Rev. Hannah Grace: Reach out, light a candle on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

  • Rev. Hannah Grace. ERIN LONG PHOTOGRAPHY

Published: 10/12/2020 11:46:45 AM

COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 215,000 Americans; a grim number that only continues to climb. As we daily witness the ripples of suffering wrought by these losses — these loved ones gone too soon — I invite you to consider another number: 25%.

It is estimated that at least one in every four pregnancies ends in a loss from miscarriage, stillbirth or infant death. And, like COVID-19, incidences are much higher for people of color. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Black mothers are more than twice as likely to experience a stillbirth compared to Hispanic and white mothers. (Black, American Indian and Native Alaskan women also face vastly increased maternal death rates.) 

In this time, many find our focus gripped — and rightly so — by our upcoming national elections, the effects of institutional racism and by the ongoing global pandemic. I encourage us to add to our attention this Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, declared by President Reagan in 1988.

This Thursday, Oct. 15, is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, marked annually by the International Wave of Light. This event connects individuals, families and supporters worldwide in remembrance of the babies they have lost — the children gone too soon.

In homes and communities all over the world, participants will light a candle at 7 p.m. local time, honoring these babies and spreading the light of recognition from time zone to time zone across the globe. Many events will be happening virtually this year, with COVID-19 impacting access to care as well as support.

In Reagan’s 1988 proclamation, he 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.”

From my work with families, I too often hear that it is the invisibility of their loss, and the way even loved ones might disdain, minimize and avoid talking about it, which adds the painful sting of isolation to their grief. When considered alongside the increased loneliness many feel as a result of social distancing, the loss of a baby in this time can be even more devastating.

Mothers, spouses and families carry these losses with them forever. Many mourn for their children in silence, never once telling another person their story. While some may prefer their privacy, many were never given the opportunity to share, or worse, have been told in myriad ways that their experience doesn’t count; their loss doesn’t matter.

On Oct. 15, we can be in solidarity with mothers and families in acknowledging that their babies do matter. Regardless of the circumstance, how long ago or what has happened since, together we will remember the life and death of these children. We will affirm the enormity of love — and of loss.

An old Irish proverb tells us, “It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.” Whether because of the policies of the president, the privations of the pandemic, the scourge of systemic racism or the pain of pregnancy and infant loss, now is the time to reach out to a friend, a family member or perhaps a stranger and let them know you see their suffering.

And because a shelter is not only seen but felt, now is the time to do something to help alleviate their suffering. We can cast a vote, wear a mask, talk about racism — and we can light a candle on Oct. 15.

Empty Arms Bereavement Support is a nonprofit organization offering support to grieving families across western Massachusetts. You can find out more about their support groups and other resources at emptyarmsbereavement.org.

Rev. Hannah Grace is an ordained interfaith minister located in Florence, specializing in custom ceremonies to honor and celebrate life’s important milestones. She will be leading the Empty Arms International Wave of Light virtual memorial on Oct. 15.


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