The Do’s & Don’ts of Helping a Friend After a Stillbirth

The Do's & Don'ts of Helping a Friend After a Stillbirth

Kristen’s beautiful son Cohen would have been 9 months old today.  Instead he was born straight into the arms of Jesus when Kristen had a stillbirth at 38.5 weeks.

I first told you about Cohen in my letter To Mothers with Empty Arms.  Then Kristen shared with us what life was like 3 months later.  Now Kristen wants to say “thank you” for all of your support.  First, she would like to offer you some practical advise if you ever find yourself trying to help a friend after a stillbirth.  Then she has a special gift for one lucky reader.

I spoke with Kristen recently about what things were helpful and hurtful after her stillbirth.  Together we came up with this list.  Please remember that everyone deals with grief differently.  These are suggestions based on Kristen’s personal experience. They are not hard and fast rules.

The Do’s & Don’ts of Helping a Friend After a Stillbirth

Do Offer to Literally Be There – Kristen hated being home alone with her two kids after her husband returned to work.  Having people come to the house was helpful.

Do Take Meals – A friend set up a meal schedule for Kristen and her family through Take Them A Meal.  For 3 months Kristen didn’t have to worry about cooking.  “The last thing I was thinking about was food.  I wouldn’t have eaten if it was up to me to cook food.” – Kristen

Do Make Phone Calls & Send Text Messages – Kristen admits that she didn’t always answer the phone or return text messages, but it still meant a lot to know that people were thinking about her family.

Don’t be Discouraged if Your Messages Aren’t Returned –  That doesn’t mean they aren’t appreciated.

Do Send Cards – Phone calls and text messages are great, but receiving cards was Kristen’s favorite.  She loves having a physical card that she can go back and look at again and again.

Don’t Address Cards to Just the Wife –  After Kristen and her husband first lost Cohen, most of the cards were addressed to both of them.  However, after a month or so most of the cards were only addressed to Kristen.  Her husband also lost a son. Men need the support too.

Don’t Send Tracts – Yes tracts, a pamphlet that explains how to be saved through Jesus Christ.  Kristen received a track in an anonymous sympathy card.  It didn’t go over very well.

Do Pray – Kristen’s faith was rocked when she lost Cohen.  Prayer has become difficult for her, but she says, “The only way I am sane and able to get up and take care of my kids is because other people are praying for me.”  Seven of Kristen’s friends took things one step further.  They each picked one day of the week and committed to praying for Kristen on that day for an entire year.  That made Kristen feel special.

Don’t Say “It was God’s will” –  Did God want Cohen’s heart to stop?  Was it always in God’s plan for Cohen to die?  Was this really God’s will?  These are hard questions and you might have an opinion about it, but keep it to yourself.  Hearing that her son’s death was God’s will was not helpful or comforting to Kristen.

Do Visit The Baby’s Grave – It means a lot to Kristen when she hears that friends have visited Cohen’s grave.

Don’t be Afraid to Talk About the Baby – Sometimes Kristen feels like people are watching her, thinking about the stillbirth, but are afraid to say anything.  Please just address it. Don’t act like it never happened.  “Yes, I will probably cry, but I would rather that you talk to me instead of pretending that it didn’t happen.” – Kristen

Don’t Expect Your Friend to Go Back to Normal – She probably won’t ever be “normal” again.

Most important of all…  Don’t forget.

“Everyone’s lives can’t stop because our’s did, but it nice when people remember. For us it isn’t ever going to go away.   An occasional card or flowers are nice.  Anytime people want to bring me food I will accept it.  No problem.  You want to hire me a private cook?  Bring it on.  I won’t say no.   🙂

Please talk about Cohen instead of waiting for me to bring him up.  I don’t always want to be the one who brings him up.  I like to know that people are thinking about him.

No one is going to miss seeing Cohen at church or at school.  He never went. But he was here.  He was real.  He was real to us.  He wasn’t a nine month dream.  I need people to remember him.” – Kristen

And now to the Simply Rebekah community… Thank you!  Thank you for the prayers and supportive comments that you have left for Kristen and myself over the past nine months. It means a lot to both of us.

