Baby Loss Awareness Week is held annually from 9 – 15 October. It’s now in its 18th year, and is promoted by over 90 charities. The week helps mark the lives of babies lost in pregnancy or shortly after birth, as well as raising awareness of the issues surrounding infant loss.
What the event also does – and this is so important for those dealing with baby loss – is help to break the silence surrounding it. The vast, overwhelming silence. And that is crucial in helping sufferers.
This year’s event focuses on the theme of isolation, which is obviously more relevant than ever in 2020. More than ever, people are suffering alone because of restrictions and not being able to easily access the usual forms of support or spend time with family and friends.
Online events take place throughout the week, offering information and advice on issues such as mental health, effect on partners, children and the wider family, and how culture and ethnicity can impact on baby loss.
On the last day, 15 October, the annual International Wave of Light takes place. All around the world, people light a candle or candles in memory of the baby or babies they’ve lost. Often these candles are placed in a window and are shared on social media to create a wave of light across the world.
For years I was blissfully unaware of what all the candles represented on 15 October, but a few years ago I became one of the 1 in 4 women who lose a baby during pregnancy or birth. Now I know all too well and I light my own candle, having experienced a miscarriage in between the births of my two children.
Our baby was lost relatively early, 9 weeks into the pregnancy. It’s nothing compared to what many, many people go through, but a loss is still a loss. That baby was very much loved and wanted. We don’t know whether it was a girl or boy, but we remember them, a missing little piece of our family who we never had the chance to get to know, and we’ll never forget.
I’ve always talked openly about my miscarriage, but it certainly wasn’t easy to tell people at the time, particularly as not many people knew I was pregnant. I thought I would wait until the 12-week scan to let people know – “just in case”. In my next pregnancy, I went for two extremes of letting people know: I told my family and close friends straight away, but I didn’t tell my colleagues at work until after 20 weeks.
My point is, there’s no right or wrong way to do any of this. And there’s no right or wrong way to take part in Baby Loss Awareness Week either. If you’ve suffered loss and want to take part in any of the events or the Wave of Light, then you might find it all really helpful. But if you don’t want to take part then that is also ok. Your grief and feelings are your own and you shouldn’t feel any pressure to handle them in a certain way.
If there’s one thing that sufferers should know, it’s that you’re not alone. Not even now in the middle of COVID-19. So many people are dealing with infant loss completely alone, at a time when they are really in need of support – but help is available, and that’s key in the message this week.
It’s vital we continue to talk about this topic, break the silence and get support to those who need it.
To find out more, and if you would like to donate, visit babyloss-awareness.org