Chapter 2: Children’s grief

Talking to younger and older children

My first thought was “What am I going to tell our daughter who was anticipating having a little brother come home in a couple of weeks.”

Younger children

Use plain and age-appropriate language, avoiding words like “lost” or “sick.” Below are some conversation starters you can try.

Conversation Prompts

“I have some very sad news today. The doctors told me that something happened and the baby in my tummy died. The doctors said it was nobody’s fault. I’m very sad and I love you very much.”

“I know that you’ve missed me lately because I’ve been at the hospital so much with your sister, who had a lot of trouble with her heart since she was born. I have something important to tell you. She died yesterday. I’m feeling very sad but I’m home with you now. I’ve missed you and I love you.”

Very young children who knew there was a “baby in mommy’s tummy” may ask over and over again, “Where’s the baby?” or ask you to “bring the baby back.”

Older children

Older children and teens may need extra support to work through their feelings, which may be intense. They may also have had positive or negative thoughts about the pregnancy, or both. Look for and create opportunities to talk about these thoughts and feelings and give reassurance that they are normal. You can use the approaches above and also offer some supportive options. You can also provide more medical details about what happened to older children and youth if they ask.

Conversation Prompts

“If you have any questions you would like to ask, please let me know and I will answer them honestly and as best as I can.”   “If you want to talk about it, you can talk to me when you are feeling ready. If you would rather talk to someone else, that is okay too.”

“Here are some resources for more information if you would like to check them out online. We can look at them together if you want.”

If they share their feelings or emotions with you, use language that validates their expression. For example: 

Conversation Prompts

 “I know how much you have been looking forward to this baby – our whole family was. I can see how disappointed and upset you are.” OR “I know you felt worried about how life would be with a new baby joining the family. It’s understandable you feel confused and uncertain about our family’s loss.”