Navigating Grief: Ways to Honor Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month

Infant Loss Awareness Month

While fertility challenges are rising, the pain of pregnancy and infant loss remains silenced, but the heartbreak is still deeply felt. This October, we aim to shed light on the intense anguish these couples feel, offering support, understanding, and ways to honor your baby’s memory. 

The Importance of Acknowledging Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month

October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month, a time set aside to recognize the profound heartache too many people face. Losing a child during pregnancy or after birth is a life-altering sorrow that remains just as raw years later as it did the day it first broke a parent’s heart. The silent pain, the quiet tears, and the memories held close—this month serves as a reminder that such experiences deserve recognition and understanding. It’s a moment to assure you that your grief is seen and not to pressure you into forgetting or moving on. More importantly, it’s a call for open conversations about these losses, ensuring that no parent ever feels alone in their grief and heartbreak.

The Silent Struggle of Pregnancy and Infant Loss

Have you heard the familiar “rule” of keeping quiet about a pregnancy until around 12 weeks when the first trimester is over? This is a small piece of validation that everyone knows there are risks of loss when you are growing a life inside you. Likewise, the same fear drives protectiveness towards young children, too. 

But when it actually happens to you, there is no preparation for this kind of pain. The shock, shame, unworthiness, and unmatched grief claws its way in. It can easily feel like no one understands exactly what you’re going through and just how much it hurts. 

Your friends and family all try to support you, and they can easily express sympathy in the situation, but this is a loss so primal that it surpasses words. Arguably, you might never be the same version of yourself again. Sadly, it’s all too common to feel added pressure during this heartache to “get over it” or “just move on.” Whether it comes from subtle societal expectations or challenging people in your life, offering unsolicited advice. This not only marginalizes your genuine feelings but pushes you towards an unhealthy way of dealing with grief or, sadly, trying to forget the loss in the first place. 

Pregnancy and infant loss isn’t just a personal tragedy—it’s a silent struggle shared by many, and it’s time we talked about it more openly and created more tools to support this unparalleled level of grief. 

We believe in creating a space where your suffering is seen, understood, and respected. We believe in breaking the silent struggle and in compassionate, forward-thinking solutions for parents who still hope to welcome a child into their loving embrace. In saying that, it is never about trying to replace the loss but to ease the intrinsic pull towards parenthood. A loss of a baby doesn’t need to mean a loss of hope, too. 

Coping Mechanisms: Practical Steps for Navigating Through Grief after Pregnancy and Infant Loss

After experiencing such life-altering pain, finding a way to cope can often feel like trying to piece together a shattered mirror, with each fragment representing a different emotion. The pain might be indescribable, but it’s important to remember that coping and healing will never mean forgetting. Forgetting is impossible. 

Instead, healing should be focused on finding ways to carry this weight with resilience and love, honoring the memories of your loss in a way that feels closest to your heart.

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to navigating this level of grief (Kersting & Wagner, 2012). Different strategies resonate with different people. Some find solace in connecting with others who’ve been through similar pain, while others might lean on creative outlets or professional counseling. Still, we’ve compiled practical steps grounded in understanding and compassion to help you navigate the darkness. While the path is unique for everyone, having some guidance can make the way a little clearer.

Acknowledge and Validate Your Feelings

Allow yourself to recognize and express your emotions without judgment, knowing that every feeling you experience during this time is valid and worthy of respect.

Seek Supportive Spaces

Find and connect with support groups or friends who provide a safe space for you to share your grief without the pressure of justification or explanation.

Memorialize Your Loss

Find ways to honor and remember your child, such as creating a memorial, writing a letter, or celebrating their memory on special days, allowing their presence to be forever etched in your heart.

Express Creatively

Engage in creative activities like journaling, painting, or crafting that provide an outlet for your emotions and enable you to express your grief in tangible ways.

Prioritize Self-Care

It’s important to ensure you take care of your physical and mental well-being. Ensure that you nourish yourself, rest adequately, and engage in activities that bring solace, even if it’s momentary.

Define Your Boundaries

It’s okay to say no, to choose what discussions you engage in, and to protect yourself from potentially harmful situations or conversations, ensuring your emotional boundaries are respected.

Seek Professional Mental Health Support

Turning to therapists or grief counselors can provide a structured and nurturing space, offering specific strategies to help navigate your unique sorrow and loss. This step ensures your grief journey is honored and managed with professional insight and care.

In our commitment to stand beside you, these coping mechanisms recognize the depth of your pain while providing tangible ways to move through it. Never feel like it’s not okay to seek help or lean on those who understand. Your grief deserves respect, and so do your steps towards healing.

A Personal Tribute: Honoring Your Baby’s Memory in Special Ways

In the deafening silence left by the loss of a baby (at any stage), finding expressive outlets to commemorate and honor their memory becomes not only a touching tribute but also a step towards healing (NHS, 2018). Though not in our arms, our babies forever hold a place in our hearts, and cherishing their memory can become an active part of the healing process. 

