Children and Loss

Losing a pregnancy or infant may very well be the second, third or more child in a family’s life. You may have children who knew that you were pregnant and were enthusiastically anticipating the arrival of this new baby into the family.

Explaining to children what happened and how you are feeling can be challenging and complex. Depending on the type of loss and the age of your children will affect how
much information you will share. There could be many details that are beyond a child’s ability to comprehend.

It is recommended by Child Life experts and child psychologists that children be told the truth – that there was a loss – in words that they can understand and integrate into their lives. If you tell a child that “the baby is in heaven” – they may be confused since their concept of heaven is probably not well formulated. They may conjure up their own images which could lead to misunderstandings, fears and nightmares.

You may want to explain the concept of death by talking about an experience that your child can relate to: perhaps a pet has died, a grandparent, or even the leaves on the trees. Whatever you choose to use, it is best to be concrete.

It is okay to show your emotions and for your child/ren to see you sad. This is natural. It is also natural for them to be sad as well. It is a very sad family event. We are always looking to shield our children from “bad” or “sad” things but the truth is always better. Your children will sense that something is different or amiss. They will sense your sadness. Some parents think they can hide their feelings as a way to protect their children from reality. What may happen in these cases is that children will start to fantasize about “what is making Mommy sad” or “what happened to the baby in her stomach”. Some children may blame themselves since they may have not been so happy about the new addition to their family’s life. Some children may develop deep fears about going to the doctor or hospital because “such bad things happened to their Mommy and/or sibling there.” As difficult as it seems to do, it is ultimately better to address these issues honestly at the time of the loss. You may think your child is too young to understand but children are very perceptive and they will notice changes in the family, in the plans and in your mood.

There is some very good material for how to talk to children about perinatal loss. You can search for this on the Internet or find some books in the library where you can read a story to your child that will help you to find the right words to say.