Coping with the loss of a baby or child

On this page, you’ll find information about how the death of a child can affect you, as well as practical advice to help you cope with your grief.

We have written this information with parents of children who have died in mind. However, you may still find it helpful if any child or baby close to you has died, such as a niece, nephew, cousin, sibling, grandchild or the child of a friend.

How does the death of a child affect you?

There is no “normal” way to feel when a child or baby dies, but many people describe feeling some or all of the following:

Numbness, shock, disbelief or confusion

The strength of the emotion you feel may just be too much for your body to handle. A child dying is so far from what any of us want or expect from our lives that it may be extremely difficult to adjust to what has happened. This is true whether the death was expected (for example, after a long illness) or if it was sudden. 

Empty or lost

Most of us spend a lot of time caring for and enjoying time with our children. They are a huge part of how we make most of our decisions, including our jobs, where we live, our health and so much more. This means if our child dies it can feel like the purpose has gone from our lives.

Guilt or regret

As a parent, we are responsible for what happens to our children. So when something we can’t control, like an illness or an accident happens, you may feel it was your fault. You may replay moments over and over again in your mind. You may think about what you should or shouldn’t have done differently.

Anger and jealousy

We expect that our children will live longer than us. It can feel like the order of things is wrong when they die before us. 

Many people feel a sense of injustice or unfairness that their child didn’t get to experience more of life. This can sometimes lead to feelings of jealousy toward people with living children. 

Broken or incomplete

Many people describe feeling like they have lost a part of themselves when a baby or child dies. Being your child’s mum or dad might have been an important part of how you saw yourself. If you have only recently given birth, the changes in your body may be a constant reminder that they are gone.


You may feel that no one can possibly understand how you feel. Being around other parents and their children may bring up difficult memories, feelings and emotions which make you want to be alone. This might make you feel disconnected from people around you.

Sadness and loss

Many people describe feeling a deep sadness that they will never get to know their child as a teenager or adult. Important events, hopes and dreams feel like they have been taken away.


If a child or baby has been very ill it is very normal to feel a sense of relief when they die. You may have felt overwhelmed with caring for them. Or you may be glad that they are no longer in pain. Many people feel a sense of shame about this, but it is a normal and understandable part of grief.

Physical pain

When a baby or child dies the feelings and emotions are so intense it can feel physically painful. The stress your body will be under may cause symptoms such as nausea, extreme tiredness or loss of appetite. It may affect your immune system so that you get ill more easily. Read more on the physical symptoms of grief on Sue Ryder’s Grief Guide.

A selfie of Sarah (right) and Laura (left) - both are smiling at the camera. Laura is wearing a black top and glasses and Sarah is wearing a pink top.

When you lose a mum or a dad it’s terrible but it’s the natural progression of things. To lose your child - I never expected anything like what we went through to happen.

Read Sarah’s Story on Sue Ryder’s Grief Guide

How long does grief for a baby or child last?

Everyone is different, there are no set stages for grief and there is no set time for how long grief will last.

Are they really “lost”?

When someone dies, it is very common to talk about loss. For example “the loss of a child” or “losing a baby”. In fact, it is so common, we have included it in this page so that people know what we mean.

But some people feel that using the word “loss“ just adds to the pain after someone has died. Your child or baby may be physically gone from your life, but there are many ways in which they are still here. For example the memories, feelings and the real tangible influence they have had on your life.

It’s also important to remember you will always be their mum or dad. Your place in the world as their parent is yours forever. 

How to cope when a baby or child dies

When your child dies it is devastating. The idea of ever being able to cope may feel impossible. 

But “coping” means different things to different people. 

For example, it could mean: 

  • finding a way to manage painful thoughts and emotions. 
  • being able to carry out practical tasks such as getting dressed, eating well or going to work. 
  • feeling able to look after other children in the way you’d like.
  • finding some joy and meaning in your life, including in the memory of the baby or child who has died. 

Learning to cope doesn’t mean forgetting or betraying your baby or child. 

Whenever you are ready, take a look at some of these ideas. We want you to feel better. 

Stay connected to them

Finding ways to remember your child and strengthen your connection with them can be a comfort. It may be helpful to think of ways your relationship can continue, for example: 

  • Talk to them and imagine what they would say.
  • Do things they would have enjoyed.
  • Revisit places where you made important memories.
  • Talk to others about memories they have of them - they might be able to tell you things you didn’t know or remember.
  • Collect objects together that remind you of them or create a memory box. You can create a digital memory box using Sue Ryder’s Grief Guide

This may feel too difficult right now. That’s fine. It might be that these activities are something you want to try in the future, or they might never be right for you. 


