Pregnancy and infant loss. No one wants to talk about it. And indeed, no one wants to live through it. But it happens. And when it happens, it feels isolating and lonely. No one knows what to do or what to say. People send sympathy cards and flowers, but often it feels impersonal. While these are always a nice gesture, there are other gifts to give a grieving mother and ways to show her your support and let her family know you are thinking about them and the baby they are grieving.
Gifts to Give A Grieving Mother
1. Meals and Groceries
After losing a baby, the last thing you want to think about is cooking. Drop off a home-cooked meal, send a meal kit, or have it delivered by a local take-out joint if you know their favorite meal. You could send a quick text that you plan to send something over that night, so they know it’s coming. But don’t expect to be invited in or stay.
When my twin daughters were stillborn, I still had to deliver them. I had a C-section, and I needed several weeks to recover in addition to grieving. Several people dropped dishes on our front step and texted us that it was out there after they left. We received a hoagie tray, take-out gift cards, and grocery store gift cards that can be used for grocery delivery. Knowing there was one less thing to worry about was so helpful.
2. A Personal, Handwritten Card
Receiving cards is lovely, but receiving a personal, heartfelt message in a carefully chosen card is very special. If the family has chosen a name for their child, don’t be afraid to mention the baby by name. I have saved every single card (and envelope) that includes my children’s names. Seeing their names written out shows me that not only are you taking the time to think about my family and me, but you are honoring the fact that I had a baby, even if they did not live.
3. Monetary or Material Donations
When we were planning my daughters’ nursery, we worked hard to incorporate books and reading. After they were stillborn, a group of my coworkers collected and donated books to a local daycare with labels in them reading “Donated in memory of Stella & Joy.” They sent my husband and me a card and included pictures of all of the books collected and the labels included on the inside. Another group of coworkers collected money and donated to a large charity in our daughters’ names. These donations helped me feel like even though they were gone, their existence was real and would make a difference in the lives of others.
4. Personalized Jewelry or Similar Items
Some of the best, most thoughtful gifts I received were personalized items with my daughters’ names on them. Websites like Etsy allow you to find all kinds of things that can be personalized, such as signs or ornaments. For me, I LOVED the necklaces I received. One shop, in particular, The Cooper Project, was started by a mom whose son was stillborn. By purchasing a necklace from her, you can provide your friend with a memento of their child while also supporting a related charity.
5. Spread Awareness
Everyone knows October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but few realize it is also Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month. The awareness ribbon is pink and blue, so loss moms often ask you “add a little blue” to the pin you wear this month. In addition, an international Wave of Light is held at 7 pm (in your time zone) on October 15th. Light a candle on the 15th. Take a picture and post it online or share it privately with your friend. Mention their child and let them know you are thinking about them.
6. Offer Specific Help
Don’t just ask, “How can I help?” or “What can I do?” Instead, pick something you are able and willing to do and ask them if you can do it. “May I take your older children to the park tomorrow?” “May I come do some laundry for you this weekend?” Often when a person is grieving, they can’t think straight enough to know what to ask for. But when you take the time to consider what might be helpful and offer a specific favor, it comes as a great relief for the mom who feels overwhelmed.
7. Send Help
A babysitter, a cleaning service, a landscaper, etc. Any service that can take one more thing off the family’s plate will help. Make sure you know the person well. Not everyone is open to the idea of a stranger coming into their home to perform a service. If you know they will be comfortable with the idea, ask for a date that would work well for them and take care of setting up the rest.
8. Don’t try to find the words. Just keep it simple and genuine.
It’s okay just to say, “I’m so sorry,” or “This sucks.” The last thing a grieving mother needs is a lecture or long-winded speech from someone who hasn’t lived through such tragedy. Pregnancy, infant, and child loss are unimaginable, and there are no words that anyone can say to make you feel better. So just being there is okay.
9. Don’t say, “I know how you feel.”
Unless you have experienced the loss of a child, you don’t know how it feels. No loss can quite compare to losing your child. Instead, you can say things like, “I know you are hurting right now,” “I know how much you loved this baby, and I’m so sorry for your loss,” “I love you, and I’m sorry you are going through this pain.”
10. Just Be There
Be there as a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen. A hug or a gentle touch is okay and can be comforting. Listen to her when she wants to talk and be willing to sit with her in silence during the times she doesn’t.
11. Continued Support
The best gift you can give to a grieving mother is continued support and love. Reach out with texts or calls. Mention their child often. Let her know you’re thinking about her. As time passes, people return to their regular lives and move on. A grieving parent never gets to “move on.” They move forward, and it’s important to have the support and love of their friends as they do.
Giving a gift to a grieving mother is a thoughtful way to show you care and are thinking about them and their lost child. As you can see, however, gifts don’t have to come in a box or bag. Services, your presence, and kind words are sometimes all the gifts a grieving mother needs.