If you didn’t know, October 15th is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.
I personally lost a baby boy in May 2014 due to “unknown causes”, which meant sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). It was such an emotional, traumatic and unexpected experience, and it is so unfortunate that such heartache and loss can happen to anyone. I have shared a short version of my story on Instagram and it is saved in a highlight reel called “SIDS story”.
I am writing this post to bring awareness to those who do not understand what it is like to experience such a loss. Imagine you find out you’re pregnant, what do you think? If you found out by taking a drug-store pregnancy test or received a confirmation at the doctors, your mind starts to wander.
Will I have a boy or girl? Is twins common in our family? What would I name him or her or them? Can we afford to have a baby? Where will we live when the baby comes? Who can help us take care of the baby? Who do I tell first? When do I tell my job I’m having a baby? What are my maternity/paternity rights? What theme should our baby shower be? What’s a babymoon? Where should we go for our babymoon? What theme will the nursery be? Do I have to start babyproofing our place immediately? What will they look like? What will their personality be like? How do I change diapers? What will their first word be? When can I start feeding my baby solids?
And seriously, the list goes on.
It is definitely such a personal and uncomfortable topic, so hopefully the following tips can help those who want to help someone they know be more supportive. If you are a parent who experienced a miscarriage and/or infant loss and would like to add on to this list, please let me know! I would like to keep this updated as time goes on.
1. Understand that we just lost our baby, no matter the circumstance. A parent may have lost their baby in a miscarriage after 6 weeks or even late into their pregnancy; the mother may have had a still born; the mother may have lost their baby due to SIDS or an unfortunate situation. Whatever the case, it is still a loss and we need to mourn for the potential of what we could have had. Our minds can’t help but naturally wonder the what ifs of the situation.
2. Please do not take our behavior personally. Grieving parents are most likely to be inclined to ignore phone calls, texts, emails, online messages, and even visits. Don’t take it personal because we are usually just focused on understanding our pain and trying to heal. Everyone grieves differently and that’s okay. Just be patient with us because we will eventually reach out to you when we are ready.
3. Listen to us talk about the loss, and actively listen. Every parent will tell their own version of their loss experience, and it is a part of their healing process. Give us your undivided attention and make sure you show that you care and support us. You don’t have to say anything if you don’t know what to say. Often times, just listening goes a long way.
4. Please refrain from saying the following phrases:
- “It was for the best because s/he would have had a hard life.” Many babies are born with health and developmental issues, and even though it may be get challenging for the parents, they still love their child wholeheartedly. You are basically saying their child has a flaw or defect, and that everyone would be better off if the baby died.
- “They are in a better place. This is God’s plan for you.” Even though you are trying to be comforting, we believe that the better place is for the baby to be in the parent’s arms. Also, not everyone believes in a God or the afterlife.
- “You’re so young and can always have another baby”. While yes, this may be true to some, that doesn’t take away the fact that we just lost the baby. Also, there is the possibility that we could lose the next baby. Regardless, the next baby could never replace the baby we just lost.
- “I know how you feel.” Not to be rude, but we honestly don’t want to hear about your loss. Every experience is different and we just want to focus on our loss.
- “It will get better over time. Just give it time.” Do not give false hope. Like I said, everyone grieves differently and there is no exact timeframe that someone can heal from their loss. Parents will often ask, “How much time? How many days, months, years?” Even though over time, the intensity of the emotions may lessen, it does not take away the loss.
- “Everything happens for a reason”. Oh okay, then what’s the reason? Phrases like that can be so frustrating to hear because it just makes parents constantly think, “Why?” and “Why me?” This phrase just further isolates the grieving parent from everyone.
- “Is it weird that A is pregnant; Are you okay being around B since they have a baby?” No, it’s not weird. Keep in mind that the grieving parent just wants their baby back, not A or B’s babies.
5. Also don’t just say nothing. Please acknowledge the loss, and it’s okay to say you don’t know what to say. No words can truly help us heal, but at least we know you are listening to us. Ask how we are doing, see if there’s anything you can help with (like errands); let us know that you are a person we can talk to, whenever, wherever, for however long as we may need.
6. Give us space. Sometimes, we just want to be alone and not talk. And that’s okay. Sometimes, we just want to cry at home and not go out. And that’s okay too. It’s all part of our grieving process and the journey to healing.
7. Bring food. Often times, a grieving parent is so consumed with sadness that they don’t want to cook or eat. Bring us food so that the moment we do get hungry and realize we need to eat, there’s something already there. Soup, finger foods, and dishes than easily be refrigerated and microwavable are good options. Chips, desserts, and junk food may be an easy go-to also, but can also be unhealthy.
8. If you can, make a donation. Depending on the type of loss, the grieving parents may have to go through a burial/cremation process, and it is expensive. It can also add on more stress if it was an unexpected loss and we cannot afford all of the costs. A monetary donation is honestly a great gesture of condolence, and any amount is greatly appreciated. Other kind gestures are a thoughtful card, flowers, and groceries (just be mindful if we have any dietary restrictions). These small actions go a long way to help us grieve and heal.
If there is anything else that you would like me to add, let me know so I can keep this updated as time goes on. Thank you!
Global Wave of Light
Every year at 7 PM local time, people around the world lights a candle to celebrate the young lives lost due to stillbirth, miscarriage, neonatal implications, SIDS, and other unfortunate situations. If you choose, light a candle and keep it lit for at least an hour long.
A wave of light will rise and propagate around the world for the whole day. This is such a powerful movement, and a perfect moment to take the time to reflect and heal from our loss experiences.
Last night, I lit a candle for LukaTony James, who would have been four and a half years old this year.