A journal is a private space, just for you, where you can be completely honest. People find grief journals useful for many different reasons, such as: 

  • The process of writing down your feelings can help you see them differently. This might make them easier to deal with or you might understand them better
  • In a similar way, seeing your words written down can give you a different perspective too. 
  • Keeping a record of any memories of your child or baby can be comforting and give you something to look back on when you want to feel connected to them
  • You could also use this space to write down things you wish you could say to them.

Take a look at our Grief Guide, where you can keep an online grief journal, or read more on how to start a grief journal

Let people know what you need

Many people struggle to know what to say to someone who is grieving. They may worry about upsetting you by saying the wrong thing. 

So it can be helpful to be really honest about how you’re feeling and how others can support you. You may feel unsure what this might be right now, so here are some suggestions: 

  • “I want to talk about my child whenever it feels natural, please don't avoid bringing them up.”
  • “I’d love to meet up and share some good memories together, would that be OK?”
  • “Talking about my child today is just too difficult, do you mind if we talk about something else?”
  • “I really need a distraction today, could we meet up?”
  • “I’m finding it hard to look after myself at the moment. Could you come and help me do some housework/bring me something to eat?”

It’s OK to grieve differently

Even within families, people react to the death of a child or baby differently. This can add to the difficulty of months and years afterwards, as each person tries to find a way to cope.

It can be so hard to think about others' pain when you are struggling so much yourself. But whatever it looks like from the outside, others will be hurting too and it’s important to respect that. 

Respect your own grief too. Don’t question or compare your own grief to others’ either. There is no right way to grieve.

Here are some examples of how people react differently:

Talk about how you’re feeling to others

Speaking to friends and family can help you for lots of reasons: 

  • It can help you feel less alone. Difficult experiences can feel a little easier to deal with when friends and family let us know they understand and are there to support us. 
  • It gives you a different way of looking at things. It’s easy to get stuck thinking over the same things when we are grieving. For example, what you could have done differently or how your future is going to be now. Other people’s perspectives can help you challenge unhelpful thoughts and feelings. 
  • It helps you understand and adjust the situation. Hearing our own thoughts as we speak them out loud often helps us look at our situation differently. It can make things feel more real. 

Talking to family might be hard and complicated right now, as they deal with their own grief. If this is the case, try and think of someone who isn’t quite as close, but who you trust, like a close friend. Remember that people may be nervous of getting in touch, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to help.

You may also find it helpful to join a support group

We’re also here to help. Our Online Bereavement Community is a safe and supportive place you can talk to others who have been bereaved. You don’t need an account to read what people are saying, but you will need an account if you want to share your own experience. 

Have hope

This page has focused a lot on how hard life is after your child or baby has died. You may never feel quite the same again, but one day, you will be ok. You will find joy and purpose in new things. You will remember your child and smile. We know many people that have, and you can too.

Initially all you can think about is that they are gone but now I’m starting to remember the good things... You can’t fix it. There’s no solution. I will carry it forever but it’s important to find ways to move forward and live and honour Daniel.

Read Catherine’s story on Sue Ryder’s Grief Guide

Supporting siblings who are grieving

If you have other children, it may be a very upsetting and confusing time for them. Take a look at our information on supporting a child who is grieving for more information. We also have information on losing a sibling.

Support for bereaved parents

If you would like some support to manage how you are feeling, or you are finding it difficult to cope on your own, then there are people who can help. 

  • Talk to your GP. They will know what bereavement services are available in your local area, and be able to refer you if necessary. 
  • Sue Ryder is here for you. Our Online Bereavement Counselling Service offers free and professional video bereavement counselling.
  • Your child’s care team. If your child was ill before they died, the team that helped care for them may be able to suggest places to go for support. There may be organisations that specialise in supporting families who have been bereaved by that specific condition. 
A black woman sits on a double bed next to a younger black male whilst they both look thoughtfully at a laptop. The son leans his head against his mother's.

Online Bereavement Support

Access a range of support including free video counselling, an online community, plus advice and resources.

Further support

  • The Lullaby Trust offers a range of support and practical advice for people coping with the death of a child or baby. 
  • Child Bereavement UK offers help to families when a child dies or when a child is grieving. 
  • Sands specialise in supporting anyone who has experienced pregnancy loss or the death of a baby. 

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