Why finding the words to talk about baby loss matters

Most people who have suffered pregnancy or baby loss would like to talk about it, but many of their colleagues try to avoid the subject, according to new research from charity Sands.

bereavement at work


Knowing how to support colleagues who have been through pregnancy or baby loss can have a huge impact. Jenny Hearne, Head of Thinkers’ Thoughts at market research agency, Watch Me Think, is only too aware of that.

She has a close friend who had a horrific experience, losing their baby at full term which resulted in her resigning and not returning to work because she couldn’t face the questions and felt the easiest thing for her to do was to leave her job. She has recently completed some specialist bereavement training and says: “I really want to help prevent this sort of situation ever happening in our business.”

She adds: “Just knowing not to shy away from having these conversations and getting guidance around language was real practical help for our team.”

Many of us find it hard to know what to say. This is backed up by a new survey by pregnancy and baby loss charity Sands shows that most people affected by pregnancy or baby loss (77%) returned to work after their loss, but more than half (53%) said no one talked to them about what had happened.

Sands says a lack of conversation about pregnancy or baby loss matters because of the impact on bereaved parents and on their workplace. Those bereaved parents who had returned to work said that when no one asked about their loss it made them feel isolated and lonely at work (27%), or ‘like no one cared’ (24%).

However, when work colleagues did talk to them about their loss this had a positive impact, with most feeling supported and listened to (60%), like they and their baby mattered (38%), and better able to manage their workplace relationships (33%).

Finding the words

The charity, which is offering SMEs free Bereavement in the Workplace training, is launching its Finding the Words campaign to help everyone feel more confident to start these important conversations.

Sands’ Head of Training and Strategic Planning Clare Worgan said: “It can be difficult to talk about personal matters at work, particularly bereavement and especially the sensitive topic of pregnancy and baby loss. Most of us are worried about saying the wrong thing, which means that we say nothing at all, leaving colleagues feeling isolated and alone. Our advice is to be brave, acknowledge what has happened and offer support. Saying “I’m so sorry to hear about what happened to your baby” is often enough to let your colleague know they are not alone.”

Sands’ Finding the Words survey found that while many people felt confident about talking to close family or friends who had experienced pregnancy baby loss, less than half (44%) said they had been confident talking to a work colleague.

When asked to choose from multiple reasons why they found it hard to start a conversation about someone’s loss, the most common reason people gave was because they were worried about upsetting the person affected (58%).

Other reasons included:

  • I simply didn’t know what to say (45%)
  • I felt it was too personal (38%)
  • It never seemed to be the right moment (24%)
  • I was worried that I would get upset (18%)
  • I felt that too much time had passed (10%)

However, the majority of bereaved parents (63%) said they did want to talk about what had happened.

When asked what would help people feel more confident to start a conversation with someone they know about pregnancy or baby loss the most popular answers were:

  • Conversation starters/top tips to help if I’m worried about saying the wrong thing (56%)
  • Background information about types of loss and grieving loss (42%)
  • Knowledge about an organisation to sign post them to for support (41%)



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