Our Journal

Coping with grief after stillbirth & neonatal death – angel babies

Once upon a time, talking about stillbirth was taboo in our culture, but today parents and families coping with perinatal loss and neonatal death (or after having, what some call a stillborn or ‘angel baby’) can access a range of wonderful support services.

hands on shoulders to support sad woman

Finding support is a very important step in finding your way through this difficult time of grief, pain and heartache.

In Australia, every day 6 babies are stillborn and 2 die within 28 days of birth, according to the Australian government website, but it is fair to say that most people are not mentally prepared when this occurs.

Grief after a stillbirth is entirely normal. And like all bereavements, it can affect different people in very varying ways. So, whether for yourself or a close family member or friend, accessing support, finding ways to talk about the experience and possibly deciding to formally acknowledge or recognise the loss, could all be positive steps forward.

Please Note: At Tomorrow we have a standard policy not to make a profit on this kind of loss. In fact, we reduce all margins for baby funerals. Please contact us here to discuss that if you would like more information.

Most importantly, if you are in urgent need of crisis or grief support, please contact:

  • Suicide Line: 1300 651 251
  • Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
  • Lifeline: 13 11 14
  • Griefline: 1300 845 745
  • Beyondblue: 1300 22 4636

Initially, for most people who’ve experienced stillbirth, a deep sense of shock will set in. A welcomed pregnancy is usually a joyful experience. The last thing anyone wants or prepares for is the sometimes sudden and traumatic loss of the pregnancy.

At Tomorrow we understand that grief is unpredictable and affects everyone differently and this is why it’s important for us all to be aware of the support services that are available.

What are some natural feelings that may be a part of grief?

When it comes to grief, there are no right or wrong ways to grieve. Grief is a normal response to loss. These are just some of the reactions you, or someone close to you may be experiencing:

  • Shock, Loneliness, Feeling numb or empty, Sadness, Crying, Frustration and irritability, Anger, Denial, Guilt and self-blame, Shame / embarrassment, Confusion, Acceptance, Relief, Jealousy on seeing pregnant women or babies, Feeling like my body has betrayed me.
  • Intense physical experiences could include: insomnia, tummy upsets, loss of appetite, headaches and anxiety
  • Mothers have also described an intense physical desire to hold their baby – like their arms are aching.

How do I help someone who has had a stillbirth, miscarriage, or perinatal loss?

Everyone experiences grief in different ways – even married couples, family members and close friends.

The very fact that a baby has died before, or just after birth usually means very few family members will have physically met or seen the baby. This can make it more difficult for those people to have a sense of reality around the loss.

Naturally, many women form a strong attachment to their unborn babies very early in their pregnancy. If a miscarriage has occurred particularly early in the pregnancy, family and friends might struggle to comprehend the depth of grief a parent might experience. This can in fact add to the isolation and grief they’re feeling.

The most important thing you can do to support someone through this kind of sudden and often lonely grief stage, is to find ways to help. This might mean simply telling them that you want to find ways to support them. Or this could be offering assist with meals, caring for older children, or even pointing them in the direction of good professional help.

We met with the inspiring Jo Betz, who has become a writer and speaker on grief, after the death of her husband. Her grief journal makes a beautiful gift.

Where can I go for support after stillbirth, miscarriage, or perinatal loss?

We have researched and prepared a list of excellent services that could be helpful for yourself or for someone you love. This builds upon our resources for general grief support.

If you decide to try one type of grief services below and it does not feel right, we suggest looking at another approach, until you find something that connects.

  • Sands  is an excellent starting place for those who have experienced an early pregnancy loss, medically advised termination, stillbirth or newborn death. They are a volunteer-based organisation providing individualised care from one bereaved parent to another, giving them support and hope for the future. They also operate a 24 hr / 7 phone support line. Call them on 1300 308 307
  • Pink Elephants helps those experiencing early pregnancy loss feel cared for, protected and understood. Their Personalised Phone Call Peer Support offers 6 x free one-on-one calls with a trained volunteer companion who has experienced the heartbreaking loss of their own much-loved baby.
  • Red Nose Grief & Loss offers services to those affected by the sudden death of a baby regardless of the cause of death. This includes a Men’s Grief Support Library and Live Chat among many other excellent services.
  • Bears of Hope  provide support for families who have experienced the loss of their baby. They offer a range of nurturing events like their Mother’s Day High Tea and their Dad’s Sport & Support Weekend.

Of course, support with the loss of a baby could come in many forms. A good starting place is also to seek the advice of:

  • your doctor or midwife
  • other health professionals, such as grief counsellors or social workers
  • your family and friends

There are very few things in life more difficult than the loss of a baby. We hope this guide to grief support helps you to reach out and find ways to access the support you need at a difficult time.

We’re always here to help

Call us 24-hours / 7 days on 1800 574 824
Our Journal contains our entire list of resources for creating personal memorials.
Or visit our funerals page, for more information on our unique memorial style funeral package.