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Bereaved of a baby

When a baby dies

The death of a baby is a devastating experience for the parents, their family and friends. Many families describe it as a very difficult, isolating and life changing experience. Other children in the family may feel sad and disappointed that the expected sibling will not be with them. Adults need to be aware that the child will be affected by the loss and take this into account if there are changes in their behaviour.

    • Anger, regressive behaviour, sadness, quietness and becoming withdrawn are all normal common grief behaviours in children.
    • The child may feel that the baby’s death is their fault and will need to be reassured it was not. It is very common for children of all ages to blame themselves and feel guilty in their grief.
    • Help the child understand what has happened by using language they will understand;
    • Seeing other children with young siblings may be upsetting.
    • Remember that the family cannot replace the baby that has died and they need time to grieve.
    • Later pregnancies are likely to be an anxious and difficult time for the family, including the child.
    • At school children may find it difficult to explain to their peers what has happened. Children may need some support to explain. They may need some help to find the words for their feelings. The child’s close friends may find it hard as well.
    • Some children may not want to talk about it or for others to know. Follow the child’s lead and ask them what they would like you to do to help.
    • Adults often say that they find it more difficult to answer questions children have about the death of a baby, than if the death was from illness or old age. Children can ask very direct questions that can sound blunt to adults. Try not to answer children in a complex and elaborate way that they may misunderstand. If you don’t know the answer to their question, say so, but try to find the answer for them.
    • Many bereaved parents feel isolated and ignored by others - simply because other people may not know what to say. Help by openly making contact with them.
    • Keep to the child’s usual routines as much as possible.
    • It will help staff in the child’s school or nursery to support the child if they are aware of what has happened;
    • If you are finding contact with the child and family hard when a baby has died, the Sands helpline(details below) is available every day and its experienced staff will help you to find the right words and support.

Slide Away offers tailored support to those bereaved of a baby in the family. Referrals are submitted in the normal way and are triaged by our clinical team. Please refer to our ‘how to refer guide’ to find out how to refer a child.

Other sources of support:


Sands supports anyone who has been affected by the death of a baby before, during or shortly after birth.

Abigail’s Footsteps
Abigail’s Footsteps

Abigail’s Footsteps are a baby loss charity who provide support and counselling for bereaved parents and families as well as specialist bereavement training for midwives and healthcare professionals.

Books you may find helpful

For  book recommendations, please take a look at our booklist.