While not all prospective adoptive parents have gone through infertility struggles, a great many of them have. For them, it was often a journey of sadness and loss before they decided to turn to adoption. But even after they successfully become parents, their infertility struggle is many times still a prominent memory that they live with every day.
That’s why October is Pregnancy, Infant Loss and Miscarriage Remembrance Month — a time to recognize the difficult feelings so many people experience not only during their infertility journey but also throughout their entire lives. Because so many of these parents keep their disappointment and loss to themselves, this awareness campaign aims to help destigmatize those feelings and memorialize those children and pregnancies lost early on.
Pregnancy, Infant Loss and Miscarriage Remembrance Month was originally started by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to recognize the importance of this issue for many Americans. About 15 to 20 percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage and, in 2015, about 3,700 infants died unexpectedly in the U.S.
The organization “Remembering Our Babies” selected October 15 as Pregnancy, Infant Loss and Miscarriage Remembrance Day to memorialize losses through a candle-lighting movement. Organizers encourage people all over the world to light a candle at 7 p.m. in their time zone and keep it burning for an hour to create a continuous wave of light over the entire globe.
But a candle-lighting event may not be the right way for every person to commemorate their loss. Because this topic is so personal to so many people, it’s important to mark this day by doing what’s best for you. Here are some ideas to consider:
1. Acknowledge your feelings.
As they should with any traumatic experience, it’s important that parents who have experienced a miscarriage or infant loss recognize the grief and sadness associated with this event. Refusing to acknowledge your feelings will only cause you more grief; an essential part of the emotional healing process involves accepting what you’re feeling, no matter how difficult it may be.
That’s not to say that acknowledging your feelings means you will instantly feel better; this loss will always be a heavy one that you won’t — and shouldn’t — forget. However, taking steps to accept what is gone and moving forward with a positive outlook will be instrumental in your parenthood journey.
If you’re having difficulty acknowledging and accepting your feelings, we encourage you to reach out to a trusted counselor to help work through these emotions in a healthy and positive way.
2. Do something positive to commemorate your loss.
While it can be easy to let your negative feelings overcome you during this time, many parents find that doing something positive can help them find closure with the grief associated with this memory.
While these actions may be bittersweet, it can help to know that you’re making something positive out of something negative — honoring your lost child with a beautiful action. You may choose to donate to a charity that supports infants and children and their families, or plant a tree whose blooms will remind you of the beauty in life. Some intended parents find closure in a memorial service or through symbolically releasing balloons or butterflies. Remembering Our Babies offers some more options here.
Whatever you choose to do, make sure that it’s right for you, your family and your situation.
3. Reach out to others to share love and understanding.
Unfortunately, there are far more people living with the grief and loss of a miscarriage or infant death than we may know. Because the subject of miscarriage and infant loss is still a taboo in some ways, many people have to find ways to cope with their emotions on their own, never knowing there is a whole community of other people who have suffered like they have.
Pregnancy, Infant Loss and Miscarriage Remembrance Month was created in part to help people find those communities and resources they need. Many people host walks, ceremonies or other activities to raise awareness of this issue. Others decide to join infertility support groups and share their stories with others who have gone through similar tragedies. Only by spreading awareness and sharing information can more people know they’re not alone and know how to help those that have suffered this kind of loss.
Whether you’re a parent who has suffered this loss yourself or a friend or family member of someone who has, we encourage you to take steps to discuss this important topic and shine light on something that receives far too little attention. For those feeling grief and sadness, a little kindness goes a long way.
For more tips on how to commemorate Pregnancy, Infant Loss and Miscarriage Awareness Month, check out Remembering Our Babies’ website or speak to your local infertility awareness support group.