Kennedy: What to say when a baby dies

Infant deaths call for empathy

Lisa Cahill is a bereavement coordinator at Erlanger hospital.

In the anguished and disorienting moments after the death or stillbirth of an infant, Lisa Cahill's whispering voice often becomes the first breath of comfort for the child's grieving parents.

Cahill is an RN and a bereavement coordinator at Erlanger hospital, which means she is on call to help parents negotiate what, for many, will be the most excruciating hours of their lives.

Erlanger is a regional perinatal center and handles many high-risk pregnancies and baby deliveries. Patients come here from four states - North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee - with complicated medical emergencies. As a consequence, it is not unusual for the hospital to report multiple infant deaths a week, Cahill says.

Generations ago, parents of deceased newborns were encouraged to "move on," as if grief could be sidestepped through strength of will.