It’s a pain that many parents understand, but one that society too often minimizes or ignores. Today though, people are talking about how one in four women experience a perinatal loss—including miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant death. October 15, is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, and online and in cities around the world, parents are coming together to speak the names of the children they can’t hold in their arms, but will forever hold in their hearts.
This day and these conversations are so important, because despite it being common, pregnancy and infant loss can feel so isolating. “It is often disenfranchised grief, a loss that isn’t recognized by the greater society,” explains Courtney Magahis, a social work therapist in the Center for Reproductive Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine and the Texas Children’s Hospital Pavilion for Women. Despite the deep pain it can cause, perinatal loss is often minimized in our culture. Sometimes, people lose their babies before they announced their pregnancy, and the bear the burden of the loss alone because no one knew. Sometimes, well-meaning people try to comfort parents by downplaying the loss through comments that seek to highlight a “silver lining”, but anyone who has been through it knows this loss is as real as any and it hurts just as much. If there is one thing for us as a society to take away from the conversations happening today, it’s that parents feeling a loss don’t need to have their pain minimized. They don’t need to be told that “everything happens for a reason.” They don’t need to be told that they can try again.
According to Magahis, these kinds of comments are not normally helpful. She suggests that when someone in our lives suffers a perinatal loss, we simply let them know that we are there for them. Some people will need to talk about their baby. Some people will need a friend to sit in silence with them and cry. Some will need help repainting the nursery. The process looks different for everyone, but parents going through this need to be allowed to feel the way they feel, and do what they need to do. “There really isn’t a right or wrong way to grieve. Honor your grief in whichever way it manifests and prioritize taking care of yourself,” says Magahis . Today, on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, many parents are having conversations about their loss and speaking their child’s name. And tomorrow, the conversations about perinatal loss will continue. There simply is no silver lining to be found in these conversations, but grieving parents don’t need one. They just need their people to acknowledge the cloud. There are so many people standing under it.