Kristen's Handmade Scarf & Hat

*** This giveaway is now closed. ***

Kristen would like to say thank you by giving one reader this beautiful hat and infinity scarf that she made.  To enter simply leave a comment on this post.

You may have extra entries in the random drawing if you:

  • Subscribe to Kristen’s new blog and leave a separate comment telling me you subscribed.  Kristen has started blogging about grief and her crazy life at What’s Wrong With That Woman.  You can find a form on her homepage to subscribe by email.
  • Subscribe to Simply Rebekah via email or RSS and leave me a separate comment telling me how you subscribe.  If you already subscribe, you can leave that in a comment also.

Disclosure: One winner will be chosen by random & notified by email after this giveaway closes on March 12, 2013 at 11:59 PM EST.  Giveaway is open to USA & Canada.   I was not compensated in any way.  If you enjoy reading silly fine print like this then be sure to check out my full disclosure policy.


  1. I resubscribed to your blog. I had subscribed before but realized I haven’t seen posts in a while… so I think I accidentally unsubbed! Anyway, we have experience with this and it IS hard. Our daughter lost a 21 week baby girl when she was 18. We heard (from my inlaws and other) “It’s for the best” so many times, and I had strong words with them about how it’s never BEST for a woman to grieve the death of a baby, and so much less so an 18 year old. We were there, we helped her deliver the perfect, tiny pink baby who moved but never cried, and passed away within minutes. We held her and her screaming mommy. It’s not ever best. It’s always heartbreaking. God bless your friend.

    1. Oh my gosh ~ I can’t even imagine. My daughter had a baby at 19 and so many people wanted her to have an abortion, said how hard it was going to be ~ yadda, yadda … but, she went on to have him and I can not imagine the heartache your poor daughter felt or you, for that matter. (((HUGS)))

  2. I think Kristen is very brave, and this blog is so helpful! Thank you for sharing it and for taking us on this journey with you. Our thoughts are with you all.

  3. Our grandson was born into Jesus arms a bit over 7yrs ago. There is still not a time that we do not think of him. We have been blessed with two sisters to him since then and he is often talked about in our home. Never does a holiday go by or a family party that he is not thought of and missed. If it had not been for him we would never have had our granddaughters as from his birth they found unknown medical problems. His mommy often talks about how others seem to have forgotten I pray your friends and family will stay close and never forget the blessing your son is to you and to all of them.
    Great list of what to and not to do. I would add to remember his birthday …. what would have been his first day of school…those days that are yet to come when your heart will ache for what you had dreamed of.
    God Bless you and your family.

  4. This story has touched me so much. I feel the difficult topic was presented in a very respectful manner and I really appreciate that. I’ve often thought about Kristen and her family. BTW…the hat and scarf are beautiful!

  5. Thank you for posting this. My heart broke for them and so many others that have experienced loss recently. They will continue to be in my prayers..

  6. While I hope I never need to use these tips, I am very grateful to have them. I suffered an early miscarriage with my first pregnancy and can relate to others who experience the same, but cannot imagine how much more the feelings I did experience would have been magnified, had I been further along.

  7. Thank you for the helpful article. In some ways, I have dealt with this differently, but most of these tips are very insightful to those who would tend to tiptoe around the elephant otherwise.

