Perinatal/Neonatal Bereavement

The Perinatal/Neonatal Bereavement Team here at Brigham and Women’s Hospital provides support, guidance and online resources to families, friends and the BWH community following the loss of a pregnancy or newborn.

Grief is the natural response to loss. It can be difficult to recognize and talk about the physical, emotional and spiritual reactions you may be experiencing. Grief is complex and effects everyone differently.

Most people who are grieving need to be able to:

  • Tell their story
  • Seek support from family, friends or within their community
  • Pay attention to their physical and mental health
  • Give themselves permission to grieve
  • Find ways to regain a sense of control in their lives
  • Adapt to life without their loved one

Experiencing Grief

One of the first questions people ask is: "How long will I feel this way?" The answer to this question is that it depends given that everyone’s experience is different. People tend to report a number of emotional and physical reactions soon after the death of their loved one. Some reactions ease in a few weeks, while others persist for several months or more.

Please remember we are here to provide you resources in your grieving process. If at any time your grief feels as though it is getting harder and you feel increasingly depressed or have thoughts of harming yourself, seek help immediately from your doctor or mental health professional.

Physical Symptoms of Grief:

  • Crying
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Difficulty in Concentrating
  • Digestive Problems
  • Tightness in the Chest, shortness of Breath
  • Panic Attacks
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty in Sleeping
  • Agitation/Restlessness
  • Chronic Pain

Some of these symptoms can be associated with postpartum complications. Please seek medical advice if you become alarmed by extreme physical changes.

Emotional Symptoms of Grief:

  • Immense Sadness
  • Depression
  • Guilt
  • Irritability
  • Fear
  • Blaming yourself
  • Anger/Rage
  • Resentment
  • Mood Changes

In the weeks and months ahead, try to carve out time to grieve on a regular basis, otherwise your busy schedule can push grief into the background. Even though you may be reluctant to do this, scheduling grief time can help you feel more in control of your grief and less overwhelmed. One suggestion is to begin by setting aside 20 to 30 minutes every few days when you won't be disturbed.

The following tips may give you some ideas about what to do in your "grief time":

  • Sit quietly and think about your loved one
  • Talk to them as though they were sitting right next to you
  • Play music that reminds you of them
  • Allow yourself to cry
  • Write them a letter
  • Start a journal, a memory book or a photo book
  • List any questions you have
  • Make a 'to-do' list about what needs to be done
Supportive Reading & Resources


Local Bereavement Resources

National Bereavement Resources

  • The Dougy Center - The National Center for Grieving Children & Families
    • The Dougy Center provides online resources for children, teens and families about dealing with the death of a loved one including books, DVDs, activities and general information about grief
  • SHARE Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support
    • A community for anyone who experiences the tragic death of a baby
  • The Compassionate Friends
  • March of Dimes
  • Hand to Hold – Fragile Babies. Family Support
  • A Little HOPE – The National Foundation for Grieving Children, Teens and Families
    • Bereavement support services and grief counseling for children, teens and young adults who have experienced the loss of a parent, sibling, or a loved one, regardless of the circumstances of the death
Spiritual Care in Grief

BWH chaplains are here for you, ready to offer inclusive, compassionate care to patients and families of any religious or spiritual background, without exception. We are members of the interdisciplinary bereavement team and collaborate with nurses, physicians, social workers, and other team members to provide optimal care. We are here to listen, support, and offer compassionate presence as you navigate grief, love, and the personal challenges that may arise around the loss of your pregnancy or newborn. We are also able to facilitate visits from clergy from specific religious traditions and denominations and can contact religious leaders from multiple faith traditions (e.g. Imam, Rabbi, Catholic clergy, Christian pastor, Buddhist clergy, and more).

To reach a chaplain for emotional, spiritual, or religious support 24 hours a day, please ask NICU staff to connect you with the Spiritual Care office. You may also reach us directly at 617-732-7480 during business hours, or, if outside the hospital, you may call 617-732-5500 and ask the hospital operator to page the on-call chaplain.

Service of Remembrance

The Staff of the Connors Center for Women and Newborns at Brigham and Women's Hospital organizes the Annual Service of Remembrance, dedicated to the babies lost to miscarriage, childbirth or infant loss at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. This intimate service enables families to return to the hospital to honor the memory of their babies with those who cared for them as well as meet other families who have experienced similar loss.

For more information please contact:

Brigham and Women's Hospital Patient Family Relations (617-732-6646)

Lactation After Loss

In- hospital lactation support and resources are available for mothers who have experienced the loss of a baby or pregnancy after delivery. Monitoring and care of the breasts at this time is important for optimum breast health. A lactation consultant is available to speak with you on how to treat engorgement or swelling of the breasts that can occur, as well as how to dry up milk that you may have been producing. If speaking with someone at this time is too difficult, answers to these and other lactation issues are available here:

Bereaved Donor Milk Resource:

If you have stored breast milk that you have been pumping for your baby, the Mothers' Milk Bank of New England can be a good resource if you are considering donating your breast milk. Although donating breast milk may not be the right choice for every mother, for some mothers, donating pumped breast milk may provide comfort in knowing that the milk they have produced can make a difference in another baby's life. More information on donating your breast milk is available here:

Bereaved Donor Milk Location:

Hospital Contacts

Brigham and Women's Hospital Patient Family Relations

Phone: (617-732-6646)

For more information about:

  • Grief
  • Support groups
  • Service of Remembrance
  • Referral information

Brigham and Women's Psychiatric Services

Division of Women's Mental Health (617-732-6753*)

The BWH mental health team is a group of clinicians with specialized training and expertise in treating established patients with these and other problems:

  • Psychiatric symptoms during pregnancy and postpartum
  • Reactions to infertility or pregnancy loss

*This number is for established patients, please see home page for resources if you are not currently a BWH patient.

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