Spreading Awareness about Loss
The headline to one E! News story excitedly shouts, “It’s Been One Year Since Meghan Markle Announced Her Pregnancy.”
As a woman in this culture we live in, following celebrity gossip (especially anything having to do with the Royals) seems second nature. Yet, I remember exactly how I responded to the Duchess of Sussex’s announcement this time last year. Rather than being elated and eager to know every little detail, my heart screamed, “Oh, no! She doesn’t know what today is!”
The message boards and Facebook groups were lit up with enraged mothers of angel babies expressing sentiments like, “How dare she!” and “That’s so insensitive!” They couldn’t see past the hurt and the rage (something that all of us struggle with constantly as we walk our grief paths).
Yep. That was pretty much the reaction!
In their minds, this was an affront to our community and a deliberate, malicious statement made by someone who is in a position to champion our cause, but who chose to open our wounds further.
The thing is, Meghan didn’t know…
And guess what? I bet a lot of you didn’t know either.
And that’s OK.
While we loss moms come out in full force during the days and weeks leading up to October 15 every year – asking, pleading, urging, and/or begging folks to listen and join us in lighting a candle at 7 pm (as part of the International Wave of Light) – everyone outside of this community of ours is oblivious and carrying on about their everyday lives with no inkling that there is any significance to this date on the calendar.
The “education” efforts we are putting forth are paying off bit by bit, and now many people will at least acknowledge that October is a special month for loss parents. But until this was my reality, I had zero idea that October was anything but Breast Cancer Awareness Month and had dutifully worn my pink ribbon and encouraged friends and family to do their research and support organizations working to find a cure.
I still fully support efforts to eradicate breast and other forms of cancer – especially since a few strains run in my family – but in this season of my life (right here, right now), my soul needs to acknowledge my angel baby and all of her “friends.”
You see, what I learned after Addie died is that Americans have been honoring and remembering our babies gone too soon for quite some time, cruising just below the radar while other causes are more widely known and accepted. When I was 8 years old (1988), President Ronald Reagan declared that October would be known as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. And it’s been that way ever since, though few have noted it publicly. It wasn’t until 2002, however, that the loss community in the U.S. pushed to have our own day. That’s the moment when October 15 became a really big deal.
But even with all of our best efforts, talking about child loss – particularly of miscarriages, stillbirths, and infant deaths – is still very taboo in our society. We’re breaking down that stigma, but still have a long way to go.
It’s OK not to have known any of this until this very moment. (I’m picturing a meme with the Reagan fact, asking how old you were when you realized it and friends replying, “I was right now years old.”)
Loss parents know that we sometimes come off as extra sensitive at times.
Our community isn't asking that you censor your every action or thought – just to be more aware in future.
Though we all share this horrid end result, we have different paths that brought us here. And all we ask of you – our friends and families and loved ones – is to say our children’s names, acknowledge that they were here (even if for the briefest moments before birth), and help us honor their memories.
Our Wave of Light 2019 display, for our sweet
Adelyn and all of her angel baby friends in Heaven.
As another Wave of Light wraps up for the year, I leave you with this advice...
The best thing you can do is to just be there for us and acknowledge our babies. Today and every day.
Oh, and if you are in the know about October 15 (or really any significant date in a loss parent’s life), try to help out the Meghan Markles of the world so they don’t stumble into a similar mess.