When a Baby Dies
Parents can benefit from spending a prolonged period of time with their baby after death. After childbirth, parents are psychologically and biologically primed to bond with and nurture their newborn. Even after a death, parents wanting to be with their baby is a natural expression of their postpartum drives and parental devotion. As a result, spending time with the baby’s body can offer a number of therapeutic benefits over the course of several days or longer.
- Spending time with their baby allows parents to say hello before saying goodbye, easing the transition from “We’re having a baby!” to “Our baby died.”
- Saying hello gives parents the opportunity to become acquainted with their baby, rendering this child more real. It also reassures them about the normal aspects of their baby’s appearance, offers memories of love, and grants opportunities to gather keepsakes and integrate the baby into their family—all of which can ease emotional suffering.
- In becoming acquainted, parents can express their love to their baby in the tangible ways that parents do naturally, such as examining the body, admiring adorable features, noticing family resemblances, bathing, dressing, and sleeping with their little one.
- Providing the special care their baby needs, parents can feel a sense of competence and authority, counteracting the failure and helplessness that parents typically feel when a baby dies.
- Having the gift of time allows parents to find their way to doing what is most meaningful for them, and to revel in this time without feeling rushed and unsure.
- Having the gift of time also allows parents to recover somewhat from the shock of their baby’s death, a traumatic delivery, pain-killing drugs, or exhaustion, ensuring that their memories of this time aren’t just a hazy fog.
- When parents set the pace for spending time with their baby, they get to gradually say their hellos and goodbyes, and determine for themselves when to part with their baby’s physical body. Some parents report that they feel like they got to witness the soul’s leave-taking, another reassuring experience. Setting their own pace, rather than having the hospital staff, morgue, or funeral home set the pace, also offers parents a sense of control, which can minimize the trauma of letting go.
- Having their baby for an extended period enables parents to invite family and friends to meet and welcome their little one. This ritual enables them to cultivate shared memories and surround themselves with support.
Thank you to Psychology Today….. the full article is available here.
Sands supports anyone who has been affected by the death of a baby before, during or shortly after birth. They offer emotional support and information for parents, grandparents, siblings, children, families and friends, health professionals and others.