Trigger warning: perinatal and infant loss

Trigger warning: perinatal and infant loss
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For families who have experienced the loss of a child… every day, every week, and every month often feel like they have varying degrees of “awareness.”

When one loses a spouse, they are called a widow/widower.  When one loses their parents, they are called an orphan.  However, we do not have a term for parents who have lost a child.

This is arguably the most difficult type of loss anyone can endure, yet there is not a way to readily identify oneself as a parent of a child who has died.  A simple question, from well-intentioned strangers… “Do you have any children?” Or  “How many children do you have?”  This type of inquiry serves as a painful reminder of the loss, as well as the isolation.

One of the most challenging components of this type of loss is the lack of recognition and acknowledgement from friends and loved ones.  The death of a baby, during pregnancy, delivery, or during infancy, becomes an “unspeakable” loss.  People do not know how to support grieving parents, and in turn, often say things that are hurtful vs. helpful.

Grief is a complex and personal experience, and mourning the loss of a child becomes a journey that no parent is prepared for.  Finding a sense of community with other parents can be helpful, yet it can also be difficult to process one’s own loss in the midst of others’ pain.

I am honored to work with parents who have experienced perinatal loss. I stand in awe of the strength and resilience that I see. Yet, as I hear about the impact of interactions, with the medical community and with friends and family, I recognize that these exchanges can be traumatizing for parents.  Focusing on the impact of the loss results in parents minimizing the negative experiences they had during such a difficult time.  For many parents, they feel like there are multiple losses associated beyond the actual experience of pregnancy loss.

The statistics are staggering:

*10-15% of pregnancies end in miscarriage (pregnancy loss before 20 weeks gestation)

*1 in 100 pregnancies is impacted by stillbirth (the death of a baby after 20 weeks gestation)

*1 in 55 pregnancies results in pregnancy loss as a result of termination for medical reasons (TFMR)

Given these statistics, it is time for all of us to acknowledge that people we know and love have been impacted by pregnancy/infant loss (even though we may not be aware of it!)

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