The Ache of Empty Arms: 6 Ways to Support Parents after Infant Lost
Stacy was five months pregnant when her water broke. She was put on complete bed rest, but one week later, Kora Ruth was born at home. She was delivered and baptized by her earthly father—and two minutes later went to live with her heavenly Father. Though her parents know she is healthy and whole in heaven, their empty arms still ache to hold her here on earth.
They aren’t alone. Painful statistics remind us that, for all of our medical advances, babies die—every single day.
- One in four pregnancies ends in loss.
- Twenty-four thousand babies died in the U.S. in 2011.
- Each year around the world, one million babies die the day they are born.
To help Americans remember these babies and their short lives, in 1988 President Reagan declared October to be Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. As much as we may be aware, even Christians who value every single life still may not know how to act or what to say.
Here are six ways to remember these babies and their parents:
- Acknowledge the babies. Parents who have lost a child want to hear their child’s name and remember him or her—no matter how long the child lived.
- Pray for the couples. The loss of a baby puts a heavy burden on the couple and their relationship. As they grieve in their own unique ways, they may struggle to understand each other. Some couples end up divorcing because of the pain. Support both the mom and the dad with God’s peace and comfort. (After all, God watched his child die too. He has compassion.)
- Be understanding. Don’t hide your joy over your pregnancy or your healthy children’s milestones. Still, be sensitive. Understand if the parents need some space to grieve and aren't ready to celebrate with you yet.
- Honor the grandparents. They carry a double burden. They’ve lost a precious grandbaby and they are watching their children grieve. They will probably redirect your attention to the parents, but give them an extra-long hug or send them a letter.
- Break the taboo. Invite the parents to talk about their children. As Kora’s mom says, “One never ‘gets over’ their loss, just like the parent of a living child will never ‘get over’ their son or daughter. I always say we don't move on, we simply move forward.”
- Help parents make tangible reminders of the short life. Get handprints and footprints made and turn these into a piece of artwork for their home. Take pictures. Through Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, a friend donates her photography services to couples facing the loss of their baby. Though painful to be in the room as parents are saying good-bye, she helps capture the baby’s short life.
Written by Linda Buxa
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