October is our month. Ours and our babies'. The time when we can say our babies' names and talk about their lives.
So...what do you do when October is over? When the hype starts to fade and the world gets back to normal? When the pink and blue ribbons change back to regular profile pictures, and your Facebook newsfeed is focused on the election, Thanksgiving, and Christmas instead of babies in Heaven?
First, take a second to recognize what October gave you.
A community - As in the days immediately after your loss, you probably met people in October who you had no idea had had a loss. Or you realized suddenly how large this community of babyloss parents are, and that you are not alone. That is incredibly comforting.
Understanding - As Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness spreads, understanding from the non-babyloss community grows, and suddenly it seems to be less important to them how far along you were, only that you lost a child and for this month, they understand how devastating a loss that is.
A voice - October is a month when you can say your baby's name and feel like everyone is okay with it. For a parent who doesn't use that name on a regular basis, to call to dinner, or to love on, or even to scold, saying our babies' names is a gift. It is also a month when you can make your voice heard, raising awareness of just how many people loss impacts in our world, and making it better for future bereaved parents.
So now that October is winding down, you can start making a plan on where to find those same things the other eleven months of the year:
A community - The community is still out there. You can find amazing support groups online, whether through Facebook or online ministries such as Hannah's Prayer, Mommies with Hope, Sufficient Grace, MEND, and others. But you can also find support in your community. If you live in South Carolina, especially the Midlands, you can find a whole list of support groups on the Naomi's Circle website. You can also find groups through www.october15th.com and www.nationalshare.org. You can also contribute to the babyloss community by getting involved with ministries that make things for parents (like the Naomi's Circle Mommy to Mommy Outreach) and by attending a support group, even when you feel like you are doing okay, to reach out to parents new to this journey.
Understanding - The friends who showed new understanding for your loss and your grief aren't going away. Make note of who they are and don't stop reaching out to them. We often say that if you haven't walked the road, you just can't understand, and that is true, somewhat - they can't understand fully. But they can understand sadness, and fear, and loneliness, and most of our friends and family want to help. Give them a chance.
A voice - If you have gained strength and comfort by speaking your child's name and raising awareness, it doesn't have to stop on November 1. It may be a little more challenging, but it's not impossible. A while ago, I made it a personal goal to make pregnancy loss something that our local media would talk about at least every October. In 2012, a local parenting magazine, Palmetto Parent, ran a wonderful article about pregnancy loss, and then a local Christian magazine, Reach Out Columbia, ran a great article the following year. This year, I had kind of given up on the idea, and then one of our city councilwomen, spurred on by her loss, began making connections for us with our local news stations, and suddenly pregnancy loss was a very important topic locally.
What I learned from each of these experiences is that some forms of media, like magazines, make their plans months out. Other forms, like local news shows, plan days or even hours out. But what is the same about each one is that it takes someone in the community who is passionate about talking about loss to get someone in the media to listen and care enough to get it out there. You can be that person. Awareness can also be raised, though, through a personal blog like this one, through your Facebook page, by wearing memorial jewelry that opens the door to talk about it. As you do try to raise awareness, keep in mind the goal of doing that - for me, it is always to help other parents know that they are not alone, and that they and their babies matter, to their communities and especially to God. Because when you know that, the future doesn't look so bleak.
One final thing to keep in mind if you, like me, are the type to throw yourself into the activity of making a difference. Activity is not a substitute for grief. Especially if your loss has been in the last year, you still need your own time to grieve the loss of your child, to adjust to your new normal, to figure out how you will get through this yourself, as a couple, and as a family. Don't get so busy that you don't have the time you need to invest in your relationships here on earth and with God. I have "been there, done that", and can promise that your efforts to help others in the future will go a lot farther if you take the time to take care of your own needs and that of your family.
October for babyloss parents can be wonderful, overwhelming, comforting, and inspiring. Now make a plan to take that into the rest of the year, to help you in your journey of healing after loss, and to help others in theirs.