October | Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month

By: Kim Patterson

Death is a difficult enough subject when it concerns the passing of an adult, but when it involves the loss of a child, the topic becomes practically unbearable. The hard truth is that there are approximately 500,000 miscarriages and 26,000 stillbirths in the US each year. The grief experienced by families who go through pregnancy loss is very real and raw, yet the response from others is often unlike typical reactions to loss.

The pain of loss is something we tend to push to the backs of our minds until we are confronted with it ourselves. When someone passes away, people typically pull together to support each other and talk through the hurt. However, while deaths of older children and adults are usually quite acknowledged and lives celebrated, the loss of a pregnancy or new baby (due to miscarriage, stillbirth, ectopic, molar pregnancy, etc) is often swept under the rug and left for parents to try to deal with on their own. The thought of a life that ended far too early is more than many can bear. Some people also mistakenly assume that the pain of pregnancy loss is somehow less significant because the family did not have a chance to establish much of a relationship with the child. They do not realize that parents still need to grieve all of the hopes and dreams they had for their child.

Without the public recognition of the life that was lost, parents suffer in silence and sometimes do not even properly grieve on their own. Fortunately, there are efforts being made to keep families who have suffered pregnancy loss supported and informed. October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Designated by Ronald Reagan in 1988, it is meant to be a time when parents who have suffered this type of loss can come together in love and understanding. Also in recognition of Pregnancy and Infant Loss, the International Wave of Light occurs on October 15th (Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day). This tribute involves participants displaying a lit candle from 7pm to 8 pm in their respective times zones, thus creating a 24 hour light chain spanning the world in honor of the pregnancies and newborns lost.

Another place for families who have gone through the loss of a pregnancy or infant to turn is a support group. These organizations offer comfort, support and informational resources to those dealing with pregnancy or infant loss. Group meetings and special ceremonies allow families the opportunity to share their journeys and get help in their grief. It is a chance to heal and to remember along with others who share a common understanding. There are organizations like these across the country, but two prominent ones in the Missouri area are M.E.N.D. (Mommies Enduring Neonatal Death) and Share. If you or someone you care about is dealing with pregnancy or infant loss and is looking for someone to lean on and a place to share openly, then joining an organization such as this can be a great comfort.

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