Saying goodbye

Baby's tiny foot being held by a parent's thumb and index fingers

When your baby has died around the time of birth, you may have only a few memories of him or her. You may also have very few keepsakes.

Hospital staff now offer parents opportunities to create memories of their baby and to collect keepsakes that will help them to remember their baby. Although you may feel unsure about doing this, photos and other items can be precious, especially in the years to come. Having keepsakes to share with family members and friends may also help them to understand what the death of your baby means to you.

The staff caring for you will suggest a range of things you could do. Take time to think about what is right for you. If your baby died in the neonatal unit, you may have had time to start doing some of these.

The neonatal unit will probably have a room where you can be alone with your baby if you wish. Staff may ask if you wish to wash and dress your baby, or if you would prefer them to do this for you. Most units will take a photo of your baby, if you give permission.

You might also receive a memento card with a footprint or handprint and a lock of your baby’s hair. Some parents keep the baby’s nametag and hat. Keepsakes like this affirm that this baby was part of your family and always will be.

It varies in each hospital, but in most units you should be able to stay with your baby for as long as you like. Many hospitals have multi-faith prayer rooms and chaplains to offer their support if or when you need it.

The hospital should offer some bereavement counselling to help you. Local hospice staff will also be able to tell you about the various procedures and choices. You can also talk to your faith leader or a funeral director.

Sands have produced a booklet, 'Saying goodbye to your baby'. It has been written for parents who have lost a baby and is based on information gathered from bereaved parents. The booklet contains chapters on how you may feel now and in the weeks and months ahead.

It also covers practical aspects such as registering your baby’s birth and death, telling your family and friends, creating memories, post mortem examinations and deciding about a funeral.

Support for siblings

It can be extremely difficult to explain to your other children why their brother or sister has died. Try to encourage your children to talk about how they are feeling and to acknowledge what has happened to their baby brother or sister.

Be as open and honest as you can about what has happened and explain things in language that they will understand. Most of all, be honest and open about how you feel. Do not be afraid to show your emotions, likewise let them cry.

At some stage, most children blame themselves for the death of their baby brother or sister, so explaining the death in terms of ‘it was nobody’s fault’ is very important. A recent study found that the most important things in dealing with a child’s grief included:

  • Recognising and acknowledging their grief.
  • Including the child in family rituals.
  • Keep the memory of the baby alive in the family.

For more information and support for the death of a baby sibling, visit the Child Bereavement UK website or The Compassionate Friends Website

Financial help

Financial difficulties can also have an impact at this time and add to the anxieties that you may already be facing. The rights and benefits to which bereaved parents may be entitled are complicated and depend on many things, including the length of the pregnancy, whether your baby was stillborn or lived for a short time after birth, whether you are employed and your earnings before the birth.

You can find more detailed information about financial benefits on the Money Advice website. The Sands booklet 'Saying goodbye to your baby' also contains practical financial advice.

Remembering your loved one

You may wish to create a Precious Star Fund to remember your baby in a positive and lasting way. A Precious Star Fund is an online memorial page where you can share personal messages, light candles in remembrance and, if you wish, fundraise to help babies born sick or premature. You can share your page with friends and family or keep it private.

The information on this page is more than two years old