“Awareness” is everywhere. Raising awareness for diseases like cancer brings necessary and potentially lifesaving attention, monetarily or otherwise, to various research groups. It also paves the way to show empathy for those who suffer. It is not a state of mind as much as it is a call to action. A call for support. In short, awareness is a good thing.
This month, and October 15th, awareness is being directed toward parents who have experienced Pregnancy and/or Infant Loss. But what does awareness mean for them?
It means compassion and empathy. It means a reminder to show and receive support.
All too often, bereaved parents suffer in silence. The death of a child is an unspeakable tragedy and a taboo subject among many. But statistics show that one in four women will have such an experience. In the United States alone, there are an average of 600,000 miscarriages, 64,000 ectopic pregnancies, and 26,000 stillbirths each year. SIDS kills 4,500 babies annually. Half a million babies are born prematurely, and some do not survive. Still other parents experience pregnancy loss via molar pregnancies, birth defects, and other causes.
These statistics, while disheartening to read, are still just cold hard facts. They do not reveal the anguish of the parents who experience them, and the lifelong journey of grief they leave in their wake.
Awareness is for these parents. Awareness is for me.
It’s not because I have forgotten what has happened to me. I live with it every day of my life. It is a haunting black cloud. It is a chasm of the heart. It is the undeniable ache for children I love, and the innocent person I used to be.
No, I’m aware all the time. I never forget. This month is so you can remember, too.
“Awareness” is for your loved ones, your family, your friends, and the thousands of parents who cry for their dead babies every year. It gives you an opportunity to let them know you haven’t forgotten either. And it answers the painful, crippling doubt every bereaved parent feels, that their dead child is forgotten, with a resounding “no.” No, they are not forgotten. And neither is the pain of them being gone.
Awareness is about breaking the silence, and shattering the taboo nature of this subject. If you know someone who has experienced the death of their baby, please do not hesitate to speak their name, and to let them know you have not forgotten the life of this precious child. It may be awkward, and you may feel clumsy, but you are giving the parents of this beloved child a precious gift – that they are not alone in their grief, and that their baby mattered.
Any loving parent wants their child’s life to matter. This does not change when the child has died, and it does not depend on how long the child was alive. It only becomes more important, more profound, more meaningful.
“Awareness” is everywhere. But for bereaved parents, it can be difficult to find.
Be aware this month of those who miss their children. And show awareness all the time by being supportive. You can do this by speaking their child’s name, by being kind, by showing empathy, and by listening with your heart. Let the bereaved parent guide the conversation. If they are reluctant to talk about it, respect their feelings. Instead, show them sincere kindness. Let them know you are thinking about them and that they are loved.
Pregnancy loss and infant loss is tragic. But awareness is always a good thing, especially for the parents who have survived it. Thank you for your support.
“The world around you moves on, as if your life was never shattered
and all you want the world to do is say that your baby mattered.” – AJ Clark-Coates