WARNING, TRIGGER ALERT!
Sensitive information to follow; read only if you are ready!
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. This is a topic that hits close to home for many of us, including myself, and often goes unprocessed due to fear of not being validated or understood by others. Dealing with death is never easy and the death of a baby is no different. Far too many families suffer this loss in silence, sometimes never coming to terms, or fully grieving their loss. The goal of this month is to help others relate, connect, support, and live with their loss; rather than “getting over” it. It is time to come together to support the bereaved parents; a club none of us want to be in!
Now I am about to be vulnerable with our readers, in hope that it will help stress the importance of awareness events, days, and months like these. Personally, I have suffered four miscarriages in less than a five year period. At first, I did not talk about it at all, for fear of being invalidated, ignored, or misunderstood; to which many bereaved parents can relate. However, after the loss of my twins, I realized that there were far more “members of this club” than I ever realized.
Grieving the loss of someone you never met, but grew and carried inside of you for months, is something extremely difficult to relate to; even for bereaved parents. I have had many reach out to me asking how they should react, what to say, what not to say, and my favorite, where to send the bereaved parents following a loss during pregnancy or infancy. I have to chuckle a little when people ask me that last question, this is not something that is contagious! In fact, often times there is no rhyme or reason for the loss; which is what makes the bereavement all the more challenging!
Right now you may be finding yourself thinking back to situations where you, yourself, asked or wondered many or all of the previously mentioned questions; if so, that’s perfectly fine! I am here to help! That is the point of our blogs! We want to end the stigma, the questions, the silence about mental health, grief and loss, behavioral challenges, and overcoming any and all potential diagnoses.
If someone shares that they have lost a child during pregnancy, labor, delivery, or infancy, it is not as important what you say, or don’t say, as it is for you to be there to listen and validate their feelings. It is for this reason, and many others, that we encourage you to take part in the #NEVERBESTILL movement because, as Star Legacy Foundation reminds us, every pregnancy deserves a happy ending.
Okay, so you may be thinking that you know there has to be some unhelpful, potentially harmful, responses to pregnancy and/or infant loss. You’re right! Here are some examples:
- “At least you know you can get pregnant.”
- “It was early” or “it wasn’t a baby yet.”
- “It’s in God’s hands.”
- “Everything happens for a reason.”
- “It just wasn’t meant to be/happen right now.”
- “You need to get over it already.”
- Nothing at all.
Moving forward is often a concept that seems unrealistic for a bereaved family member; however, I am here to tell you that it is possible while still honoring the memory and life of those lost. Support groups are often an important option for bereaved parents. In fact, some offer groups for siblings, grandparents, and extended family members. The month of October often sheds light on many of the individual and group therapy and support options for bereaved loved ones.
Additionally, taking care of yourself is as important physically as it is mentally. Eat healthy, take walks, tape a nap if you need it, get fresh air, socialize, but whatever you do, take time for YOU! Something I struggled to realize was that starting the healing process will not cause you to forget your child, they will always be in your heart, this is a way to live on for your child; honoring their memory.
Why is this such an important awareness topic?! Well, we’re glad you asked! Here are some statistics from the Star Legacy foundation:
- 1 in 4 women will lose a baby during pregnancy, labor, delivery, or infancy
- 70 babies, the equivalent of an entire school bus of children, will be born still today
- 1 in 160 pregnancies will end in stillbirth
- 1 in 10 OBs will be so devastated by a stillbirth that they will consider a career change
Yes, you read that correctly, ONE IN FOUR women will lose a baby during pregnancy, delivery, or infancy. Look around you right now; that is a lot of people impacted by this loss!
For this reason, President Ronald Reagan declared October as a month to recognize this particular grief and loss process. By shattering the silence and speaking the names of those lives lost, we are able to mourn the premature loss while honoring the memories and unique bond that the mother had with her child. 1988, was the first year bereaved parents were officially supported in such a public manner and the comfort level discussing these stillbirths, miscarriages, loss by SIDS, etc., has slowly continued to grow.
In fact, on October 15th, we now participate in World Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day in which anyone willing is encouraged to light a candle at 7pm their time. As a result, this International Wave of Light shines continuously throughout the nation honoring all babies gone too soon. Other ways to get involved include, but are not limited to: walks, social media posts, participating in the #SayTheirNames video, joining support groups, or simply being there or letting someone know you will be there when they are ready to talk.
Thank you for allowing me to share my story. Remember, we at Owens Counseling, are always here to listen and have many staff members who can relate to this loss. You are not alone!
For more information on pregnancy and infant loss awareness, please visit https://starlegacyfoundation.org/awareness-month/