A Day of Remembrance

When people hear my story of infertility, miscarriage, and involuntary childlessness, one common question asked is how they can help a friend, loved one, or co-worker who has experienced a similar loss.

In 1988, United States President Ronald Reagan proclaimed October 1988 as “Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.”

The observation continues to this day with October 15th as a focused day of remembrance (october15th.com). Many groups and people hold events all through the month of October as well.

Women who lose a child through miscarriage, stillbirth, infant loss, etc. are often at a loss as to how to mark and memorialize the significant event of their loss. The loss can be so painful and deep there is, more often than not, great isolation in their grief.

I drove through a railroad crossing the other day and as I reflect on the cautions of railroad crossings, I believe there are similar ways we can cross over and reach out to those in the pain of pregnancy and child loss.

As we prepare to greet October 15th, please consider the following actions to help a friend, family member, co-worker, or member of your community. Your thoughtful gesture and presence can be meaningful and comforting to those in the midst of infertility, grief, and lingering loss.

Approach with great care

When we see the railroad crossing sign, our first action should be to slow down and approach the crossing with great care. Look and listen.

Reaching out to a person in need is similar. Keep it simple and be prepared. Offer a kind greeting of support and a warm hug when appropriate.

Stop when you see the sign

One should always stop at the crossing sign especially if the red lights are blinking or the crossing arms are down.

Be alert and pay attention during interactions with those who are grieving.

Any signs of defensiveness or anger are best met with compassion and kindness.

Look both ways before driving across the tracks

Just as you should be aware of your surroundings when crossing railroad tracks, pay attention to the needs of your friend or family member in the midst of infertility and loss. Consider their situation – what is something practical you can do for them?

Women who have experienced a pregnancy loss, miscarriage, stillbirth, or adult child loss will have a range of emotions for a very long time.

Approach them and invite them to participate in life with you. Don’t be offended if they say no.

Keep asking in a patient way and offer presence and activity.

Assure them they are not alone.

Deliver dinner to them – show up, be ready to listen, sit in companionable silence, read, watch a funny movie. Be mindful and aware of their needs and act accordingly.

Glance in your rearview mirror

Reflect on your time with them and remember to check in often.

Follow up with a note containing a simple message of “I’m thinking of you” and put a date on your calendar to follow up with a text to ask about another time to visit. Eventually offer to go on a walk, exercise, spa, or out for coffee.

Our social norm does not provide a thoroughfare for those who long to be a mom or for those moms who have lost a child. Your approach, care, and presence will go a long way toward assuring them they are not alone.

May I ask a favor?

Let’s make a conscious effort this month to use the railroad crossings we encounter as a reminder to cross over into the space of someone we know who has suffered a pregnancy loss, miscarriage, stillbirth, or adult child loss. It can be as simple as a quick text to let them know we care.

(If you are in the midst of infertility or loss, will you share a way in which someone has shown you care and compassion? You are thought of and prayed for this month. You are not alone.)