Losing a pregnancy is one of the most difficult experiences to endure, and it’s one that many of our hopeful adoptive parents are familiar with. The Mayo Clinic estimates that around 10 to 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, but that the actual rate is probably higher as many miscarriages occur very early in pregnancy, before a woman realizes she’s pregnant.
National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month occurs each October. During the entire month, we take time to honor and remember those who have lost a child during pregnancy or in infancy. It’s a time for the community to remember lost children and support grieving parents.
In 1988, President Ronald Reagan declared October as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. By doing so, Reagan gave a national platform for awareness and advocacy to the hidden grief that many parents experience. He also provided parents a formal space to honor the memories of their children. Since that time, during this special month and day, the world joins together to show their respect and honor those lives lost, and the parents left to grieve.
Too many families grieve their loss in silence, too ashamed to reach out for help. Losing a pregnancy or an infant is something you will never forget, and the memories can haunt you even years later. Understanding the sorrow and finding the help to go on is one of the ideas behind Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
If you have experienced this type of loss, you may have a mixture of feelings. Please don’t feel guilty about your sadness. There is no wrong or right way to grieve your loss. Everyone needs to do this in their own way. Today, I’d like to share some tips for coping with this devastating loss, along with ideas on how to commemorate Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
The transition from such a loss to embarking on an adoption journey can be difficult and emotional. I understand this myself, having suffered seven pregnancy losses before turning to adoption. I have experienced firsthand the emotional pain of infertility and miscarriage. Adoption was the answer to my prayers to become a mom!
Is Adoption Your Answer?
As you begin your adoption journey, take your time. Move at a pace that is comfortable for you. When the time is right, you will be able to feel the joy of bringing a newborn into your life and your heart. Know that there is enough room in your heart to carry the love for the child you lost and the child that is about to find their home with you.
Sometimes, people rush into adoption without taking the time to grieve their loss. They risk sabotaging an adoption or, worse, treating an adopted child as second best to the son or daughter they might have had.
Before you can adopt with success, you must come to terms with your loss. For some couples, this may take years. Move at your own pace, but realize that the longer you wait, the more you delay the precious time you could have with your child.
How to Cope With Your Loss
So how do you move forward while at the same time commemorating your loss during Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month? Here are some tips to help you get through these tough times:
1. Talk with someone.
If you have a trusted friend or family member, talk with them about how you feel. Share stories about your child or the dreams you had stored up in your heart for your child. Ask them to just listen, not necessarily to feel like they need to fix you. Sometimes, having someone to talk to can help you work through your grief and sadness.
2. Grieve in your own way.
Grieving is a uniquely personal thing. Some women openly share their grief about how they feel and the impact their loss has had on them. Other women prefer to grieve quietly, talking with one or two people only about their loss. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve your loss of a pregnancy. Everyone responds differently to their grief. The main thing is that you allow yourself to grieve as a normal part of your response to loss.
3. Admit your feelings.
It’s okay to feel sad, angry, confused, or disappointed about your loss. There is a big empty place in your heart, and nothing can replace your child.
It’s important to acknowledge your hurt and the feelings you’re going through. Remember to give yourself room to be sad; don’t feel guilty about that. It’s part of your journey, and these feelings are important for you to work through.
If you find yourself having trouble coming to grips with the experience, don’t hesitate to seek out help. Find a counselor to help you. These professionals are trained to listen and ask helpful questions. They can help you understand how to find healing and wholeness.
4. Find community.
Seek like-minded people to connect with. It’s often helpful to have others in your life who’ve been through what you’re going through. They understand your feelings and can support you. Spend time with your community rather than sitting at home. It can be helpful to be around others when you’re feeling sad.
5. Do something for yourself.
Self-care is very important when you grieve. Be sure to get enough sleep, eat a healthy diet, and get some exercise. Many parents find that journaling helps them work through their grief. Writing your thoughts and feelings out on paper is a cathartic way to bring healing. Try yoga or guided meditations to help you feel more peaceful and calm. Give yourself extra space, you will heal, but it will take time, so be patient with yourself.
Finding a Way to Commemorate Your Loss
Every October, you can join others to remember the child lost. Ask your family and friends to join you to remember. Find a positive way to commemorate your loss. You could:
- Plant a tree in remembrance of your child
- Serve at a soup kitchen or homeless center
- Plant flowers in front of a nursing home or school
- Participate in or organize a walk or donate to charities focused on infertility
- Organize to raise money for families who’ve just lost a child or children
You might also consider joining the International Wave of Light, which is a worldwide lighting of candles that happens at 7:00 p.m. on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, October 15th. Let your candle burn for an hour to assist in creating a continuous chain of light to honor and remember all babies lost due to miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS, and newborn death.
Illumination begins at the International Dateline, and illuminations and candles remain lit for a period of at least one hour with the next time zone lighting respectively. It will move through each time zone as the Wave of Light circumnavigates the globe. The result is a continuous chain of light encompassing and spanning across the world and around the globe for a 24-hour period, illuminating the night in love and light in remembrance of all babies gone too soon. You can learn more at the Lights of Love International Wave of Light Facebook page.
Whatever you do to commemorate your loss, I encourage you to make it a positive time of remembrance and healing for yourself.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on October 15, 2020, and has since been updated.
Founder of Lifetime Adoption, adoptive mom, adoption expert, and Certified Open Adoption Practitioner (C.O.A.P).
Since 1986, adoption expert Mardie Caldwell has been dedicated to bringing couples and birth parents together in order to fulfill their dreams.
“Many years ago, I was also searching for a child to adopt. We didn’t know where or how to get started. Through research, determination, and a prayer, our dream of a family became reality. I started with a plan, a notebook, assistance from a caring adoption consultant and a lot of hard work; this was my family I was building. We had a few heartaches along the way, but the pain of not having children was worse!
Within weeks we had three different birth mothers choose us. We were overwhelmed and delighted. Many unsettling events would take place before our adoption would be finalized, many months later. Little did I know that God was training and aligning me for the adoption work I now do today. It is my goal to share with our families the methods and plans which succeed and do not succeed. I believe adoption should be affordable and can be a wonderful “pregnancy” for the adoptive couple.
I have also been on both sides of infertility with the loss of seven pregnancies and then conceiving by new technology, giving birth to a healthy daughter. I have experienced first-hand the emotional pain of infertility and believe my experience allows me to serve your needs better.
It is my hope that for you, the prospective parents, your desire for a child will be fulfilled soon.”