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Sharing Grief

Sarah Slack knows the anguish of losing a child. In November 2000, her baby boy, Jesse, was stillborn. She decided to turn this tragedy into an opportunity to help others, and she established the TEARS Foundation less than two years later.

This world-wide organization and its founder have been recognized with multiple awards, including the Pay It Forward Award and Women Making a Difference in Washington. The foundation does make a difference in the lives of parents who have lost a baby or young child with emotional and financial services. The TEARS Foundation has chapters across the United States around the world.

A Time to Remember and to Grieve

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Thousands of mothers, parents, and families experience the loss of a baby or child; the pain can be devastating. Whether early in pregnancy or after a baby is born, the loss of a child is not something a person forgets.

Lydia Seaboyl Avant of Alabama knows first-hand such upsetting loss. She recently wrote a column in the Tuscaloosa News about her experience and of trying to comfort a friend who also who traveled that difficult journey.

“I’ve had two miscarriages myself, including one where I hemorrhaged so badly that an emergency surgery and blood transfusions saved my life,” she penned. “I know too well what it’s like to plan what life will be like with another child, to dream of decorating another nursery, to think of what you might name the baby; only for things to go very, very wrong. During the last three of my five pregnancies, I had anxiety during each of my ultrasounds, holding my breath until I heard a heartbeat. With pregnancy No. 4 I learned, however, that even when you hear a heartbeat, it doesn’t mean you aren’t going to have a miscarriage anyway.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 24,000 babies are still-born in the U.S. every year. In 2017, approximately 3,600 sudden unexpected infant deaths (such as SIDS) were reported. The Mayo Clinic notes 10 to 20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage; however, the number of miscarriages is likely higher because many often occur before a woman realizes she’s pregnant.

Coping

How does a person deal with infant or pregnancy loss? Staff at the Mayo Clinic advise parents to find support during their grief.  “Acknowledging your baby's death — as well as your lost hopes and dreams for the baby's future — is an important part of the grieving process,” they say. “It can be comforting and therapeutic to connect with other parents who've experienced infant death. Look for support groups or websites devoted to grieving the loss of a baby. Consider professional counseling at any point, especially if you don't feel supported in your grief or you don't notice any improvement within six months.”

That’s where organizations like The TEARS Foundation come in. There is chapter in Wyoming and a Casper connection. Learn more here: https://thetearsfoundation.org/wyoming/.

You may also find support by talking with a pastor or a counselor.

Additionally, an organization in Colorado helps grieving families through photographs. Learn more about this group here: https://www.nowilaymedowntosleep.org/

Psychologists encourage families to accept the need for mourning and understand that grief is a complex process with “no deadline.” They also suggest doing things that let you feel close to the baby, such as visiting your child’s grave and keeping mementos. And don’t forget to practice self-compassion and self-care.

If you’ve experienced pregnancy loss and/or infant death, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. There are many support groups, pastors, counselors, friends, and family available for you. Find more resources to help with your grief here: https://starlegacyfoundation.org/resources/.

Tags: miscarriage, infant loss, pregnancy loss, stillbirth, help with grief due to loss of a baby

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