No matter how brief, the moments shared with your child (even if they were unborn) are irreplaceable and significant. Crafting a personal tribute can be a way to tangibly hold onto the love that forever connects you and your child. Selecting a special way to remember your baby need not be grandiose or public – it’s a deeply personal choice that should resonate with you. Some acts of remembrance can be: 

Lighting a Candle

Find a quiet space, and with each flicker of the flame, allow yourself to reflect, remember, and honor your baby. This can be done privately or during global movements like the Wave of Light, where bereaved parents across the globe light a candle in remembrance of their babies.

Creating a Memorial Space

Dedicate a corner of your home where you can place items like pictures, keepsakes, or any objects that remind you of your baby. Providing a physical place to cherish and connect with their memory can add a sense of closeness.

Writing a Letter

Put pen to paper and allow your emotions to flow. Write down your feelings, memories, or perhaps the dreams you held for your baby. It’s a personal dialogue between you and them, opening up the love, longing, and remembrance onto the pages. You can find dedicated journals (like this one) to keep it all in one place or prompt you when you don’t know how to move past the blank page.

Crafting a Keepsake

Whether it’s a custom-made piece of jewelry, a personalized ornament, or a hand-knitted blanket, creating or choosing something tangible that symbolizes your baby can provide a physical embodiment of your everlasting love. It can give you something to physically touch when you’re missing them.

Planting a Tree or Flower

A living, breathing tribute that you can focus your energy and nurture can have an unspoken healing energy. By planting something in memory of your baby, you have a tangible place to go to remember them. As it grows, it stands as a symbol of perpetual love and remembrance, flourishing in tandem with the persisting bond you hold in your heart.

Connecting with Others: Finding Support in Shared Experiences

That horrible, isolating feeling when you face the pain of pregnancy and infant loss doesn’t have to remain feeling so solitary. As much as it is heart-wrenching, there are others around the world who are grappling with the same deeply hurting hearts.

Finding a sense of community and support with those who can go beyond empathizing with you is truly powerful. While it can be difficult to be so vulnerable and open up to others, shared experiences can be so comforting, reminding you that you’re not walking this path alone and that this pain is part of a human experience (Hartig & Viola, 2015). That there is interconnectedness in the experience, even if the circumstances are incredibly soul-crushing.

I have championed a community space for Mamas just like you in Our Village, for this very reason. It’s a community where open-hearted conversations take place, where each member understands the depth of another’s hope, pain, and yearning. While everyone’s experience is unique, in our Village, there’s a collective understanding that binds us all. Here, your emotions find recognition, and a sense of strength and unity emerges from this mutual understanding.

How to Support Others this Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month

Supporting someone through the pain of pregnancy and infant loss is delicate. While your heart aches to offer solace, finding the right words or actions can be challenging. Awareness Month isn’t just about recognition; it’s about understanding and offering genuine support.

When a friend or loved one faces such a profound loss, the gestures that matter most are often the simplest. Listening without judgment, being present without trying to find solutions, and acknowledging their feelings can mean the world. Offering a helping hand, whether it’s in day-to-day tasks or just being there to share a quiet moment, can provide a sense of relief.

In this month of awareness, we’ll provide actionable tips to stand alongside those who grieve, ensuring they feel seen, heard, and deeply cared for. Don’t miss upcoming blog posts via a comprehensive resources page.

Navigating the raw emotions of pregnancy and infant loss is incredibly challenging, with a rollercoaster of intense pain, love, and remembrance. As we honor every life lost and every heart aching, know that you are seen, heard, and supported. That you have options, and you don’t have to have a loss of hope for the family you always wanted. You can never replace your little one; they will always be unique and held close to your heart. 

If you want to discuss your options, please book a consultation with my specialized FPI Team or join The FPI Village for a community offering unwavering support, love, and light through trying times. 

References

Aral, S. O. (1983). The increasing concern with infertility. JAMA, 250(17), 2327. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.1983.03340170053028

Bellhouse, C., Temple-Smith, M. J., & Bilardi, J. E. (2018). “It’s just one of those things people don’t seem to talk about…” women’s experiences of social support following miscarriage: A qualitative study. BMC Women’s Health, 18(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12905-018-0672-3

Hartig, J., & Viola, J. (2015). Online grief support communities. OMEGA – Journal of Death and Dying, 73(1), 29–41. https://doi.org/10.1177/0030222815575698

Kersting, A., & Wagner, B. (2012). Complicated grief after perinatal loss. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 14(2), 187–194. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3384447/

NHS. (2018, March 6). Miscarriage – afterwards. NHS UK. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/miscarriage/afterwards/

Stanford Medicine Children’s Health. (2019). Coping With Miscarriage. Stanford Medicine. https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=coping-with-miscarriage-1-4036

Wright, P. M., Shea, D. M., & Gallagher, R. (2014). From seed to tree: Developing community support for perinatally bereaved mothers. The Journal of Perinatal Education, 23(3), 151–154. https://doi.org/10.1891/1058-1243.23.3.151

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