October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. This is a day envisioned by Robyn Bear, Lisa Brown, and Tammy Novak to be a day where grieving parents can come together and be supported and loved by their families and friends, and to help encourage understanding of what grieving parents go through and how best to support them through pregnancy and infant loss.
Approximately 1 in 4 Pregnancies Will End In Loss
Approximately 1 in 4 pregnancies will end in loss. So as mamas, that means 3 out of 4 of us may not personally experience our own loss. However, we will most likely meet or have someone in our lives who will. Which is why I think it is so important to understand how we can best support the ones we love through such an incredibly intense and difficult time.
Though there is no timeline for grief, most research shows that deep grieving can take anywhere from six months to two years. And that doesn’t mean that it’s “over” per se. But for most, it means you have a new inner strength and are a different person, as a function of all you’ve experienced during the grieving process. It makes me think of a butterfly, that so beautifully marks the awareness ribbon for this month. As it goes through its metamorphosis, going within its cocoon to experience its process. And then is reborn again, with markings that reflect its transformation, anew as a butterfly.
Empathy Vs. Sympathy and How it Relates to Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness
If someone you know and love has experienced the loss of a pregnancy or baby, their hopes, dreams, and aspirations for their child, and for themselves as a parent, have all been lost along with that sweet babe. It is a loss so unique and so devastatingly powerful.
As a support person, friend or family member, you may be wondering, how you can support them and be there for them. Especially, if you’ve never experienced the same kind of loss.
You might ask yourself, “How can I possibly relate to them?” or “How can I support them when I’ve never gone through this myself?”
Here’s how: With empathy.
Empathy, by definition, is to understand and share the feelings of another. Empathy is very different than sympathy.
Sympathy, by definition, is a feeling of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune. I don’t know about you, but when I read that I get the heebie-jeebies and an “oh yuck” feeling.
I think we’ve all felt the difference here. When someone is empathetic, they:
- “get you” and your experience
- they don’t “feel bad for you”
- they don’t “judge” what’s happening or going on
- they sit with you and what you’re going through, and they just “be with you”
They’re like a warm hug, holding you, being space for all that you’ve got going on, without adding to it with pity, feeling bad, or statements that begin with “at least.” (we’ve all heard that before)
Empathy Helps to Create Connection – Sympathy Can Lead to Disconnection
Empathy for friends and family who have experienced a loss is far more supportive and impactful than pitying them or feeling sorry for them. I know that it can be hard to walk that line, especially when you love them so much and may also be experiencing your own feelings of loss along with them.
But that’s the difference – it’s feeling WITH them.
It’s being courageous and tapping into those feelings you have experienced too:
- the sadness
- the anger
- the despair
- the hopelessness
Those are all feelings that we’ve felt from time to time in our lives. Allowing ourselves to feel those feelings and empathize with someone else’s is an incredible way to foster deep connection in times like these.
Watch this short video for more on the difference between empathy and sympathy, adapted from a Ted Talk by Brene’ Brown.
Ways to Honor Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness in Tampa Bay
There are many incredible organizations around Tampa Bay that have some beautiful events planned to help bring families together who have experienced the loss of a pregnancy or baby.
Consider attending one of these events with friends and family who’ve experienced this kind of loss. Allow yourself to witness their grief and sadness, to celebrate their courage as they walk their path to healing, and foster deeper connection and love.
October 13th – 2nd Annual Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Walk
Wave of Light Remembrance October 15th at 7pm – Light a candle to remember babies gone too soon. More info here.
For ongoing love and support for those who’ve experienced a loss, here are a couple of additional resources to connect with.
About AMEND: A non-profit organization based in Tampa, Florida dedicated to providing moral support and encouragement to persons that have experienced a loss during and after pregnancy. We are parents who have experienced such a loss and give of ourselves to help others. Our group extends its support to those individuals who have had an early miscarriage, full-term stillbirth, and infant losses. The parents of AMEND have experienced a loss like you are going through. We are here for you if you need a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, or to talk with someone. Please know at this very difficult time you are not alone. Please call if we can help in any way.
About SHARE: Share Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support is a community for anyone who experiences the tragic death of a baby. We serve parents, grandparents, siblings, and others in the family unit, as well as the professionals who care for grieving families. Share is a national organization with over 75 chapters in 29 states. Our services include bed-side companions, phone support, face-to-face support group meetings, resource packets, private online communities, memorial events, training for caregivers, and so much more. Should you need them, we hope you can also benefit from at least one of these many resources.
My heart goes out to those experiencing a loss so deep and intense as the loss of a baby or pregnancy. I honor your courage and everything it takes to walk your path to healing. I also honor those who walk beside them, and the courage it takes to show up for them, to love them, be with them, and support them along their journey.