Many grieving parents and others question their faith and wrestle with complicated emotions toward God in the midst of tragedy and raw pain. It is normal for families to face a crisis of faith or a change in their relationship with God during times of loss, tragedy, and grief. Some people may grow closer to God, while others may drift further away. As ministry leaders, we long to give hope and encouragement to an aching heart. Sometimes, in our desire to ease pain, we can inadvertently cause more harm or seem dismissive of the pain someone feels as they are grieving the loss of their child or loved one. We want to have the perfect words to take away their pain. The truth is, there are no words that will bring their baby or child back to them. It is okay not to have all the answers for them in this moment. Being present in the family’s pain speaks volumes. Showing compassion is more important than any words we speak. Families need to know their feelings are valid and that every emotion is acceptable. It’s okay to be angry with God. He can handle it.
After the loss of my mother, who suffered a great deal before her death, I struggled for a while to pray.
I told my pastor, “All I can say when I try to pray is, ‘I can’t talk to you right now. It hurts too much.’”
His reply: “That’s still prayer.”
- Grief is not the time to measure performance or to talk about how strong your faith is. Grief is a time for grace.
- Grief can feel like a dark, lonely pit with no way out.
- Avoid clichés such as “You can have more children” or “This was God’s will”. Even words meant to comfort can actually sting a grieving heart like salt poured into an open wound.
- Sometimes, we just need a friend to walk with us a little while, to sit with us, to love us as we are, to impart grace, to listen, to hurt with us, weep with us, and pray for us.
- Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15
Baptism & Rite of Anointing or Prayer of Dedication for Baby Who Has Passed
If baby is still alive and parents wish to have them baptized, but clergy are not able to get there in time, a baptism can be performed by a layperson.
A simple version can be:
I baptize________________in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Thank you for blessing the life of this child and filling his/her time on Earth with love. We pray for peace as you carry this little one, both on Earth and in heaven. We find peace in knowing he/she will be with You in heaven until we see them again. Please comfort ___________(mother and father) as they walk through this time.
You can also use an adaptation of parts of the prayers below and scriptures in the following pages.
The rite of anointing or a prayer of dedication is an appropriate ritual, instead of baptism, to meet the needs of parents and pastoral care when a baby is born still. This can be done in a hospital or birth setting or other private area when applicable. Where possible or appropriate, the child is held by the parent(s).
SCRIPTURE READING Mark 10:13-16 or Psalm 138:13
Pastor/Chaplain: Dear Father, God of comfort and hope, we thank you for the life of this baby, a precious gift of Your creation, and for the love of his/her parents. As we celebrate this little one, we also ask for comfort for this family as their hearts may be filled with grief too heavy to bear alone in the coming days. Wrap your loving arms around them and carry them when they are too weak to stand. Oh God of mercy, we look to you now for comfort and hope.
Pastor/Chaplain: What have you named this child?
Parent(s): We/I have named him/her ________ .
Pastor/Chaplain: The name you have chosen for your beloved child is ____________. His/her coming was anticipated with joy and hope, to become a member of your family and the family of Christ. As you face grief with the loss of this child, may you be reassured that he/she is with Jesus, as we entrust_______ to God’s great and tender mercy.
The pastor or chaplain anoints the child with oil, saying:
Names(s) of parent(s), your child,_________ , is now named and shall be remembered forever.
Your child, __________ , was created by God’s merciful hand. Your child, ___________ , is a beloved member of God’s heavenly kingdom; in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
One or more of the following, or any other appropriate lesson(s), may be used: Psalm 121, John 14:11-6, Romans 8:18, 35-39, Revelation 21:4
Pastor/Chaplain: O God our Father, Jesus took children into his arms and blessed them. It brings us peace to know that children are continually welcome in heaven. Give us grace, we pray, that we may entrust ___________ to your never-failing care and love and bring us all to your heavenly kingdom; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Comforting Scriptures and Spiritual Support
John 14:1-6 ~ “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions;[a] if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And where I go you know, and the way you know.”
Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
Psalms 30:5 ~ Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
Psalm 34:18 ~ The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalms 71:20-21 ~ You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. You will increase my greatness and comfort me again.
John 16:22 ~ So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. (Jesus’ words)
2 Corinthians 5:17 ~ Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Revelation 21:5 ~ And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Love this version of Psalm 23 from The Voice:
The Eternal is my shepherd; He cares for me always. 2 He provides me rest in rich, green fields beside streams of refreshing water. He soothes my fears; 3 He makes me whole again, steering me off worn, hard paths to roads where truth and righteousness echo His name. 4 Even in the unending shadows of death’s darkness, I am not overcome by fear. Because You are with me in those dark moments, near with Your protection and guidance, I am comforted. 5 You spread out a table before me, provisions in the midst of attack from my enemies; You care for all my needs, anointing my head with soothing, fragrant oil, filling my cup again and again with Your grace. 6 Certainly Your faithful protection and loving provision will pursue me where I go, always, everywhere. I will always be with the Eternal, in Your house forever.
Psalm 138:13-18 NLT ~
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.
17 How precious are your thoughts about me,[b] O God. They cannot be numbered!
18 I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up, you are still with me!
Psalm 121 ~
I look up to the mountains—
does my help come from there?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth!
3 He will not let you stumble;
the one who watches over you will not slumber.
4 Indeed, he who watches over Israel
never slumbers or sleeps.
5 The Lord himself watches over you!
The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
6 The sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon at night.
7 The Lord keeps you from all harm
and watches over your life.
8 The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
both now and forever.
Romans 8:35-39 ~ Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”[o]) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[p] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Others: Romans 8:18, 28 and Revelation 21:4