What Should I Tell My Child?

by Clara Hinton

When a miscarriage occurs, probably one of the most difficult and most painful tasks is that of breaking the news to family members and friends that the baby you had once been so excited about is now only part of a broken dream. Most parents feel overwhelmed and lost when they are faced with telling their living children that there will not be a little baby brother or sister -- at least not just yet. Parents are left wondering what do you say? How do you tell a young child that a loss has occurred?

First of all, don't try to be a hero and hide your own feelings. It's okay to say that you are sad. Children identify with feelings and they often know that you are feeling sad or lonely without you ever saying a word. It is often more frightening to a child to wonder what is going on than to actually know that mommy and daddy are feeling very blue.

You don't have to go into a deep theological explanation about the loss. In fact, many times you will feel as though you have no logical answers about the loss. It's okay to simply explain that baby brother or baby sister is no longer inside mommy's tummy, but is now in a different safe place with God. Try not to use words or terms above the age level of the child's understanding. Especially remember that when a child learns about death, it is an abstract idea and often an impossible concept for a young child to comprehend. Try to keep your explanation simple.

Don't imply that the miscarried baby went to sleep to be with God. That can be scary to any young child. When nighttime comes, there might be a real fear that if mommy or daddy falls asleep, they will go away, too. Again, be careful what words you use when explaining death to a young child.

Try to be honest, and identify with something familiar to the child. Perhaps the child has had a baby kitten that died. The feelings of sadness and loneliness will be easily identifiable, and the child will understand that while he will always remember the little kitten, the kitten is no longer living with him. That explanation will help the child understand the concept of missing someone through death.

Allow the child to talk and ask questions. Children will ask questions that are age appropriate, so that makes explaining the loss a little easier. It is not necessary to go into gestational age development when a child doesn't have a clue. That explanation can come at a much later time.

Leave the door open for future questions and be watching for any signs of anxiety or depression. Because parents are often caught up in their own feelings of loss and grief, it's a good idea to have a trusted and loved aunt, uncle, or grandparent to pay close attention to your child's needs. Feelings are real. When a child feels alone and afraid and is unable to express those feelings, additional problems in the grief process can arise.

What is best? Keep it simple and speak from the heart. When you say, "Mommy is so sad because our baby stopped growing and is now living in heaven. But, I'm so happy that we are together", then you have ended on a positive note. Chances are your child will readily express his or her feelings of grief more openly with you, and together you can work through this pain of loss. Healing is a process, and it takes time for you and your child. Together you will make it!

Clara HintonClara Hinton is a Certified Grief Facilitator, founder of The Silent Grief Website, and the author of four books, including Silent Grief. She is the author of a weekly newletter and has contributed to Christian Woman and Church and Family magazines. Clara speaks on college campuses on grief and is a keynote speaker at women's retreats. She has been interviewed on radio stations across the nation and appeared on various TV programs. Clara is a stay-at-home mother of eleven children and wife of 31 years.

Copyright © Clara Hinton. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.