This blog is a follow up to the "What can I *say*" entry with helpful suggestions for "What you can *do*."
What can I *do* when a NICU baby dies?
Two very helpful things you can *do* to support a NICU parent who has lost a baby are to listen and to simply be.
According to research, doctors on the average interrupt 20 seconds after their patient begins to speak. With the hurried pace everyone seems to be keeping these days, I would think that people often interrupt each other at close to a similar rate. For someone trying to tell their NICU story of loss, listening can be a true gift.
One of the most important things you can *do* for a grieving NICU parent is to give him or her your presence. The ability to listen can be a great source of comfort. Listening communicates respect, caring and empathy. Sometimes all a parent may needs is someone who will truly and emphatically listen to the story of grief. Really listening involves being present for the person, not interrupting and staying connected and focused on what he or she is saying.
Sitting with a NICU parent, listening to the NICU story, being a witness to the pain and sorrow can help provide invaluable support during times of duress. Spending a few quiet moments in silent contemplation, holding a hand is another effective way to convey your sympathy and support.
Advice on How to Listen
There are several different versions of this inspirational poem on listening. I have pulled one that I thought had the best message and referenced the others under Resources.
There are also several short articles in the references on characteristics of good listening and listening tips from a communication studies course, if you need to practice your attentive listener skills.
When I ask you to listen to me, and you start giving me advice,
You have not done what I asked.
When I ask that you listen to me, and you begin to tell me why I shouldn't feel that way,
You are trampling on my feelings.
When I ask you to listen to me, and you feel you have to do something to solve my problems,
You have failed me, strange as that may seem.
All that I ask is that you listen,
Not talk or do - just hear me.
When you do something for me
That I need to do for myself,
You contribute to my fear and feelings of inadequacy.
But when you accept as a simple fact
That I do feel what I feel, no matter how irrational,
Then I can quit trying to convince you
And go about the business
Of understanding what's behind my feelings.
So, please listen and just hear me
And, if you want to talk,
Wait a minute for your turn - and I'll listen to you.
Source: Author Unknown. Listen. Westhartford Counseling Center.
Another helpful resource to share with a friend who is hurting, is your presence and your full attention.
Be yourself and relate person to person.
Be ready to listen again and again.
Be aware of feelings and non-verbal cues.
Be comfortable with silence.
Most of all--Be there.
Remember that two of the greatest gifts you can give to a NICU parent are the gift of listening and the gift of your presence.
Do not underestimate the healing presence yourself and of really listening to someone who is going through a difficult experience.
Chadwick. N. Please Listen. http://www.1stholistic.com/prayer/hol_prayer_please-listen.htm
Nickerson LS. 2007. Characteristics of Good Listening. Listening and Understanding: Communication Studies. University of Idaho. http://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/~lnicker/page28.html
Nickerson LS. 2007. Listening Tips. Listening and Understanding. Communication Studies. University of Idaho. http://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/~lnicker/page28.html
Author Unknown. Please Listen to Me. Communication Studies. University of Idaho.
CBS Broadcasting Inc. June 25, 2007. 4th Sextuplet Born To Minn. Couple Dies. Available at: http://wcco.com/topstories/local_story_176160040.html
Dyer KA. What can I *say* when a NICU baby dies?. June 2007. Available at: http://nicuparentsupport.blogspot.com/2007/06/what-can-i-say-when-nicu-baby-dies.html
Dyer KA. Comforting Moment - It's Only Words... June 2007. Available at:
Dyer KA. Identifying, Understanding, and Working with Grieving Parents in the NICU, Part II: Strategies. Neonatal Network. June/July 2005; 24: 27-40.
Quill TE. Arnold RM. Platt F. "I Wish Things Were Different": Expressing Wishes in Response to Loss, Futility, and Unrealistic Hopes. Ann Intern Med, Oct 2001; 135: 551-5. Available at: http://www.annals.org/cgi/content/full/135/7/551