On October 25, 1988, President Reagan proclaimed October as national pregnancy and infant loss awareness month and stated the following:
“When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them. This month recognizes the loss so many parents experience across the United States and around the world. It is also meant to inform and provide resources for parents who have lost children due to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, stillbirths, birth defects, SIDS, and other causes.” – President Reagan
Moms and dads all over the world come together to celebrate and remember their child’s life that was lost way too soon. I know this because I have lost a child, an infant. When someone learns this about me they seem to assume that my child was taken from me through a miscarriage or SIDS and seemed to be shocked to find out that my child was taken by a less common way – a car crash.
You see, child loss awareness is not inclusive enough to those of us outside of the scope of miscarriage and SIDS related deaths. Not to diminish the tragedy of these misfortunes but what about the moms like me who have lost their child through a traumatic accident, or an older mom who lost her adult son, or a father who lost his little girl to cancer, or a couple losing their son to an accident while on a family vacation? Since 2013, when I lost my son, every year I observe events and remembrance efforts that relate to child loss and it is almost always marketed toward miscarriage/SIDS. I recall sitting in a grief support group for those who have lost children and every person in the room was affected by these tragedies and I felt left out because of my story not fitting the narrative that seems to ignore the fact that infants and older children do in fact pass away from accidents, terminal illnesses, abuse, suicide and murder. I often wonder why there isn’t a national awareness day for simply child loss, because the truth is the pain is all the same no matter what the cause of death.
The normalization of child loss is not ideal nor is it something comforting to think about, however when will this tremendous loss be looked at through a broader lens? Why not change October to Child Loss Awareness Month without excluding those who have or are experiencing this loss from other causes or ages? Unless you have lost a child, you might not have noticed that the greeting card sections at stores have very little cards in the sympathy sections that are for grieving parents. You may have tried finding one and notice that there are two cards on the bottom right corner of the aisle hidden behind a display stand of lively graduation teddy bears. Perhaps you don’t see any at all but see plenty of cards that say “So Sorry for the Loss of your Mother” or cards specifically aimed toward the loss of a spouse, a grandparent, or sibling. Oh, and let’s not forget the dreadful day of ‘Mother’s Day’ when you are a parent who lost their only child – there are never any cards for that so forget about getting a Mother’s Day card unless your child is alive. I often wonder why this is and I wonder why television, movies, and music rarely talk about child loss. Perhaps child loss isn’t as marketable as other life events or don’t occur as often, therefore companies are unable to make money off of this type of awareness. Even so, it is a terrible trend that needs to be changed.
To all the parents reading this who have lost a child, I ask you this: Wouldn’t it be great to see pre-themed birthday cake designs for celebrating our child’s birthday even after they have passed? Wouldn’t it feel comforting to see more jewelry lines that offered memorial necklaces and charms? Wouldn’t it be so great if Mother’s Day was a day for us too? And during Holidays, such as Christmas, wouldn’t it be great if we saw more commercials and advertising geared toward comforting the lonely who should have stacks of presents under the tree for their child, but instead find it empty, with no one to buy for? For some reason society wants us to be silent about our loss, doesn’t think it is necessary to acknowledge our needs of public awareness and make us feel pressured to not bring up our children if they are not breathing.
What are your thoughts? Do you agree with the idea that child loss should be an encouraged and more acknowledged life event? Let me know in the comments below.
In Loving Memory: Jaxon Alexander Kelley – April 14, 2013 – June 1, 2013.