October. Balloon Fiesta. Spooky season. Fall. Halloween. All the pumpkin things. These are all images that pop into my head when I think of October. For anyone who has experienced the loss of a child, it is also a time to remember our babies. October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
In 1988, President Ronald Reagan designated the month of October Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. He famously said, “When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them.”
Losing a child, and everything that comes after, is the hardest thing I have ever been through. That being said, I have found community and support. I have found friends and ways to celebrate the little lives that were taken much too soon.
When you lose a baby, your relationships change.
People don’t know how to approach you. But all we need is for people to reach out. We want our babies to be talked about. It is important to continue speaking their names. We want them to be celebrated.
We are always painfully reminded that they died. Speaking their names reminds us that they lived.
Child loss, it seems, has historically been a taboo subject. Thankfully, in more recent years, it has become something that is talked about. If you have lost a child, it is important to know that you are still a mom. Your child is still celebrated and still loved.
October 15 at 7:00 pm (in whatever timezone you reside in) is the International Wave of Light. We light candles to remember our babies. Anyone can participate from wherever they are, and it means so much when people do. It’s a way to make loss families feel loved, seen, and remembered.
Here are three especially helpful ways in which you can honor families that have lost their baby.
Ask the family how they are doing.
When I say this, I mean REALLY ask how they are doing. Listen to them, ask questions, and show that you actually care. We often ask people how they are doing, but do we always care? I know that I personally am guilty of asking this, but not always listening to the answer. I have learned how much it means when people listen. It’s a big deal.
Talk about their baby by name.
People avoid talking about the baby you lost. I’ve learned that it’s usually not because they don’t care, but rather, they don’t want to hurt you. I don’t think it actually comes from a bad place, but it can feel like it does. Parents that have lost babies hurt, and we hurt a lot of the time. Talking about our babies makes us happy. It lets us know that our baby is remembered, celebrated, and loved.
Include their baby.
Or, at least, don’t exclude their baby. For a long time after Ava died, we would get Christmas cards, birthday invitations, or “happy mail” addressed to “Jacob and Marybeth Lobato.” Every time I saw this, my heart ached, and I would cry. Again, I don’t think the intent was ever bad. I just knew that there should be a third name on each envelope. I understand that she won’t be able to celebrate birthdays or Christmases with us physically, but it felt like a very important member of our family was being left out. “The Lobato Family” was always enough for us to feel like she was being included.
Whether your loss is fresh or years old, it still hurts. You get used to the grief. You have more good days than bad days. But the bad days still come. The grief feels like an ocean, and you feel like you are drowning.
If you are reading this and know the pain, I need you to know this. You are loved beyond belief. Your baby is loved beyond belief. Your motherhood and your baby should be celebrated. There is a community of women that stands with you.
If you are reading this and know someone who has lost a child, reach out and let them know you are thinking of them and their baby. Ask how you can celebrate their baby. Having support can change stories.
The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ABQ Mom, its executive team, other contributors to the site, its sponsors or partners, or any organizations the aforementioned might be affiliated with.