My sister, Erin, is one of those “one in four”. When her daughter, Ryann, died in utero mere days before her due date, I no longer looked at the world the same way. I can honestly say that my niece, who I was fortunate enough to hold in my arms, forever changed my life.
The death of a baby, whether at 6 weeks gestation, 39 weeks gestation or shortly after birth is something no one wants to talk about. What do you say to someone who has experienced this? We all want to comfort, to console – to make things better, to fix our broken-hearted loved ones.
Unfortunately there is nothing anyone can do to “fix” grief. We can only stand by them so they know that they are not alone. I encourage you to be brave enough to talk to them about their baby and more importantly – be there for them when they want and need to talk about their baby. Speak their baby’s name – there isn’t a parent in this world who doesn’t love hearing the name of their child. When a baby dies, people tend to avoid the topic because they think that they will remind the parent of their pain, thus causing more. Parents never forget and when others mention their child, there is comfort in knowing that their baby is remembered by others. Do not avoid the topic of the loss, or worse yet, avoid your loved ones entirely because you are uncomfortable. Your discomfort pales in comparison to the isolating devastation they may be feeling – they need you now more than ever.
Be open and understanding to a varied reactions of grief. There are no rules, no “right way” to grieve – despite what you may have heard about stages and steps. The process is a roller coaster of intense emotions, no two people grieve exactly the same way, and if someone doesn’t grieve like how you think they should – it does not mean they are not in devastating pain, deserving of your respect and compassion. Reach out to your loved ones who have experienced a loss – and let them know that you are thinking about them. It doesn’t matter if their loss was recent or decades ago – they haven’t forgotten.
My niece Ryann, who never opened her eyes, has opened my eyes to a cause that needs more attention and action put into place.
October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day – recognized by five provinces in Canada. Light a candle at 7:00 PM on Monday October 15th for one hour and take part in the International Wave of Light.
If you are looking for support – I urge you to reach out to Pregnancy and Infant Loss Network, a registered Canadian charity committed to making a positive difference to those affected by pregnancy and infant loss. Even if you haven’t experienced a loss, you can get involved – because you care.
Because no one should have to grieve the loss of their baby alone.