Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month: Why Should We Care?
One million pregnancies end in miscarriage in the United States each year. It is shocking to realize that pregnancy loss numbers are even higher than this, because this excludes other losses like stillbirth, infertility, and non-viable pregnancies.
When a child or baby dies young, our culture knows this to be a heartbreaking and devastating loss that takes years to come to terms with. But when you lose a baby before birth, somehow it’s viewed as not as important. There is this unspoken assumption that pregnancy losses aren’t as painful as losing a child or a baby. People are expected to just accept the loss and move on with their lives. Outside the immediate family, there is no service, no memorial; there is nothing.
But often there is profound grief. Women’s grief is downplayed and underestimated; men’s grief is completely ignored and considered nonexistent. However, the depth of the pain from these losses equals that of any well-loved family member. It is real, it is intense and — when it is ignored — can linger for decades. Studies show that grief after pregnancy loss can lead to depression, PTSD, and even suicidal thoughts, especially when the grief is not culturally acknowledged and validated.
It’s time to change this.
The pain and grief of pregnancy loss is real. It needs and deserves to be validated. Grieving parents and family members should not have to suffer alone and in silence. Support should be given during this time of need.
I recently met with the Institute of Reproductive Grief Care, whose mission is to offer education, research, expertise, and support after pregnancy and reproductive loss. They offer healing resources to those impacted, including the Forget-Me-Not flower, the symbol of pregnancy loss remembrance. Wearing a Forget-Me-Not flower opens the door to sharing your story of loss, which is an important step in processing this grief. It is also an easy way to show your support for those who have suffered through this loss.
If you’re worried about what to say to someone who has experienced pregnancy loss, ReproductiveGrief.org offers free Helpful Toolkits that include the “Top 10 Terrific Things to Say and Do” after pregnancy loss, as well as the “Top 10 Terrible Things that People Say” after pregnancy loss. It also offers customized helpful toolkits for women, men, loved ones, healthcare professionals, and faith leaders.
It is easy to show your support and make a difference. Add a Forget-Me-Not flower to your work ID, to the back of your notebook or to the front of your clipboard. Wear a Forget-Me-Not pin on your jacket, wrist, purse or backpack. Share a Forget-Me-Not flower on social media, along with your story and your support, with the hashtag #ForgetMeNot2022.
Together, we can bring awareness and change how our culture cares for those grieving after pregnancy loss.
Ben Carson is the Founder and Chairman of the American Cornerstone Institute and the former 17th Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Dr. Michaelene Fredenburg is the President and CEO of the Institute of Reproductive Grief Care. She is the global authority on reproductive grief care after pregnancy loss and reproductive loss.