7 Ways To Honor Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day #BreakTheSilence

Elliott hands and feet

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Of course, this remembrance is more for those who have not experienced this loss than for those who have. Those who have gone through a miscarriage, stillbirth, or the death of an infant live with that remembrance far more often than once a year. I know that my own pain is still fresh, but I can’t imagine a time when I will see a child the age that Elliott would be and not wonder about my son.

For those of you for whom this day carries a little less sting, let me offer a few ideas on how to help your friends who have experienced this loss.

1. Don’t be afraid to talk about it. Certainly not all parents who experience a miscarriage share that information. And some people aren’t particularly chatty about the death of a child. But if a parent brings it up, please don’t ignore that. It doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out conversation, but at least acknowledge that they mentioned their child. Saying something simple like, “I’m so sorry,” shows that you heard what they said and that you care about them and the humanity of the baby that they lost.

2. Don’t forget the father. The loss of a pregnancy or infant has a more obvious effect on the mother of the child, but it is important not to neglect the feelings of the baby’s father. This baby shared his DNA. He had hopes and dreams for his child. Fathers experience loss when a pregnancy ends in miscarriage or stillbirth or if an infant dies. When you are offering condolences, be sure to include both parents. Both lost a child, both experience grief as a result.

3. Don’t forget any surviving siblings. If the parents already have children, please don’t forget to include them in your condolences. And not in the, “Well, at least you already have children” way that made me want to rip that guy’s face off a mere DAY after Elliott had died. Death is hard for children no matter what, but losing a baby is something else completely. We expect older people to die, but the death of an infant reminds us, and especially young children, of the fragility of life. Recognize that they grieve as well, and they need your sympathies at least as much as the parents.

4. Use the language that the parents use. When I’m talking about Elliott, I will almost always say that he died, not that we lost him. Some parents prefer language that is less direct. Listen to how the parents refer to their loss and use that in your own mentions. This isn’t about right or wrong language, but about showing that you are listening to the parents and honoring the way that they speak about their child.

5. Keep religion out of it. At least until you know how the parents are using faith as a means of comfort. Using the loss of a child as a means to proselytize is manipulative and intensely inappropriate. But sometimes even well meaning statements about a child being in heaven or leaning on God during a difficult time can be hard for parents to embrace. There was a time after Elliott’s death that I felt abandoned by God, and any religious talk was just painful for me. “Shoulding” parents who are going through this darkness is bad, and when it’s related to their faith, it can be damaging on multiple levels. Allow the parents to show how faith weaves into their grief narrative.

6. Understand that it’s not something to “get over.” This is actually one point that might be good for everyone to remember. Just because there was little time spent as a parent to this little one, it doesn’t mean that the loss isn’t real and doesn’t last. There’s no expiration date on grief. It will crop up at expected times like the anniversary of the death or a due date, but it may also happen out of the blue. There is no shame in sadness at the loss of a child.

7. Listen to the people in your life. Ultimately, everything that I’m saying here is largely based on my experience. For me, sharing pictures of my son was incredibly cathartic – this may not be the same for someone else. Your friends may have different needs. The best thing that you can do to help a parent who has experienced the loss of their child is to ask them how you can help them. They will know what they need.

The hashtag for today is #BreakTheSilence. Those of us who have experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth, or death of an infant can help by sharing our stories. Those who have not can help as well by creating a safe space for those stories to be shared. Grief is often hard for us to understand, and the loss of one so young can be a grief that is frightening to sit with. But when we listen, when we include, when we love, we make the grief less frightening for everyone.

4 thoughts on “7 Ways To Honor Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day #BreakTheSilence

  1. Beautifully written, Alise. Thank you.

    When I light a candle for my own little ones, I’ll be sure to light one for Eliott, as well.

    With heart,

  2. After 40 years I still don’t know how to express my struggle – in my case a miscarriage. Therefore, I don’t expect that I will articulate my thoughts well in this comment.

    I had no clue how to understand my own grief. To allow myself to even grieve at all. To realize that even though hardly anyone else knew of the pregnancy, this was a real loss for me, for us – and that it was okay to recognize that,

    My grief was private. Because most people didn’t know, I couldn’t expect them to support me. But similarly I think there is an element of private pain for you and most who grieve the loss of such a young life. Because even if others know the fact of the loss, they don’t naturally grasp the depth of the loss – because they had not dreamed the dreams that you/I/we dreamed. They had not yet felt the bonds of love entwining their hearts. They hadn’t begun to develop a relationship with him – so didn’t know how to relate to his absence.

    In the case of miscarriage, I think there is often a sense that this isn’t a “real” loss – because it was not a “real” child – not yet living and breathing. Ouch!

    I applaud your efforts and appreciate the wisdom of the things on your list.
    Oh, may we learn to be more compassionate to those whose struggles are different than ours. And may we be sensitive to those who grieve differently than we do.

    Thanks for this post.

