As you may know, October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. It’s a particular kind of grief that touches so many. According to the Pastoral Guide for Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Newborn Loss, estimates show that one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage. Some estimates are one in three. In the US, there are over 26,000 stillbirths each year, and 39,000 infants die in their first year.
For myself, having had experienced pregnancy loss, and having known others who have experienced the same, there are a few things I have learned. The list is by no means complete, but it contains just a few items.
- Each person’s grief is unique. No two people grieve in exactly the same way. Some people’s grief is apparent, and others may be good at holding it together when around others. Some may not have big, showy reactions, but still feel the loss intensely. Some may not feel intense emotions, but instead feel a general gloominess or even numbness. As long as a person isn’t trying to deny or avoid their grief, however they grieve is generally okay.
- Each grief is unique. Whether a person has experienced one pregnancy loss or many, each loss is personal and unique. No matter how many losses a person has, pregnancy loss is something that a person never gets good at. Therefore, each loss a person has is important for friends and loved ones to show the same depth of response and care. In fact, many times each loss becomes more difficult, as each time a person not only grieves for their present loss, she will grieve again for all previous losses. In fact, any unresolved grief a person has, even if not related to the loss of a child, will resurface and she will have to work through it again in addition to trying to work through the present loss she is experiencing.
- Men grieve the loss of their children too. In the previous paragraph I used the pronoun ‘she’, but ‘he’ could be used too. Although the grief of men is less likely to be shown outwardly, and although some men may be afraid to express or even get in touch with their emotions, its important to check in and see how the man is doing too, rather than only ever asking him how his partner is doing. Make sure he knows that he has permission to grieve too.
If you have a loved one who has experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss, often the best thing that you can say to them is a simple, “I’m sorry for your loss.” Avoid trying to give explanations for their loss or encouraging them to look forward to future children. Truly, the only way out of grief is through it.
If you are looking for a memento to give as a gift or other appropriate tokens of remembrance, please visit the miscarriage section of our online gift shop.
Also, if you are presently experiencing a miscarriage, know that we offer miscarriage aids and burial vessels for babies so that their remains may be collected and buried with as much reverence and dignity as circumstances allow.These are kits are also available online.
During this month and every month, the issue of miscarriage and infant loss is dear to the hearts and in the prayers of Elizabeth Ministers everywhere.