October 15 is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day in the United States. It’s also International Wave of Light Day. Parents who’ve lost children are encouraged to appropriately and collectively remember these precious lives.
President Ronald Reagan established this day on October 25, 1988 with these words:
“When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them. This month recognizes the loss so many parents experience across the United States and around the world. It is also meant to inform and provide resources for parents who have lost children due to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, stillbirths, birth defects, SIDS, and other causes….”
President Reagan said it well, “there are no words to describe [parents who lose children].”
Once again, I listened to the heartache of a young friend who’d experienced a miscarriage.
Her trying to come to grips with what happened, be strong, and move forward.
Because I am also a member of the Unwanted Sisterhood—those of us who have lost children before we ever got to meet them and hold them in our arms.
This isn’t something you talk about in everyday conversation. How can you? It’s not easily understood and some people become uncomfortable if you do. But it is a real Sisterhood.
Her quietly spoken words tore my heart: “I’m a mom. I don’t have a baby in my arms, but I carried one.”
Yes, she is a mom—with empty arms.
During that conversation, with its tears and sharing, an extraordinary awareness flooded my soul. While this Sisterhood is most certainly unwanted—we wouldn’t choose to be a member—there is a sweet peace when you realize you aren’t going through this alone. There are other sisters who experience the same grief. In fact, according to Hope Exchange, approximately 25% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. If you add the unknown pregnancies (before a positive pregnancy test), the number could be as high as 40%.
When you think about these statistics, every birth becomes a great miracle. Every. Single. One.
A mom with empty arms.
How do you move through this grief and emptiness? How can you rejoice with glowing pregnant moms or those holding a newborn in their arms or chasing their children?
- Find another woman who will walk this path with you. Women who have been there are attune to quiet statements like “I’ve experienced a miscarriage” or to seeing the unshed tears in your eyes while listening to baby stories.
- Tell a close friend when the pain is too much to bear.
- Ask a sister who’s been there to pray with and for you.
- Grieve well.
When you meet a mom with empty arms, how do you walk with her through her grief?
- Listen. Just listen.
- Allow her to cry and cry with her.
- Pray out loud over her.
- Extend grace to grieve her way.
I’m thankful for the women who extended grace to grieve my way. They prayed with and for me. They let my tears flow, comfortable walking with my pain. They understood when it was just too hard that day. And they rejoiced with me when the world was no longer quite so dark and hard — when I could again see the sunshine, inhale deeply the sweet fragrance of a flower, and laugh at the antics of someone else’s child.
If you need help, please reach out. I promise to listen without judgment and help you take the next step.