October 15 is now Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day in the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Australia. Annually, a legion of families takes time that day to share their heartbreak and break down the stigma that has kept many parents quiet, alone, confused, and unsupported during the darkest experiences of their lives.
Why would such a stigma exist? Surely no one would intentionally make the pain of miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss more difficult for these mothers, fathers, and siblings?
Recent statistics indicates that in the US alone, 26,000 babies are stillborn and 4,000 first-year infants die unexpectedly. The tragic loss of something so basic and natural as a pregnancy–or someone so small and helpless as an infant–inspires a wide range of feelings in those who witness it.
Have you felt forgotten or dismissed by your own community or loved ones?
Have you often wondered, in a really low moment, “Where did everyone go?”
Here are a few of the most likely answers:
Some people are frightened of what you have in common. A mortal child.
The loss of a child, regardless of age, highlights something unthinkable. Something we know can happen, but cannot bear to dwell on or prepare ourselves for. Our babies could die.
We are no more in control of life and death when it comes to our children than we are in any other situation — no matter how well we attempt to protect them. When that point is driven home, people grow silent and aloof. Even though this isn’t how they necessarily want to behave, fear and denial motivate them to stay away.
Some people are afraid of making infant loss worse.
Being a witness to grief often frightens people. They don’t know what to say.
They don’t know how to sit in mourning mindfully, share with each other, and just let grief exist.
You may find that to cover their own discomfort, friends or loved ones will keep their distance as if they are sparing you their presence. They don’t know that having someone listen and say, “I don’t know your pain, but I will ride it out with you,” alleviates the awful feeling of invisibility. It may even help encourage the sense of validation and acceptance you need to heal.
Some people wait… and then encourage you to “move on.”
You may find that some people have a difficult time grasping the gravity of infant loss. They stay away from your initial shock, denial, and longing. Instead, they return later, with a desire to help you accept and move forward.
They say things like, “At least you had your baby for a little while” or “You can always have more children.” Again, they don’t want to hurt you, their absence and reappearance makes sense to them. Their answer to such a devastating loss is to avoid it and then try to help make it go away. Perhaps they are simply insensitive to the fact that what you really need is someone to hear you and honor the fact that you miss your baby everyday.
It is sharing this grief that helps you heal.
Permit yourself to communicate your loss and remember and honor your baby in whatever way you need..
Your story and your child have a place, an importance, in the world. If you are able write a letter, a song, or a poem to share with your loved ones, try to help them understand.
If you are only able to help yourself right now, that’s okay, a counselor or therapist may be the ear you need right now. Just remember you aren’t alone.
Millions of women are with you. Reach out and speak out.
If you’re struggling to cope with the loss of your baby or with the seeming insensitivity of those around you I encourage you to reach out and contact me. I help women give a voice to their pain ,honor the meaning of your baby and begin the healing journey .