How Can You Comfort Parents after a Stillbirth?

This week, a dear couple in our church experienced a still-birth, after eight and a half months in the womb.  The nurse said, “I can’t find a heartbeat!”  It was devastating.

Nicholas Woltersdorff, wrote after losing his son in a climbing accident: “It’s so wrong, so profoundly wrong, for a child to die before his parents. It’s hard to bury our parents, but that we expect. Our parents belong to our past; our children belong to our future. We do not visualize our future without them. How can I bury my son, my future, my next in line? He was meant to bury me!”

On the way to the hospital, I called a pastor friend and his wife, who about 18 years ago experienced a stillbirth of their nearly full term son.  They said: “Don’t lecture.  Don’t feel like you need to say anything.  Just have long arms and big ears.”

The best expression of love Job’s three counselors delivered was their concerned presence and profound silence.  “Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great” (Job 2:13).

But eventually, we have to say something.  Here’s some advice from a woman who personally endured a stillbirth:

What NOT to say or do for the grieving parents.

“At least you didn’t get to know the baby.”  That baby was carried inside its mother’s body.  How can any relationship be any stronger or intimate?

“You are young you can have other children.”  This child was a person.  It can not be replaced. You would not tell a grieving child “Don’t worry your mom is young, and she’ll marry you a new dad.”

“I know how you feel” – If you have never lost a child, you do not know how they feel.

“You should be over it by now”  It doesn’t matter how long it’s been. You do not ever get over it.

“You should be happy it didn’t suffer.”  Of course they didn’t want their child to suffer.  They wanted a completely healthy and happy child.

“At least you have your other child/children.”  Again they are very grateful for their other child/children, but they wanted to keep all their children. 

“At least it didn’t live a few hours and then die.  That would have hurt worse.”  They would have loved to have heard their babies cry, see the color of their eyes, tell them how much they love them while they were living.

Do not act as if their child never lived.  She/he did and they loved, and still love her/him with all their heart and soul.  

What TO say and do to and for the grieving parents:

“I love you!”

“Can I do anything for you?”

“I am here to listen when you want to talk about your precious baby.”

“Can I watch the other children so you can rest?”

“Can I clean the house for you while you rest?”

About savedbygrace1976

Mark Chanski (author of Manly Dominion; Womanly Dominion; and Encouragement: Adrenaline for the Soul) has labored as a full-time Pastor since 1986 in churches in Ohio and Michigan. He has been Pastor of Harbor Church in Holland, Michigan, since 1994. He has also been elected as Coordinator of the Reformed Baptist Network. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Cornerstone University, and a Master of Divinity degree from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He teaches Hermeneutics for the Reformed Baptist Seminary in Sacramento, CA. Mark is married to his wife Dianne, and has fathered their four sons and one daughter, whose ages stretch from 36 to 26 (born 1983 to 1994).
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6 Responses to How Can You Comfort Parents after a Stillbirth?

  1. Georgia & Dave says:

    Thank you for this needed article. I have dear friends who have lost 3 children, and the things they tell me that people have said to them are unreal!!! Showing love and support are the best ways to show you care. Let them know your heart is breaking along with theirs…..this is just so very sad for our dear Raines family.

  2. Elaine@homebutnotalone says:

    Thanks for this Pastor Chanski – I believe the verse from Job says it all. Praying for your church as they minister to the Raines family at this time.

  3. I wish more people understood these principals for loving the bereaved. Thanks for putting them out there so that we can all do better.

  4. michmanda says:

    Thank you so much for this article. Even after almost 18 years, the pain and the senseless comments from fellow Christians, still ring in my ears. Your advice is perfect; love, care, patience and prayer is what a family needs.

  5. Elizabeth F. says:

    As a mother who has gone through this valley, Thank you! This is perfect advice.

  6. says:

    Thank you for sharing that, Pastor Mark. My bride Joanne and I can say, “We know how you feel.” We would have had three children with us today but we trust in His goodness when He took away the third while in the womb. Good to read your blog!

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