  8. just came across this while on pinterest. What a great idea! I am a mother of 10 who had a stillborn almost 22 years ago. Had had 6 healthy children and then unexpectedly my 7th was a stillborn. I have never grieved and felt so alone. I have reached out to other women who also have suffered a stillborn since…hoping to at least be an ear and maybe an inspiration so they see that life gets better and does go on. I have always said I would have taken that baby with any kind of illness….whatever. Anything would have been better than nothing. It wasn’t until recently that I finally understood that. My son born after my stillborn son developed type 1 diabetes shortly before his 12th birthday. This was kind of hard to understand also. It finally came to me one day that I had this son, even though he had diabetes. I realized finally that this child who I prayed for was given to me, diabetes and all. But finally understood that I was blessed with this child, even though he had diabetes, at least I had him still. Since then, have been blessed with another son who also got type 1 diabetes at about the same age as his brother, my youngest, my baby. But was able to explain to him, better this than some incurable cancer or such. Life takes us down many paths which are hard to explain sometimes. But as we get older I think it’s easier to make sence of things and understand more. The loss I suffered almost 22 years ago will forever hurt just as much now when I think back to that time as it did back then…but life does go on. Suffered a miscarriage after delivering a healthy baby after my stillborn. So suffered still another broken heart. But I did go on to deliver 2 more children without any problems. I think your blog is awesome. I can remember people not really knowing what to do or say. It’s a loss just like any other. Is nice to see someone reaching out like you’re doing trying to provide some help. Keep up the awesome job. Hope you will find peace and happiness again. I have lived long enough for my daughter to name her son after her stillborn brother. That truly warmed my heart….just to see him remembered like that. Bless you and your family!
    Marci Eng

  9. 25 years ago my first son was born straight to Jesus. And I still sometimes cry, but I am thankful for the gifts he gave me! In a group for grieveing parents who had lost babies, I met a lifelong friend. being from far different walks of life, we would have never met if not for our angel babies. My second son proudly wore a tattoo of his brothers name on a deployment to Afghanistan. He told me his brother would always have his back. My father passed recently and I know his first grandson was waiting for him. Great tips, especially to remember! You always will and its so nice to know someone else does too!

  10. Thank you for this, Kristen and Rebekah. Oh, how we miss that perfect little one. Cohen, you will always be remembered with love.

  11. Look how many people you are touching with this story! How amazing!

    We miss you Cohen and I will never forget holding you and touching your perfect fingers.

    Kristen and Crist, thanks for sharing your journey with me.

  12. A friend has suggested your blog to me several time since my nephew past away the day after he was born in Oct….also with no sign of anything wrong. Today she sent me this blog and I have subscribed to both and will suggest it to my sister in law. Loved reading this post, I now know what am doing is helpful and hopefully she can get some peace knowing others are feeling the same.Thanks for your testimony. Would love to have this hat and scarf to always reminde me of two special little lives lost way too soon.

  13. I went through something similar and I agree with a lot of what was said. I wasn’t full term though. I was 23 weeks. He was a boy and we had named him. He was our first and we were newly married and scare. It’s been 5 years. I remember being at the hospital and the nurse saying….” You ARE a mother!” I believed her and I felt like I was. Until Mother’s Day that year…just 4 months later, when all of the adult women in the room were acknowledged for being mothers and I was not. That hurt!

    My son was born 11 months later. I am grateful for him and my daughter. They were both perfectly perfect. But each pregnancy comes with so much anxiety. I know I’ll never forget, but having my kids keeping me busy helps me to forget a lot of what happened back then. I’m grateful that god gave us a chance to be parents to two wonderful children.

  14. The hat and scarf are beautiful, but even more ~ the love you have shown to your sweet friend make me cry! And, thank you, Kristen, for sharing this horrible chapter in your life with all of us. Hugs to you. And, hug that sweet husband of yours, too ~

  15. I also have a son who was born straight into the arms of God. Kristen hit the nail on the head with these. Thank you for posting this & thank you Kristen. I wish I would have had this 9 years ago.

  16. I received this link from a friend. What a painful, beautiful story. Thank you for sharing Cohen with us. I’m sharing this link at the stillbirthday facebook page, and I’ll be praying for continued comfort and healing as well.

  17. I am so sorry for your loss. My stillbirth was over 7 years ago, and though the pain is different now, it still remains.

    I also really hated the comment that It is God’s will. I can still remember that and it really hurt then!!!


