“When a child loses their 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. This month recognizes the loss so many parents experience across the United States and around the world. It is also meant to inform and provide resources for parents who have lost children due to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, stillbirths, birth defects, SIDS, and other causes.”
-Ronald Reagan, 1988
Along with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, this month is also Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month. When it comes to the loss of a child, many people don’t know how to talk about it or what to say. “Every day, 13 babies will be lost to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and other sudden, unexpected infant deaths; more than 70 new parents will have listened sadly their stillborn baby’s silence; and countless lives will be lost to miscarriage and other causes of infant death.(1)” The loss of a child is heartbreaking, and is a type of grief that never completely goes away. Someone experiencing this kind of loss needs support in a few different ways.
A Support Community
Supporting a grieving family does not mean you have to know what to say. If you haven’t experienced this kind of grief it can be hard to empathize and understand how they feel. That’s ok. Sometimes listening and just being around them is exactly what they need from you. Just don’t let this be a burden the family has to carry alone – sit in silence with them, weep with them, pray with them.
Random Acts of Support
In this time of loss, the family will most likely not ask for help, nor will they tell you what they need help with if you ask. So instead, just do it – bring them dinner, mow their lawn, wash their car. These may seem miniscule, but your actions will mean a lot to the family – it reminds them that they’re not alone and are cared for.
Talk About It
It may not come naturally to want to talk about the lost life, but it will mean a lot to the family if you acknowledge the life. Recognize that holidays, such as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, or any kid-centric holiday will be specifically hard. A simple card or dinner invite would be greatly appreciated.
Ultimately, a supportive community that listens and is there, is key in the grieving process. Losing a child turns your entire world upside down and is a devastating truth for one out of four families. More than anything, the mom and family need to know they are not alone.
If you would like more information about how to support grieving families, or you have experienced a loss and are looking for support, NationalShare.org can help.