I have slowly grown to hate the month of October. While I once loved the month where the leaves changed colors and the temperature started to drop, now National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month reminds me of just how painful and lonely losing a child is.
Having suffered a pregnancy loss and then losing my daughter Colette at nine days old, I am all too aware of loss every day, not just when the calendar reads October.
This awareness month makes it feel like it is okay to share my story and almost as if it is in demand. But, once the calendar pages turn to November, the world would like me to take my story and sometimes myself back into the shadows, to hide the unimaginable, to be quiet about dead babies. That is why I hate this month. While the celebrations and attention on this critically important and necessary to talk about topic are important, the simple fact is that those of us who have lost do not have the luxury to hide away, to stop being aware of our losses.
It is not only from October 1st to October 31st that we feel the pain of loss.
I feel it on Halloween when I see young girls running around in costume and think what my four-year-old little girl would be dressed up as. I feel it on Thanksgiving when, as thankful as I am for so many things in my life—my wonderful husband, amazing son, terrific friends, and family—I am also so angry and hurt that I do not get to also treasure my daughter sitting at the table with us. I feel it on Christmas when she is not there to open gifts, to be excited about what she got, to wake up as early as possible. I feel it in May for her birthday and for her angelversary. I feel it in the spring when the weather starts to warm up and flowers start to bloom. I feel it in the summer when there is that sense of joy and mischief that the warm weather brings with it. I feel it in late summer when school returns to session and the anticipation of all that a new school year brings, even long after you have left school. I feel it in the fall when apple picking, cider donuts, and pie are all in the air. I feel it in the winter as it gets bitterly cold, as the snow falls, and snowball fights and snow angels should be the only thing on the to-do list.
Losing a child means living in a suspended state of reality, with part of you in another place, one where you still have a hold on your child, and the other part of you in this moment, living in a world in which one of your children is physically missing, but still very much in your heart and still very much a part of your family. It is feeling the sharp sting of the loss at the same time you experience the joy of your living child. It is being happy for friends who have children the same age at the same time feeling angry that your child is not here as well as sad that your baby does not get to have the same experiences. It means missing someone, missing a piece of yourself that does not ever come back. It means living life in a world you often hate because your child is not in it.
And none of those feelings go away, and even when they subside, they do not subside because of the date on the calendar.
Yet the problem with this designated month is that there is a tendency for the rest of the world to think, we give you this month as a chance to share all you want, and then, please lock it back up because we do not really want to be talking about dead babies or hearing the pain of a parent who experienced the very worst in losing a child.
So I ask you to be aware today, in October, and every day. Our loss never goes away, so please make sure your awareness does not either.
- Learn more and participate in PALS’ campaign for October’s Pregnancy, Infant, and Child Loss Awareness Month
- For Loss Parents, Pregnancy, Infant, and Child Loss Awareness doesn’t end on November 1st
- What You Should Know About Pregnancy, Infant, and Child Loss: A Grief That Changes You Forever
- When You Don’t Know What to Say: 5 Tangible Ways to Support a Grieving Family
- 10 Ways to Support a Bereaved Parent during Pregnancy, Infant, and Child Loss Awareness Month
- The White Pumpkin: A Special Fall Tradition that Includes Your Baby Who Died