1 in 4 women will struggle with a significant and emotional loss that is not commonly talked about. However, pregnancy and infant loss awareness and knowing how to help are keys to emotional health.
October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month. It is a time to recognize the loss of a child to stillbirth, miscarriage, SIDS, or any other cause at any point during pregnancy or infancy.
Did you know that 25% of women will lose a baby during pregnancy, delivery or infancy? Miscarriages happen in 10-20% of known pregnancies. I certainly didn’t know this until I became part of the statistics.
Not only is this a devastating emotional moment for the women walking through the experience, but their bodies still have to physically adjust to the changes just like all mothers do. The emotions felt can be a mixture of grief, confusion, guilt, self-doubt, anger, hopelessness and loneliness. More facts and social media awareness materials can be found at Star Legacy Foundation.
FOR THOSE GRIEVING
According to Mayo Clinic, “The term ‘miscarriage’ might suggest that something went wrong in the carrying of the pregnancy. But this is rarely true. Most miscarriages occur because the fetus isn’t developing as expected.”
While that can relieve some of the mom guilt, there’s an incredible load of emotion that follows women in the weeks and months (sometimes years) after their miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss. A common feeling is loneliness because most people aren’t aware how common these losses still are. Please know you aren’t alone and you don’t have to grieve in silence.
It can help to acknowledge the baby existed, memorialize the child in some way, name the child, and/or talk with others. Waco has some incredible resources for families walking through this time of loss.
Cradled – Offers peer support for women and families experiencing the loss of a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth, early infant loss and infertility.
Waco Professional Counseling – Has counselors specializing in support for grieving families.
Parker’s Purpose Foundation – Non-profit that donates Caring Cradles to hospitals and helps support families.
There are also many online support options that companies like Rev Doula recommend.
Healthy Women and Children Coalition offers the following suggestions to help reduce the physical stress:
- Taking deep, slow breaths when you begin feeling anxious
- Trying to get between seven and nine hours of sleep a night
- Staying active and exercising at least 30 minutes per day
- Talking to someone
FOR THOSE OFFERING SUPPORT
We all handle this grief differently. With that in mind, it can be difficult to know how to offer support and comfort, especially if you haven’t walked this road personally (for which we’re thankful).
Some things to know:
- These experiences become a part of a person. You don’t “get over it”. You learn how to move through each day and the grief lessens.
- Everyone’s grief is different. Don’t make assumptions about what phase of grief a person is in.
- This grief is intensely personal. There’s a reason most people don’t talk about it. This experience has long-term effects on a person’s life.
- Your support is important.
What you can do:
- Be present.
- Listen if they need to talk.
- Use the baby’s name if they named the child.
- Acknowledge they are parents. They had a child.
- Remember the father. Mothers often receive concern, but fathers are trying to support the mother while grieving, too.
- Avoid saying things that minimize their emotions or tell them how to feel.
- It’s okay to tell them you don’t know what to say.
- Offer to help with things like meals, cleaning, picking up groceries, etc.
- Attend the memorial service or funeral if they hold one.
- Continue to offer support in the months and years after the loss.
- Be aware that the baby’s name, birth date and due date will have significance in the years to come.
- Understand that future pregnancies may bring anxiety and stress.
- Let them choose when they can participate in events. Being around babies, attending baby showers, etc. create a confusing mixture of emotions from joy for those celebrating to remembrances of personal loss, bringing surprising emotions to the surface.
- Give them time to grieve. This journey takes energy and time.
- Learn who they are becoming. This loss can be a life-altering experience.
- More ideas on how to offer support can be found at Star Legacy Foundation.
October 15th is World Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day. People world-wide will participate in the International Wave of Light by lighting a candle at 7pm local time to honor the babies that have left this world so early. By keeping the candle lit for an hour, a “wave of light” will be seen in all time zones around the world.