sitting in a room full of women, who were all laughing, talking, complaining about their husbands, bragging about their children. It was five months after my son Joseph had died, and I thought I could do it. I thought I could join the world again. I wanted to feel normal. But sitting in that room—with a newly formed women’s group—I never felt so alone in my entire life. The sounds all became one, like a constant buzzing. My hands started to sweat. My heart started to pound. And I ran for the door.
I ran from new friendships and I ran from my old friendships. I isolated myself from those who had children and babies. I couldn’t face my pregnant friends, because I was a reminder to them of what could go wrong. My friends’ worlds were moving forward, and my life felt as if it was standing still. I didn’t know how to be anyone’s friend.
I was different. I had held my son and watched him take his last breaths. I watched his casket being put in the ground. I had gone home to leaking breasts full of his milk, an empty nursery, and a broken heart. And my friends would never understand that.
As the months after Joseph’s death turned into years, and I sought the help of support groups and private therapy to deal with my grief, I tried to repair old friendships and begin new ones. I started to accept this was the new me. And I began to see, I didn’t have to run.
And I wasn’t alone after all. Through Forever Footprints I’ve met thousands of other women just like me. Women who have lost their child or children. Many of them have become my friends. We may not talk every day. We may not see each other for months. But I know they are there for me, and I am there for them. We are forever connected by the love of our babies.
I’m so fortunate to have women like Taite and Liz in my life. We share the pain of our losses but have formed beautiful friendships. Forever Footprints brought us together. To join a support group and sit beside others who know your pain, Click Here for more information.
I found I could become a friend to others that struggled with pain or loss. It doesn’t just come in the form of losing a child, but also through things like divorce or illness. I’m not always the friend people call to go out for a movie or to go on a girl’s trip, but I’m often the one they call when they are going through a difficult time.
Our friends have been a wonderful support and attended the OC Walk to Remember with us each year. I’m especially grateful to my friend Sandi who has walked beside me for 12 years at every OC Walk to Remember since it began. To create your own team or to walk in honor of a friend’s baby at the 2017 OC Walk to Remember on October 14, Click Here
There are still times I sit in a room and feel so different than anyone else. But I don’t run. I embrace that being a mom who has lost a child has formed me into a person who is strong, brave, resilient, and compassionate. And I tell my story, because more often than not, there someone else in that room that needs a friend.
In October of 2009 we were shocked to learn that we were expecting triplet boys. The news brought the eventuality of bedrest, NICU, and the like. In spite of all the risks associated with a multiple pregnancy, we never even considered the possibility of a loss. We were in good hands, we were being watched carefully, and there was no reason to believe that something would go wrong. Until it did.
At 32 weeks and 5 days, I went in for a routine check, and we were given the devastating news that Baby B’s heart had stop beating. In an instant our life changed. We went from anticipating the arrival of three beautiful boys, to mourning the loss of one, and praying like mad for the other two.
Later that same day, all three boys had to be delivered. It was the most bittersweet moment of our lives. Hearing Adler and Cameron cry and seeing their tiny pink bodies was a joy, but feeling Boe being pulled from my body silent and still was heartbreaking. So many emotions and thoughts ran through my mind. How could the other two be here, be alive, and not Boe? How could we have made it this far for this to be the result?
In the days that followed, we were so fortunate to be surrounded by family and friends-people who were there for us in our darkest days. We were also fortunate to be provided with amazing resources to aid in the grieving process. How would we parent the beautiful daughter we already had at home? How would we parent Boe’s surviving brothers while mourning his death? How would we parent the unexpected child who came 18 months after Boe left us? These resources helped. The Balancing Life and Loss: Parenting After Loss Support Group, offered by Forever Footprints, was a huge part of our grief journey. I found comfort sitting with other women who, different as their stories and journeys may be, were right there with me. We were all there for each other, to raise each other up and to laugh, cry, and speak our children’s names aloud so they knew their short lives mattered.
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Several years ago, Forever Footprints learned that families at many Orange County hospitals did not receive memory boxes. Worse yet, we heard stories of families being sent home with their baby’s precious memories in empty milk containers, torn paper bags, or used boxes.
We immediately went into action, purchasing memory boxes and supplies. And an amazing group of volunteers has lovingly decorated more than 400 memory boxes that have gone directly to families who have had a baby die in pregnancy or infancy.
Erin, Eve, Becca, Lindsay, we are so grateful for your dedication and love to Forever Footprints and all the families we serve. Thank you for all you do.
If you would like to make a donation toward our memory box program, please visit Our Donation Website or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We are in need of supplies to continue this program and would be so grateful for your financial support.
