Thursday, October 13, 2016

Saying Goodbye before You Have a Chance to Say Hello

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness

By contributing writer Samantha Johnson

When I was a freshman in college, my job as the “Community Life Committee President,” was to provide our housing community with fun activities and coffee “support stations” during midterms and finals. I worked alongside a wonderful, kind and generous lady who lived with her husband in the married campus housing right across from my apartment. I still remember the day she told the staff she was expecting a baby. We were all so surprised and overjoyed for her. Then, what seemed like only a few days later, she shared the news that they suffered a miscarriage. I was in complete disbelief. I had no idea that one in four women experience miscarriage. I had no idea that one day, I would also experience the raw, indescribable pain of pregnancy loss.

October 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. It is meant to inform and provide resources for those who have lost a child due to miscarriage, eptopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, stillbirths, birth defects, SIDS, and other causes.

  • An estimated 500,000 miscarriages happen each year;
  • 1 in every 148 babies are stillborn; and
  • 3 in every 1000 babies die shortly after birth.

Knowing the prevalence of pregnancy and infant loss does not lessen the pain, but navigating grief alongside others can be incredibly healing. There are a number of support groups you can join if this has been your experience.

Support groups for those who have experienced pregnancy or infant loss

  • AfterTalk is an online grief support site offering inspirational stories, poems and quotes, and forums on the grieving process.  The site offers grief advice by Dr. Neimeyer, an expert in grief and bereavement.

  • The On Coming Alive Project is a collection of true stories featuring men and women who are coping and “coming alive” after loss or other tragedies. Stories also include overcoming and living through abuse, depression, anxiety, rape, and other circumstances. They encourage journaling through grief and offer a Facebook support group.

  • MISS Foundation is an international community of compassion and hope for grieving families. MISS provides immediate and ongoing support to grieving families as well as training and referrals for certified Compassionate Bereavement Care Providers.

How you can support someone who has suffered loss

I remember feeling the most grief after my miscarriage when I would think of mine and my spouse’s parents. Even though I had lost the pregnancy at 8 weeks, we had already told them the news we were expecting. The thought that their hearts were also broken and that there was nothing they could say or do to help “fix” this was the most empty, devastating feeling. If you know someone who is going through loss, there really is nothing you can do to make it better, but there are a few things you can do to provide support.

1. Listen

It’s not always about what you can say to make the situation easier, but how well you listen. As difficult as it may be, that can be the most helpful thing you can offer. The loss of a child is incredibly shocking, and some cope by sorting through their feelings out loud.

"We quickly find there are no words to describe the experience of losing a child. For those who have not lost a child, no explanation will do. For those who have, no explanation is necessary" ~ Mary Lingle

2. Know What to Say: “Comfort IN, dump OUT”

When the opportunity comes to offer some comforting words, remember “Comfort IN, dump OUT.” In this visual, the parents are in the innermost circle, since the loss hits them the hardest. Next is their family, friends, acquaintances, etc. Let's say you are a friend. The news of the loss is completely devastating to you, and you need to talk about it. Be sure to do your “dumping” to someone further out in the circle than you are. Never say to the parents, “This hurts me so much.” Always say words that bring comfort to those who are hurting.

Trying to find a positive aspect in the situation can almost be as hurtful because it can make light of the situation. Never say, “At least you didn't tell everyone about the pregnancy,” or “At least it happened early,” or “At least you have other children.” Instead, you can say, “I'm so sorry.” “What is a good night for me to bring you some homemade dinner?” “I am here for you if you need to talk.”

3. Participate in Preserving the Child’s Memory

Many parents, especially mothers, also want the memory of their child to live on even if the child never met anyone on this earth. You can provide support by encouraging their efforts. Join them in a Walk to Remember, plant a tree in the child’s memory, create a memory box, and don’t be afraid to mention the child’s name in conversation. Acts like these can show you care and help the grieving parent to feel they are not alone.

Finding beauty in pain

Through the fiery trial of infant loss, beautiful refinement can occur as we seek help and support and embrace the process of grief.

Perhaps Elisabeth Kubler-Ross said it best:

‎"The most beautiful people are those who have known defeat, suffering, struggle, loss... and who have found their way out of the depths. These people have an appreciation, a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep, loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen"

Friends, family members, and parents can also rest in the hope that time can heal this pain and that hope can be restored to some extent. Since my miscarriage, I still have moments of grief. I will never forget January 8th, the day we were told our baby had no heartbeat. I will always wonder what life would have been like had the pregnancy lasted. Three years later, I gave birth to my beautiful rainbow baby. Although he could never replace the child I lost, he is a reminder that something beautiful can come after a terrible storm.

Informational Resources


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