Appreciating the Value of Public Remembrances
With October being Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, there are typically so many opportunities to take part in public events that have been designed specifically to remember our babies that have been lost in pregnancy or as an infant. Memorials of every type seem to pepper the calendar through the month of October, and then once again in December as the Holidays approach. What is it that makes these events so popular? Why do we, the parents and loved ones of these lost babies, continue to gather each year?
Why aren’t we all “over this” by now?
As we say so often within these online pages; losing a child is not something that you will ever truly “get over”. In this context, to “get over” it means moving past it, being finished in dealing with it. But as anyone who has lost a child in miscarriage, stillbirth, or as an infant knows, deep loss like this does not go away. What does happen, though, is an assimilation of the loss; a blending of this new and changed person in with the one who existed before. This new “you” still wakes up each day with this heavy and painful loss in your heart, but your ability to bear that weight improves as you work through your grief.
Not unlike a physical workout, your ability to cope with your loss becomes less trying as you flex your emotional muscles. If only we could process our loss simply by doing some “reps”. In a very real sense, however, it does matter that you pay attention to your emotions on a regular basis. It will not happen in a few weeks or months, but the effort in doing grief work is never wasted. This is one of the reasons why it is so important for you to take part in public remembrances and memorials.
Sharing your loss with others who are also walking this path is powerful. Listening to poems and stories that were written by bereaved parents can give a voice to feelings you had been unable to articulate. You may hear someone explain, using different words, facets of your grief that you thought were yours alone. Lyrics and melodies that seem to be speaking from your own heart can open your eyes to how widespread and just how common pregnancy and infant loss actually is. It is hard to measure the enormous value in being truly validated in this way.
It is true that taking part in a public memorial event is emotional. Some people fear they will lose control over their tears and begin to just weep openly. I confess to have been one of those people myself – I still mask my fear by making light of the situation, I tend to smile in order to keep the tears at bay. Over the years, I have found memorial services to be both emotionally draining and uplifting all at the same time. They are a solemn reminder of my precious daughter who is gone. They are also a celebration of her short life and the undeniable gifts that came as a result of her life and death.
When I speak about this to those who have not experienced a deep loss, I wonder if they think I have just lost my bearings. I wonder if they think I am finding a way to rationalize and build an elaborate facade around this loss, and my present life. I wonder if, when I come home from a memorial event and just talk about how beautiful it was, if they are nodding their head in agreement while inside they are trying to remember the number for the crisis hotline.
But I know in my heart, and in my head that it is real; there is beauty in remembering. There are good and powerful changes that come from gathering together and mourning publicly. Connections are made, and hearts are touched en masse. Most of all, it is the quiet days and weeks that follow where I am grateful for having spent that time at a memorial service. It is at those times, when I don’t have the benefit of sharing my feelings with someone else that I reflect back upon the stories, the poems, and the lyrics that were shared, and I know. I know deep within my heart that even when I am the only one in the room – I am not alone on this journey.