Pregnancy and Infancy Loss Awareness -Bethany Shaefer, LPC-intern
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. On October 25, 1988 President Ronald Reagan shared the following statement:
“When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his
partner, they are called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them. This month recognizes the loss so many parents experience across the United States and around the world. It is also meant to inform and provide resources for parents who have lost children due to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, stillbirths, birth defects, SIDS, and other causes. Now, Therefore, I Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim the month of October as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. I call upon the people of the United States to observe this month with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.”
Were you aware of this? Many people are not. Pregnancy and infant loss is much more common than most people realize! October 15th is recognized as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. The phrase that many claim on that day: “I am 1 in 4.” One in four women experiences some type of pregnancy loss at least once in their lifetime. That is 25% of all the women in the world, but how often do you hear people talk about it? It is a loss that comes with unique struggles and grief, often hidden and carried alone.
Losing a pregnancy early on is a loss that many women may face on their own. There is often no funeral, no death certificate, no visible body, no closure, and what many may feel as no permission to grieve. Couples often experience a contrast in how each of them grieve. Women who carry this child in her womb, who may have experienced the physical changes that can accompany pregnancy, may have felt the child move, contrasted with fathers, who may have not known about or accepted the pregnancy as real yet, may experience very different thoughts, feelings, and experiences surrounding such a loss. Every experience is different and everyone grieves differently. For women who feel that they were the only ones to experience the life of a child in the womb, often feel alone as they grieve the death of this child that only they knew. If this describes you, you are not alone! You are 1 in 4! If this does not describe you, then it may describe someone you care about.
So why do we hear so little about pregnancy loss? Is it misinformation and a lack of general education in the public? Is it because others are uncomfortable with this topic? Is it avoided because no one really knows what to say in these times? How does one process and grieve a death that preceded the opportunity to live? So many emotions can present themselves when this type of loss occurs. Sadness. Anger. Depression. Isolation. Guilt. Brokenness. Fear. Confusion. The list can go on and on. How do we begin to grieve or help or comfort ourselves or those whom we care about when this tragedy occurs? Or can we? Where do we even begin?
If you or someone you love is facing this journey:
Allow the experience to be.
Listen, even if only to the silence.
No words will remove this tragedy. No flowers or fruit baskets will make things better or erase the pain. A healthy parent will wonder what this child would have looked like, what his or her laugh would have sounded like. Would this child have loved sports or been a book worm?
We can walk beside grieving parents as they navigate their way through the pain that will come. And we can allow ourselves grace to navigate our own way through that grief. Many women who have experienced similar losses can offer an unmatched support and care during this difficult journey. There are groups, books, counseling, blogs, resources, and so much more that can give you some sort of guideposts and guidance. Offer yourself grace to seek them out. Ask for help. You don’t have to face this battle alone. There is hope for healing and support available from others who have walked similar paths.
Bethany Schaefer, LPC-Intern
Supervised by Leah McDill, PhD, LPC-S