October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and a local group is providing peer support for those who have experienced these heart-wrenching tragedies.
“For those who know the pain of pregnancy and infant loss: your experience and your grief are significant,” says Brenda Bartos, volunteer facilitator and organizer for Caring Beyond in Airdrie.
“There are so many of us who know that pain intimately, and sometimes it really helps to know that you are not alone.”
In Canada, one in four pregnancies results in pregnancy or infant loss.
“This month is also an important time to raise awareness of how common the experience is and acknowledge how painful the loss and subsequent grief can be,” says Bartos, who has experienced two miscarriages.
“It is a valuable time to decrease the stigma associated with pregnancy loss: this is not a grief that needs to be hidden or suffered silently.”
The Caring Beyond meetings are open to parents who have lost babies due to miscarriage, stillbirth, ectopic pregnancy, termination due to poor prenatal diagnosis, neonatal death, etc. All of the facilitators are Alberta Health Services volunteers and have experienced pregnancy and infant loss themselves.
Caring Beyond has been in operation in Airdrie since June 2019 and meets on the third Wednesday of every month.
Prior to the pandemic, they met at DayBreak Community Church and now meet virtually.
The meetings generally have between five and 10 attendees and involve an opportunity to share experiences and learn about or discuss a specific topic. Topics in the past have ranged from navigating life after loss (including parenting), trying to conceive after loss, navigating conversations about loss, grief and the holidays.
“It is not uncommon to have someone attending who experienced the loss of their child that very month,” says Bartos.
“It feels very valuable to provide a gentle space for that person to share (or just listen and be supported) when their grief is so raw and new.”
She adds that many people are also dealing with secondary losses and pain associated with their experience. These often include the responses of friends or family who may not acknowledge the loss as significant or are quick to attribute their own meaning or timeline to the grieving and mourning experience.
“As a group, we recognize that there is no ‘getting over’ the babies we have lost… we are forever changed by the experience,” adds Bartos.
“We want to honour their memory and find safety to grieve and re-build, in community.”
She says they also have members whose loss occurred years prior, and there is beauty in drawing on the experiences of others who have walked the difficult road of continuing life after loss.
For more information, visit the Caring Beyond Facebook page.