Why do we give gifts? The short answer is to show the love and respect for the person or family receiving the gift. The majority of gift giving occurs during happy occasions such as holidays, birthdays and anniversaries. Even during a sorrowful period in a person's life, when death has suddenly taken away someone they loved, an appropriate sympathy gift given at the right time can be a comforting remembrance and keepsake of their loved one. But what if the deceased was a baby who was stillborn or died shortly after birth? Is there any sympathy gift that can be given to the grieving parents to help them cope with the overwhelming sadness they are suffering?
The reality is that there is no physical sympathy gift that can be given to the distraught parents that will remove the pain and hurt they are experiencing. Their baby's birth was to be the beginning of an exciting new period in their lives. In an instant, joyous expectations turn to agonizing pain. With time, the disabling sadness the parents suffer will slowly subside, but will never be completely extinguished. What can be done to help the grieving parents get through the most stressful period of their life immediately after the death of their baby?
The best sympathy gift that can be given to someone who has lost a baby is love, understanding, and time. Resist the thought that "talking about it will make it worse".
With very few exceptions, the grieving parents want, and more importantly need, the comfort and support of their family and friends. During such times with the parents, care should be taken to avoid well meaning, but ultimately hurtful sayings such as;
"It's God's will."
"You can always try again."
"Time will heal your broken heart."
Instead, try to acknowledge the devastating loss the parents have suffered with comforting statements such as;
"I can not begin to imagine the pain you must be feeling"
"I am so sorry about the loss of your baby"
"If there's anything I can do for you and your family, please let me know."
If the grieving parent feels like talking, gently acknowledge what they are saying with no attempts to bring your own views regarding medical information, logic or religion into the discussion. If the parents had named the deceased baby, try to use the baby's name in the conversation to show you understand the human reality of their loss.
Many people may elect to send the parents of a deceased baby a sympathy gift to show their sorrow for their loss. Garden stones or wind-chimes engraved with the baby's name will be long treasured by parents as dignified memorials of their child's short time with them on earth.
But whether a gift is given or not, what the parents of the baby will remember and most appreciate was having someone there who supported and comforted them in their darkest hours.