Each day, hour, and even minute, a member of your community experiences a loss of a baby. Sadly, most areas are greatly lacking the support and assistance these parents, siblings, grandparents, and friends need in dealing with their heartache. Forever Footprints is working each day to fill that gap. Through our various programs, we strive to connect these hurting families to support that will offer them understanding and aid as they navigate through the journey ahead of them.
The Balancing Life & Loss: Parenting After Loss Group is a free support group that addresses the needs of bereaved parents who, after a tragic loss, need to continue living and parenting their surviving children.
The Coping With Loss: Helping Families With The Loss Of A Child Through Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Early Infancy Group is a free support group for bereaved parents and families who have experienced the loss of a child and need a place to help process their experience and be able to heal.
Our Education and Support Book Program allows us to donate books to families and hospitals. We offer several books specifically for mothers, fathers, grandparents and children or siblings.
The Journey to Remember Program is a perinatal comfort care program created to provide a safe and nurturing environment for families who wish to carry to term despite a life-limiting or fatal diagnosis. We provide sensitive care facilitated by a labor and delivery nurse trained in bereavement with personal experience in perinatal loss during the pregnancy, delivery, and follow up bereavement support for the years to come.
The Memory Box Program allows us to donate memory boxes to families and hospitals. The boxes are used as a home for keepsakes and photos for anyone who has experienced a pregnancy or infant loss.
Our Remembrance Basket Program allows us to donate Moses baskets to funeral homes and hospitals. The baskets are used by hospitals so they have a loving way to transport these special babies with dignity and grace. The baskets are also used for families who want to spend time with their baby and for photographs.
Our Sibling to Remember Program helps big brothers and sisters trying to grasp the loss of their new baby. Through a package personalized to best fit the loss and offer age-appropriate activities and guidance, the gift is intended to assist the child/children in understanding their own grief, that of their families, and the sudden changes in their family dynamics.
Ten years ago we were given the news that our firstborn son had Alobar Holoprosencephaly. As my husband and I sat in a dark ultrasound room, the doctor explained to us that our baby had no brain and would not survive. He scribbled the long diagnosis on a piece of paper, and told us to follow up with our regular OB. The days and weeks that followed are painful and a blur. We had so many questions—and no answers. We desperately needed support—and there was none. We needed someone to help us navigate this heart-breaking time—yet we were alone.
Joseph was born on July 8, 2004. We got to hold our son for the short time he lived. And then we had to say goodbye.
I cofounded Forever Footprints, formerly OC Walk to Remember, after Joseph’s death. And there has been so much support given to families who have faced a pregnancy loss or infant death. But in the past ten years, I’ve also met many families like me who were given the news that their unborn baby had a life-threatening or life-limiting condition, and more support was needed.
The Board of Directors of Forever Footprints committed to create support for families who receive such a diagnosis. It began with a meeting one year ago with UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange. Within six months a framework was in place, and the Paloma Comfort Care program was born. The program helps such families on their journey from pregnancy to birth, and after birth in the Labor and Delivery Unit, Post-Partum Unit or Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). It promotes a nurturing environment for families by providing emotional, physical and spiritual care. The hospital works with parents in family conferences to understand their needs, hopes and goals for their infant, and to help them make difficult decisions. They are dedicated to family-centered care that honors parental preferences for their baby.
The Paloma Comfort Care materials: brochure, plate for the door so medical staff recognizes a patient instantly, and the card families carry so all medical staff know of their circumstance at all times.
We are so proud of this partnership between Forever Footprints and UC Irvine Medical Center. The program has already served seven families at the time of diagnosis and thirty-three families within the hospital. The program will continue to grow and expand, and we are honored to be a part of it.
While the path of each family will be different, we support families who have to make heartbreaking decisions about their pregnancy and child. These perinatal comfort care programs are needed in every hospital. No family should be alone after the news that their much-wanted baby will die in pregnancy or at birth. We hope to expand our partnerships to every hospital in Orange County and beyond in the coming years.
For more information about the Paloma Comfort Care program, click here.
For more information on the Perinatal Comfort Care Program at St. Joseph Hospital, which is supported by Forever Footprints, click here.
If you are in need of support after a terminal diagnosis, medical termination, or death of your baby, please contact us at email@example.com
If you are interested in making a donation to help fund perinatal comfort care programs or you would like to volunteer with our efforts, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Ryan Farnsworth at email@example.com.
Charity Vasquez, Paloma Comfort Care, and Kristyn von Rotz, Forever Footprints Cofounder/Board of Directors