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Fall comes with many changes, and many new experiences, too. Some of these feelings show us the depths and capacity of the human experience and emotional variances we may walk through. For many, different literal seasons of the calendar and weather year are reminders of what has happened in the past, and what may be to come in our lives.
As we walk through new literal seasons in life, we remember days past in similar seasons, too. The abundance of cultural and social calendar holidays are no exception of this act of remembrance.
In this light, today we recognize Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, and honor the babies lost too soon, as well as the mothers and families who grieve.
Here are some things you need to know about this.
Grief and loss are two very difficult yet extremely present and pressing topics in humanity and our culture today. It’s hard to talk about, because we want to put our best face forward in social media, sharing only the highlights.
But that is only a facade, not the whole truth, and we are lying to ourselves and others when we deny reality and the grief we are walking through behind closed doors.
That’s not a way to live- we are called to more than that as followers of Christ.
This is why days like today are so important: It’s not an in-your-face-attention-getter for personal projection—far from it! Days such as today are ways to honor memories and experiences and show the world that it is okay to grieve, it is okay to remember, it is okay to experience loss in whichever safe way that works best for you (not what others tell you that you are supposed to do/feel)
It is in fact very healthy to allow yourself to do so.
God is in the grief of unmet expectations is an article I wrote for Her View From Home last month, almost exactly a month ago, give or take a few days. That is no accident. Grief is a process, and how we walk through loss is not linear, or easily accessed by any six-step cliche-filled grief recovery program. (More on that in a minute)
Life is messy, and humans are messy, too. One of my main points in that piece was to see that grief and thanks can and do coexist in these experiences – it doesn’t mean that what you are walking through is any less valid or real; It shows faith, even when we don’t understand. And it prompts us to show grace to all, for we don’t know their stories, their struggles, their xyz.
Search the Scriptures for more of this: The entirety of Lamentations and the Psalms are prime examples of the juxtaposition of grief and thanks – and God honors that.
Even in an unexpected and traumatic birth experience, even in the loss of your supposedly picture-perfect life in exchange for one riddled with grief, unmet expectations, or a literal loss of precious life…
The things you cannot plan for are the things that life is truly made up of, and this is where God shows up. In the mess.
Yet what do we do with that?
A better question then comes to this: What do we do when we face the loss of our ideal birth, the loss of human life, the loss of the hopes of what could be?
In short, we grieve.
For days such as today, we remember a loved life, and we honor her.
There are many ways to do this, many of which are noted in the Bible.
Let’s look to some examples, to show us how we can honor our baby’s memory, no matter what gestation or age she was, while also allowing us to feel the depths in a healthy way that honors our own experiences.
One example that comes to mind on the topic of remembrance is literally using stones. This was seen in the Old Testament:
First Samuel 7:12 says that when God enabled the Israelites to defeat the Philistines, the prophet Samuel “took a stone…named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far has the Lord helped us.”
Marking stones and monuments is a practice of remembrance that has existed since ancient days.
Another example of remembrance stones is in the book of Joshua, where God used these monuments as a way for His people to remember His goodness.
Joshua commanded the people to build a memorial of stones as a public testimony of what God has done for them throughout the 40 years of wandering (Joshua 3-4)… a reminder to keep praising God, even in the storms of life.
Further, in the New Testament, Luke 19:40 states, “If we keep quiet, the stone will cry out.” If we remain silent, and in this, fail to grieve and give thanks to God in that juxtaposition this places us in, we also fail to see God at work in it. We bury the emotions and hurt ourselves further in the process, delaying our healing. We refuse to talk about reality, and quietly bury our emotions. We fester, and we don’t allow God in the door.
That’s not a way to live.
Instead, we name, we grieve, and we remember.
This applies to much of the human experience- especially to loss of an ideal birth or loss of a child.
Let’s look at what we can do with this knowledge, how we can become a mothers’ village in the midst of her grief; whether it’s a loss of expectations and a traumatic birth, or a literal loss of life, all grief is valid and needs to be honored in a healthy way. Letting this fester, denting it, or ignoring it, only leads to discontent or worse.
How you can walk alongside your friends in their grief – a few action steps:
- Hold space for her (be present, with a listening ear)
- Let her grieve in her own way and timetable (don’t tell her how you think she should be grieving or acting – this is very personal, and that’s just wrong)
- Pray for her (you don’t have to tell her- just do it)
- Take photos and make momentos, such as crochet animals (save them for her, for a time when she asks for it)
- Name her baby and acknowledge her pain (don’t be afraid to talk about it if she’s willing and brings it up)
- With her permission, hire a bereavement doula, who is trained to walk alongside her, as well as a postpartum doula, who is trained in postpartum support for her. Also consider a maid service, meal service, etc, for a set time frame.
1 in 4 mothers have lost a child to miscarriage or stillbirth
This isn’t rare, this is a daily reality. Whether your baby passed at 7 weeks gestation, or you had a full-term stillbirth, this is a loss of a human life we are talking about. This is reality for many of the women – mothers, sisters, friends, you walk and talk with each day. Do you know that…do you know her well enough?
Acknowledge her baby, and be willing to talk about this if she is. The loss of a child should never be taboo.
And just because we grieve a loss, doesn’t mean we aren’t also thankful that there is another name, another child, that belongs to us, that we will meet someday in heaven. Just because we grieve one child, doesn’t mean we aren’t thankful for the children we have.
So here’s what you need to know about Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness Day:
- Don’t forget her babies, because she never will.
- Celebrate LIFE – no matter if it was weeks gestation or minutes earthside.
- Say the child’s name.
- Affirm that she existed, mattered, is loved, and is full of life in heaven.
- And know, most of all, that this is not our home.
~Katherine Newsom writes at Simple Natural Mama
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