Updated: Oct 24, 2022
There’s a face that people make whenever you mention something that has to do with child loss. It’s difficult to explain, but it’s both distinct and easily recognizable. Regardless of whether we have children ourselves, everyone seems to feel as if there’s something deeply painful and profoundly wrong about the idea that something so tiny and so innocent would have something terrible happen to a baby—either in the womb or in the world.
So when this painful subject somehow comes up in conversation, we make the face. Even worse, we avoid the conversation entirely. It's a topic that causes so much heartache--even in the abstract--that it rarely gets discussed openly. We don't talk about it because we want to be to pretend it doesn't really happen.
And yet, it does. And sadly, it happens a lot. As in 1-out-of-every-4-pregnancies-end-at-some-point a lot. Somewhere, at this point, while you are reading this post, there is a couple receiving the news that the baby they are expecting has no heartbeat. That’s 25% of pregnancies that end in tears of heartache rather than tears of joy. After the loss of a child, there is a lifelong journey of healing for the parents, grandparents, and siblings affected.
This is a reality that we desperately need to be talking more about, which is why days like today are so important. Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, which has been nationally recognized in Canada since 2018. It brings awareness to pregnancy and infant loss and promotes supports for families who have suffered the death of a child during pregnancy, birth, or infancy.
This is why I value the Certified Infant and Pregnancy Loss Doula (IPLD) program that Home Hospice Association offers. IPLDs are trained to help individuals through one of the worst times of their lives. They provide as much support as the parents’ desire, which can include creating a plan for delivery in advance, providing active during delivery, assisting with arrangements after the parents return home from the hospital, and supporting them through the chasm of grief that follows.
When prospective parents learn that their baby has a terminal diagnosis, no heartbeat, or is going to be stillborn, there are a number of things that still need to happen. IPLDs help to empower parents by explaining all of these steps and outlining their choices. Parents don’t know what they don’t know, so having an IPLD journey alongside them at each step to provide knowledge, reassurance, and compassion can help mak the experience less confusing, overwhelming, and traumatic. IPLDs can help parents navigate the funeral process and also suggest meaningful legacy and memorial projects to honour their child.
IPLDs help parents navigate the complicated, and deeply painful process, of saying hello to their child at the same moment that they must also say goodbye.
If you are looking for meaningful ways to support HHA's efforts to provide compassionate care to individuals experiencing infant or pregnancy loss, there are a number of ways you can do so:
First, you can be trained as an IPLD yourself to professionally serve people directly during these dark moments or simply to gain the knowledge that will equip you to be a more knowledgeable, passionate, and loving support for anyone in your personal network who experiences this type of loss. HHA’s next IPLD Certificate Program training weekend is November 4th-6th. You can register to participate here.
Second, if you are exceptionally motivated, you can commit yourself to serving as a leader who will help build the Pre and Perinatal Hospice Program in your own local community. For anyone who is prepared to devote themselves to this effort, HHA scholarships are available to attend IPLD training for free. You can apply for a scholarship here.
Third, individuals and businesses alike can donate to the IPLD scholarship fund to support these individuals in their awareness and community-building efforts. You can donate here. This is a fantastic way to ensure that more individuals are trained to do this critical work and provide much-needed support to bereaved parents in communities across Canada.
If you or anyone you know has suffered the loss of a child, you can also register to participate in one of HHA's Our Babies, Our Grief progressive healing groups where you may find great comfort in new but long-lasting friendships with other parents who all have similar experiences. Here, you will find a space place to share your story and your pain, and find some hope and healing as you grieve.
Cari Ferguson is a grief and death educator. She is also HHA’s Communications Manager and Death Education Coordinator. You can learn more about Cari at www.strongwinds.ca.