  3. I, too, have experienced through stillbirth, the loss of my ONLY little girl ..who I named and had baptized as Amy Lynne. I was 8-1/2 months pregnant when I told my obstetrician that something WAS wrong with my pregnancy … that the baby didn’t move any more and I knew from the way that she had “interacted” with me throughout my pregnancy that THIS was in no way common. His reply to me was so callous that I still, to this day, can remember how horrible he made me feel at that very moment. He told me that .. since it had been 8 years since I had been pregnant that I didn’t remember how it felt to be pregnant. I finally kept pushing on him to order an ultrasound to find out what possibly could be going on. He finally did so and the poor ultrasound technician was the one who was forced to tell me that my little girl had, in fact, died. Then, when my obstetrician called me on the phone .. instead of meeting with me in person in his office .. to share this news with me, again, he had another very, very callous reply. He told me that I could always have more children in the future and to just “forget about the baby”. He also shared at that time when I asked what the next step would be, he informed me that even though the baby had died that I would have to go into labor to deliver her .. and he had NO idea when that would occur.. My husband and our two sons, one 11 and one 8, were so looking forward to a new baby in our lives .. and to this end I did NOT share with my sons what had happened to what would have been their little sister. I took a leave from my employer .. which was a law firm where I worked as a paralegal .. until after the birth because I just couldn’t face all of the clients asking me what the baby was and how soon it would be born. I just couldn’t face the fact of being forced to have to share with them that the baby had, in fact, passed away in utero and that I was just waiting to go into labor to have her born. So, I remained at home for almost a full month carrying a baby that my doctor had shared would more than likely have started to decompose because of the delay in going beyond my due date and not having her born. Finally, I went into labor and I delivered her without my doctor even being present and she was immediately taken to the morgue and I never got an opportunity to see her or hold her. However, a very caring nurse on the OB floor asked me if I would like to have her baptized and I immediately responded “yes” at which point she asked me if I had chosen a name for her .. and I replied “Amy Lynne”. And, it was during that time that after the baby’s birth I was placed in a hospital room on the OB floor with other new mothers who were “rooming-in” with their newborns and which was VERY difficult for me to be around and experience..

    It was at this time that my husband, now my ex-husband, since the pressure of all of this put a severe strain on our marriage, started contacting medical schools in the vicinity to see if they would be able to determine the cause of her stillbirth. It was finally determined, through genetic counseling, that she had, in fact, passed away due to me having gestational diabetes .. which had begun early in my pregnancy and which could have been caught and something been done about it if my OB doctor had ordered certain specific tests throughout my pregnancy which he did not ever do.

    After my loss of my baby .. and a lawsuit which was filed by the hospital that treated me .. that my OB doctor eventually was disbarred from practicing medicine in the state where this occurred and I’m glad, in some ways, because I would NOT want anyone else to have to go through the horrible experience that I was forced to endure.

    It’s every year at the time of the birth of Amy Lynne and occasions such as this event on October 15th, that I think of her and remember her and wonder what kind of relationship she and I would have had as mother and daughter and the occasions that I missed sharing with her .. such as HER marriage and HER becoming a mother herself, that I think of her with so much love and loss. And, even though I now have 3 wonderful, beautiful, and healthy sons .. one of whom was born in a healthy pregnancy watched over by obstetricians specializing in maternity care of mothers with gestational diabetes, several years after I lost Amy that I still feel SO much loss.. So, even though to my family and my ex-husband, who all assumed that not mentioning her meant “out of sight .. out of mind” on my part and have forgotten all about her .. in my heart, she’s still there with me .. in a little corner watching over me. And, I know that someday I hope that I will have the wonderful opportunity to meet her again to let her know out loud that I AM in fact, her mother and just how much I loved her .. from the very moment that I knew that she was “on the way” At that time I hope to have the chance to share with her all of the hopes and dreams that I had for her as my daughter that I had always hoped to have from the time that I was a little girl, looking forward to having MY own daughter. And, at the time that I meet with her again, I hope to be able to give her the beautiful baby blanket that I had knit for her and still have tucked away because I never had the opportunity to use it for her.

    And, finally, I am so very, very sorry that this particular response is so very LONG, but I personally think that each and every person .. whether mother, or father, or both .. who have gone through a loss of a child in a situation such as this needs to have an opportunity to share what they have experienced .. rather than holding those thoughts and hurts inside. As it’s noted, in most cases the opportunity to seek any kind of counseling or therapy to deal with these losses is never provided and the parent often privately tucks those thoughts away in a deep part of their heart

    Thank you to all for recognizing these situations as children .. however they may have “passed away” .. as REAL children .. and not just as incidents to be forgotten .. which often is what happens .. because as noted and is what happened to me .. the parents .. or individuals involved DO NOT, in ANY WAY forget .. To those particular parents, they have an “angel in Heaven” always watching over them .. and THOSE parents they NEVER do forget ..

    God Bless .. to both the parents AND to the children .. or babies .. that they have lost ..

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