When I was pregnant with my second daughter, Zoe, during the Pregnancy, Infant, and Child Loss Awareness Month of October, I found it important for me to create space for and remember Nora while simultaneously preparing to bring life back into the world. It was a challenge to walk that fine line of grief and joy during the month and find ways to express both of those feelings in honor of both of my children. I have to admit that I was just starting the second trimester and the pregnancy with Zoe didn’t seem ‘real’ yet. The grief was still so fresh that most of the month I spent focusing on Nora, as I didn’t want to forget her, for her to be replaced.
I don’t think I really comprehended how hard it was to grieve one child while preparing for another until a year later when Zoe was physically here in our arms. It became even harder to hold space and create room in our family for our deceased child, Nora, while parenting a five-month-old baby. I decided to sit down and come up with ways to honor both of my babies, one who never took a breath in this world and one breathing only due to the other’s lack of breath.
Looking back I wish I would have thought of these ideas to honor my daughter who died while pregnant with my second daughter. I hope that this year, three years later, I can use some of these ways to create space for both babies–to honor Pregnancy, Infant, and Child Loss Awareness Month and Nora, while parenting Nora’s sister Zoe.
1. Light Candles
In our house we have a special candle that is dedicated to Nora. We light it on special occasions where we celebrate her brief life. This year we will light it on October 15th for the Wave of Light to honor all children who have left us too soon. I look forward to telling Zoe more about why we do this, about her sister, and maybe even share with her the wave of light we created two years ago on our dining room table with over 100 candles lit for babies who had gone too soon.
2. Tell Your Baby About Your Child That Died
When I was pregnant with Zoe, I never talked to her about Nora while she was in the belly. Looking back I wish I would have. I was just too scared to connect, too scared of losing her too, that I didn’t take the opportunity to do so. If you are still pregnant and have more courage than I did then, I would encourage you to tell your baby, no matter how small, about the sibling who came before them, as a way to honor Pregnancy, Infant, and Child Loss Awareness Month. And if you are parenting after loss like me, you could do as I plan to do: pull out Nora’s photo album this month and sit down with Zoe before bedtime to relay the story of her and Nora before she drifts off to sleep. Who knows, maybe Zoe will then meet Nora in her dreams.
3. Read a Children’s Book about Loss to Your Baby in the Belly or Baby Born After a Loss
If you are pregnant or parenting a subsequent child after a loss, you should pick up Someone Came Before You* or Perfectly Imperfect Family to read to your belly or baby born after a loss. Someone Came Before You is a children’s book by Pat Schwiebert explaining the loss of a baby to the baby that is born after. It does so in such a beautiful way. Perfectly Imperfect Family is a children’s book by Amie Lands and illustrated by Natia Gogiashivili. This precious book is told from the perspective of the little boy born after his sister who died, all about the ways they incorporate his sister in their families daily lives. Your perfectly imperfect family will love it. These books and others are on our list of bedtime stories for the month of October, to let Zoe know more about her sister. I think it’s a nice way to find words if it’s too hard to find your own when pregnant after a loss too. These also make a great read to your belly bump if you’re still pregnant.
4. Write a Letter to Your Baby Who Died
Make time to take time out of your schedule this month and just spend time connecting with your child that died by writing a letter. Tell her about your family situation now, how much you miss her, about her younger sibling(s) and how you plan on honoring her memory this month. It’s nice to set aside time in our busy lives to be with and connect to our baby who died. Writing a letter this month might be just the connection you’re seeking.
5. Write a Letter to Your Subsequent Child About Your Baby Who Died
If you haven’t had your baby yet and are still pregnant again after a loss and don’t feel like talking to your baby in the belly because you are too scared to connect (like I was), you could always write a letter to the baby your are currently pregnant with and tell him the story of his family. Share with him why this month is so important and why you need to create space for him as you prepare for his arrival as well as his brother or sister who passed away. They currently share the same space as their sibling once did, and I’m sure they will understand on an even deeper level than we might realize at this time.
6. Write a Letter from this Baby to her Sibling who Passed Away
This year I might ask Zoe to draw a picture for her sister Nora and tell her more about who she was as we draw. I think this would have also been nice to do when I was pregnant–to write a letter as the baby I was carrying to the one who passed. I often wonder what Zoe would have had to say to Nora if I were to do this? Maybe during my next pregnancy I will give it a try.
7. Do An Act of Kindness
One thing that always helps me feel like I’m spreading Nora’s love is by doing a random act of kindness in her name. This could be one way for you to give forward or back in the name of your child who died in honor of Pregnancy, Infant, and Child Loss Awareness month. It could be something that you could incorporate into the family tradition for all your other children to learn about their sibling who died and give back in his or her name.
8. Go to a Remembrance Ceremony/Walk
Community is important to find. One way to share in a community celebration of your child’s life is by participating in a remembrance ceremony or walk during the month of October. It’s another great way to bring the family together and remember your baby who died as well as being another opportunity for your children to learn about their sibling. Pregnancy After Loss Support is holding a virtual Wave of Light Remembrance Ceremony this year, so if you don’t have a local event to attend, you can join PALS.
9. Share Your Story
Believe it or not, other people find your story powerful and full of hope. During this month of remembrance and honoring our children who died, consider helping raise awareness by sharing your story. Say the name of your child who died as a way to honor your baby and let others know they are not alone no matter where they are on the journey of life after pregnancy and infant loss.
How do you honor Pregnancy, Infant and Child Loss Awareness Month while pregnant or parenting after a loss?
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