In our unit the neos. or NNPs tell the parents about their infant's prognosis. A doctor is always present when a baby dies, so they tell the family, not the RN. I ask the family if they have understood what they have been told. We support the family before and after. I still cry when a baby dies, and I have been a NICU nurse for 26 years. It is OK to cry, as long as you do not completely fall apart. You can do that when family leaves. I tell the family that they have done everything they could for their baby. I say that the baby has felt the love surrounding him his entire life, and has heard and been comforted by their voices. I say how very sorry I am that we could not save their baby. And that it was an honor for me to take care of their child. Stay with the family, offer them tissues and ask what you can do to help them. We ask if they are a certain faith, and if they would like to have the baby blessed, dedicated, or baptized. Don't forget the father in this. Often he is trying to be stoic and support the Mom, but you can see the anguish in his face. We never let a baby die alone in their bed. If family is not present to hold the baby, one of the staff nurses will hold him until he passes. We call our hospital chaplain and on-call social worker when there is an imminent death, or if family needs support. And remember that families grieve in different ways. We have had moms fall to the floor screaming, or react by extreme anger and threats towards the staff. We have had families quietly sit and rock their baby for hours after he has died. We allow this, because compared to a lifetime, that is all the time they have to cuddle their child. It is usually the first time they have seen him with no lines or tubes.
How do I cope? It is still difficult. I find comfort in knowing that everything possible was done for that baby. And that the baby has finally been healed, just not here on earth. Staff nurses will talk to one another to get support. Some nurses will share their feelings with family. Know that a whole lot of babies are alive today, that didn't have a chance 10 years ago.