  18. We lost our baby girl at 27 weeks, a little over a year ago. I never realized how uncomfortable loss and grief really makes others feel, until some of our own family members felt too weird to talk about it. I think the list you put together is spot-on. The only thing I’d add is, “Don’t tell the grieving parents ‘You can have other babies.’ or ‘At least you have your other children.'” The baby who died was real, can’t be replaced, and will always be counted. I always think, we have two angels here on Earth, one already in Heaven.

  19. I lost my daughter at 36 weeks to a cord incident. I’m due with my rainbow daughter within two days of my lost one’s due date. This pregnancy has been harder than I could have ever imagined. I still struggle with how people deal with my loss and expect me to behave with my grief, so I really appreciate this link. Thank you.

    Reading this, I think I’m inspired to write up Do’s and Don’ts on how to help a friend through a pregnancy after a loss. Right now, people asking me if I’m “excited” about the baby since she’s so close to being born (I’m 34 weeks) is terribly triggering. I’m much more terrified than “excited,” although I love this potential new baby tremendously. Also, this new baby isn’t going to take away that loss. She isn’t going to replace my dead baby. And there seems to be a lot of expectations that now I can forget about my lost daughter now that I’m expecting a new daughter.

  20. Much appreciated and helpful advice. I wish my friend and family had resources like this when I lost my son.
    Sending hugs.

  21. Thank you for sharing the birth and loss of your baby girl.
    I will be saying hello , haapy birthday and a goodbye to my grandson Brandon today.

    These words and actions will help me to aid my DIL.
    May you be richly blessed.

    1. Lori, I am so terribly sorry about the loss of your grandson Brandon. The loss of a child is a grief unlike anything else.

      I will say a prayer tonight for you and your family. God bless, Lori.

  22. I am so sorry for Kristen and her husbands loss. I very much agree with your advice on helping someone who has lost a child through stillbirth. My son (who would have been 26 this Sept) was stillborn. I still grieve for him everyday and miss him dearly even though I know I will one day be reunited with him. It was so beautiful when you said her child was born straight into the arms of Jesus. What a wonderful and comforting thought. I appreciated the advice that people need to talk about her child. Even 26 years later it is so nice for me to know that my son is still remembered by other people. My thoughts and prayers are with Kristen, her husband and her family and friends.

    1. Natalie, thank you so much for sharing your perspective. If you have any more practical advice (gift ideas, comforting words, how to continue to honor the child so many years later), I would love to hear it.

  23. This article and Kristen’s words have truly helped me. My dearest friend just a few weeks ago lost a son at 40 weeks. He was beautiful and I am having a hard time understanding how this could happen. The doctors had no explanation and said he was perfect. I can’t imagine the pain her family is feeling, I just want to know how to be there and be the best friend I can!

    1. Bonnie, I am so sorry. Yes, this is a terrible time for your friend. It is for you, too. My number one piece of advice is to let her know days, weeks, months, and years from now that you still remember her son.

  24. All I had ever wanted since I was little girl was a beautiful baby of my own. I was blessed enough to get pregnant at 23. I was told my baby would have downs and I still wanted my baby more than anything no matter what. I found out she was a girl, I was so excited so happy and I only ever had one name for a girl. My beautiful Novalee Pauline. At 20 weeks, January 28th, unfortunately I rushed to the hospital due to massive bleeding. I was in labor from 8am till 7:04 that night. The whole day I was told she wouldn’t even take her first breath after she was born. The hardest thing is to say hello and good bye to your child, your precious baby, in less than a couple hours. Reading this has really helped me to start seeing a better tomorrow and I can’t thank you enough for sharing your heartbreaking story to help others. May God bless you and your family.

    1. Christa, I am so sorry for your loss. Your little Novalee Pauline sounds absolutely precious and perfect.

  25. As I write this, I have tears reading not just the blog, the do’s and don’ts for my friends loss of her baby. I did not speak much to her about her loss, the blog gives me a sense of loss, and understanding for my friend and all other mothers who have lost a baby.

    Some people can appreciate everything in life and some find it difficult.

    Thank you Rebekah for this blog.

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