I recently learned that the Sunday before Mother’s Day is International Bereaved Mother’s Day. I did some brief research on the origins of both and I found that a lady named Anne Jarvis was the founder of Mother’s Day in 1858. She founded this day to honor her own mother, who out of delivering 13 children, only 4 lived. A lady named Cary Marie Dudley created International Bereaved Mother’s Day in 2010 to honor the loss of her stillborn son Christian. She believed that mothers that had lost children or could not have children should be honored as well.
It has also been called Baby Loss Day. Somehow bereavement sounds better to me. This is something that I know more about than I ever wanted to know. I was almost a grandmother to two beautiful baby boys, who are in heaven now. In 2016, my son and daughter in law lost their first born son at 39 weeks gestation, perfect and beautiful, all 8.6 pounds of him. He was still born. Then again in 2018, they lost their second son at 23 weeks gestation. Precious, perfect and tiny, he was still born just like his brother.
Stillbirth is one of those horrific things that people just don’t talk about. It’s too hard, and it’s too upsetting to think this happens in today’s world of modern medicine, birth plans and 3D ultrasounds. Talking about stillbirth makes us realize that it can and does happen even though it is difficult to think about. Parents that have lost an infant face a painful reality that only other parents who have shared that loss can understand.
Within the past 15 years and thanks to social media, it has been more acceptable to discuss stillbirth, infancy death, infertility, and miscarriage. There are grief groups, as well social media pages, pod casts and online support groups dedicated to these topics. When my son and daughter in law lost their first son, there were no local face to face support groups for this type of loss. I called the local hospital labor and delivery unit to ask and they reluctantly stated, “No, we don’t offer that, but we probably should” . A good friend of mine had just finished doing a grief group through our church and offered to facilitate a group with me. She had seen firsthand how devastated these parents were.
One of the emotions we often see in our group is anger and jealousy. This seems to accompany the profound loss and grief. Try watching TV for a few minutes and see if you don’t see someone with a baby or child on a show or commercial. Read anything on social media and see if someone isn’t sharing about a new pregnancy or birth, a child’s birthday, graduation or other accomplishment. Walk outside, if you live in a neighborhood you will likely hear or see children playing. Go into a restaurant or store and you will likely see an infant or child or a family with kids.
In this blog I hope to share some things that I have learned from being a parent to a child that has lost two children. I am very aware that this topic is difficult for most people and most do not know what to say or how to react. I wanted to share some tips on what not to say to a parent who has lost an early pregnancy, infant or child for whatever reason.
- ” It was meant to be.” or “You can have another child.” (We don’t know what meant to be means, nor will having another baby bring back the one who died and we don’t know if we can have another.)
- ” It’s part of Gods plan.” (This doesn’t help; it hurts.” (A loving God would not want this for us or anyone.)
- “It’s probably better this way, the baby could have been ill or had problems.”(We loved and wanted the baby, in whatever way he came to us.)
- ” Aren’t you about over this?” ( No, we won’t ever get over this, we will never be the same after losing a child, we will find a new normal , but we will always miss this child and all the hopes and dreams we had for him. )
On the other hand, here are some helpful ways to express your care for a grieving parent:
- Try saying, ” I’m so sorry, I love you, I’m praying for comfort for you, if you want to talk or just need someone to listen, I am available. ” Don’t try to give an explanation.
- Just being present in silence or when time is right, try to express what the deceased child meant to you and mention their name.
I hope this information is helpful. I am personally aware of how painful and awkward it may be to navigate this type of grief. My journey has led me to offer a group specific to infant and child loss, miscarriage and infertility in my Morehead City office this summer and fall. Please contact our office for more specific information.