The news that a baby is on the way is almost as exciting as its birth. Both moments mark a turning point in the lives of women and men on the verge of parenthood and these moments come filled with the hope of love, joy, and happily ever after.

Sometimes, though, happily ever after never happens. There are so many things that can go wrong during pregnancy and during the first vulnerable year of a newborn’s life. Parents who’ve lost a child describe it as the lowest form of misery imaginable. It’s a misery that’s impossible to put into words and most bereaved parents just don’t know who to turn to for solace or how to ask for help.

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and October 15 has been designated a day of remembrance for all babies lost to accident, ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS, or any reason that takes them much too soon. Here are some tips to help friends and family members through the loss of a baby. Put these tips into motion with compassion and without being asked; your gentle thoughtfulness will be appreciated and the grieving parents probably don’t even know what to ask for.

Act, don’t ask

Do things that need to be done and don’t ask for permission first. Take dinner to the couple or treat them to dinner out if they’re willing. Wash their dishes, vacuum the floors, walk the dog, mow the lawn. If you see something not getting done, just do it.

Use the baby’s name

Even the littlest people have names. Using the baby’s name shows its parents that you recognize their loss as that of a very real, very loved person.

Be sneaky

These people are important to you so you already know enough about them to know what they like. Go shopping for the things you know will comfort them — flowers, beer, chocolates, pizza, crossword puzzles, whatever — and leave the bag of goodies at their door. Ring the doorbell so they know to come looking but don’t hang around to speak to them. Sneak away before they know it’s you.

Don’t ignore the “big” days

Some days are tougher than others. Send a card or something small and heartfelt to show you remember them and their baby on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, the baby’s due date or birthday, or any day that brings special meaning to them.

Listen patiently

Sometimes the parents will want to talk and other times they will take comfort from your silent presence. Be there, quietly, and listen to anything they choose to share but don’t ask too many probing questions.  Be willing to just sit and be if that’s all the parent feels up to.

Honor the lost life

A scrapbook, diary, or a memory box is a nice gift the parents can use to commemorate the life of the child they lost. By honoring the memory of the child with a keepsake such as this, the child will stay in their lives forever.

Host a memorial tribute

Do something ceremonial that will honor the child while marking the passage of time and continuity of life. Plant a memory garden or a tree. Donate a statue or monument to their favorite park. Donate to their favorite charity or children’s hospital.

Whatever it is, just do it. If you are close enough to share their grief, you know how to reach out to them. Just do it, gently, and without asking first for permission.

Source: Wohl, Candace. “7 Ways You Can Support Someone Who Has Lost a Baby.” HuffPost Parents / The Blog., Inc. Oct 7, 2013. Web. Mar 2, 2014.

Read More:
Miscarriage: Signs and Symptoms
What Causes a Stillbirth?
Second Trimester Miscarriage