Precious lives that were lost too soon will be remembered in a wave of candle light across the world on Sunday.
Babies who died in early infancy, during birth, or before they were born will be honored by bereaved parents, families and local communities marking International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.
Whether you are grieving the loss of your own child or supporting a family you know, at 7pm local time on October 15, 2017, you’re invited to take part in an ‘international wave of light’ to reflect the tiny babies who died too soon.
Wherever they are in the world, those taking part are asked to light a candle and leave it burning for at least an hour, in an act of remembrance. International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day will also be marked in some towns and cities, with landmark buildings set to be illuminated in pink and blue light.
Unite in digital #Wave of Light
Supporters can also join in a digital Wave of Light by taking a photo of their candle and posting it on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #WaveofLight.
“We are asking everyone, in all time zones, worldwide, to join us in a candle-lighting ceremony,” says Robyn Bear, the founder of www.october15.com and Remembering Our Babies, the campaign marking International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.
She describes it as a day to reflect on the loss and also embrace the love felt for every much-loved and anticipated baby that has died.
“While our babies’ lives were brief, they were so very meaningful,” she says, explaining why she believes everyone should light a candle for them on October 15.
“Yet there was not a time to talk about them. Our society seemed to forget, or perhaps didn’t know how, to reach out.”
President Ronald Reagan first announced October as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month in 1988, saying: “[It] offers us the opportunity to increase our understanding of the great tragedy involved in the deaths of unborn and newborn babies.
“It also enables us to consider how, as individuals and communities, we can meet the needs of bereaved parents and family members and work to prevent causes of these problems.”
Talking and remembering
Thirty years on, though, many parents who lose a child through miscarriage, stillbirth, or shortly after birth say their grief can still be overlooked or hidden.
Writing on Glow in the Woods Eliza, whose prematurely-born son, Gabriel, died, wrote: “I rather think it’s a lifelong struggle to remind others that I have a son, that he mattered and continues to matter.”
Robyn says she designated October 15, right in the middle of International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month, as a special way to reach out to families grieving in silence.
Around 25,000 babies are stillborn every year according to the American Pregnancy Association, with up to a quarter of ‘clinically recognized’ pregnancies ending in miscarriage. According to figures for 2014, more than 23,000 newborn and premature babies a year die in the U.S., with charities and research projects working to understand and prevent infant deaths.
Yet many parents who lose a child during pregnancy or shortly after birth say their grief can seem invisible to others.
“One of the main things people tell me they find really hard to cope with, is how no one talks about their loved one anymore,” says psychotherapist and bereavement counselor Annie Broadbent, who adds that the bereaved really need our support in the months after the shock of a death and funeral have passed, when it’s too-often simply assumed that someone is coping.”
Supporting bereaved parents
“If you know someone who has lost a child, and you’re afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died–you’re not reminding them,” Elizabeth Edwards on Canada’s International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day campaign website reassures those afraid of saying the ‘wrong’ thing.
“They didn’t forget they died. What you’re reminding them of is that you remembered that they lived, and that is a great gift.”
Some people put aside the anniversary of someone’s death, their birthday, or another significant date as an annual time for remembrance and reflection. Called an angelversary by some, this can be an occasion for private contemplation, or acknowledgment and conversation in the company of others. It’s a time to keep memories alive and reflect on a loss that never heals, but around which life grows around.
“Our goal is to help others relate to our loss,” says Robyn Bear, who invites everyone to join her in lighting a candle in remembrance of those precious lives on Sunday evening.
Supporters should look out for #WaveofLight on social media.
- If you are supporting a family member or friend through bereavement after pregnancy-loss or baby-loss, you may find the resources on our bereavement support section helpful.