October 15th may pass by unnoticed for the meaning it holds for many parents, it is a day when we remember and celebrate all the babies who have been lost, born too soon; the babies that we couldn’t bring home, or who didn’t stay as long as we were hoping. Though we have a special day for this, it is a reality lying in the hearts of parents who have experienced this loss every single day.
On a day like today, we need to reflect, as a society, on what it means when these two pathways converge, birth and death.
And how we can hold space for this type of loss.
Just a few weeks ago, we got to see the many ways in which our society reacts to raw openness about loss when well-known model and entrepreneur, Chrissy Teigen, and her husband John Legend shared their experience with loss openly. Many praised them for
their willingness to share so openly, but they unfortunately also had many criticizing them, saying that it should have been kept private, or worse, blaming them.
If you ask parents who have experienced loss, many will say that they want to speak about the child they lost, they want to tell their child’s story, they want to say their name. With 1 in 4 pregnancies ending in a loss, we need to know how to show up and hold space, without judging how someone processes their loss.
It is apparent that we live in a society that does not know how to deal with death, we are removed from death on a daily basis and therefore choose to live ignorantly death-denying. So, when we see some of the worst types of loss, we may shrink away, feeling uncomfortable, not knowing what to say. We do this because death makes us uncomfortable, when in reality it is the most certain thing in life and is ever-present in everything we do. If we could explore our own fear of death, we could perhaps be better able to support those going through loss.
Especially infant loss.
It seems like a loss that is too difficult to hold, yet there are folks walking around with it all around us. This is where our humanity lies: in letting others tell their stories and in holding space for the knowledge of life and death. When we have celebrities opening up about loss, millions of people are given permission to openly share their experience, to feel validated, and to share their own stories in solidarity. If you find yourself feeling judgmental or upset by seeing someone grieving, or their dead infant, on social media, remember: that it is good for us to truly see, it is freeing for those parents to share, and it is the newest way of sharing a deep, human experience.
One that is so old we can feel it in our bones.
We need to embrace these moments, the joy and the suffering. Let parents speak their babies’ names. If it makes you uncomfortable, just explain, do your best, and ask questions.
To all the parents remembering today and every day, the grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings and friends, I light a candle for your babies tonight.
“Some of you say ‘Joy is greater than sorrow’ and others say,
‘Nay, sorrow is greater’ but I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember
that other is asleep upon your bed.”
-Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet