Wednesday, October 8, 2008

October is Infant and Child Death Awareness Month


Seeking to forget makes exile all the longer. 
The secret to redemption lies in remembrance. 

Richard von Weizsäcker

Sadly, about 25,000 babies will die during or prior to birth this year in the U.S. alone. Another 10,000 or so will die during the first few months of life. Thousands more will die during their first year of life in accidents, drownings, and from illnesses. Thousands more toddlers, young children, teens, and young adults will die.

These deaths leave countless families with aching hearts, their lives irreversibly changed, transformed forever. The month of October is a month to pause and remember the precious lives gone too soon, not only in the U.S., but also around the globe where every minute 20 children die from preventable causes such as hunger, pestilence, poverty, and war.  

The effects of a child's death are intergenerational and long-lasting- in particular, the psychosocial tumult can devastate individuals and families. Like a pebble tossed into a still lake, a child's death ripples outward in waves of despair that are often unrecognizably related to the tiny stone. Across cultures and throughout time, the death of a child is recognized as one of life's worst tragedies.

In my many years working with bereaved parents and siblings, I have witnessed these effects. Women in their 70s and 80s hear of my work and seek me. They want to tell me their stories of loss and sorrow. No, they need to tell their stories, for they are still whispering, shamed by the secrecy so common decades ago. They seek redemption. I ask, "What is his name?" and they often look surprised at my asking, follow it with tears, gratitude, a hug. "Thank you. I haven't spoken his name in 37 years." 

One 80 year old woman wrote to me, "My daughter died in 1947...I want to join your group and get her birth certificate and finally remember her so that I can die in peace..." Siblings often recount to me stories of their brother or sister who died 40 or 50 years ago, still anguishing that "my mother was never the same woman after that..."

These deaths change us permanently. It is critically important to understand these experiences, to embrace and support those facing such traumatic losses, and help them find their voices. We need to, as a culture, pause and remember so that families can live their lives out of the closets of shame to which they were once condemned. Meaninglessness leads to purposeless and purposeless to hopelessness. If we can grant the compassion, empathy, and support so desperately needed, the outcomes for the bereaved can provide the underpinnings for a changed world. 

It is my great hope this October that every bereaved family who has experienced the death of a baby or child at any age and from any cause has the loving and compassionate support they so duly deserve. Lend your heart, lend your hand to them, so that one day- when they are ready- they can extend their hand to another. 

In memory of all our children who died too soon...

33 comments:

Mommato6 said...

You are truely an amazing woman! I can feel your heart so deep in all your words.

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...

Thank you Mommato6. Thank you.

Camille said...

Beautifully written. Thank you.

Travelwahine said...

You are absolutey right. Right after Ethan died, I received a lot of well intentioned phrases like, "he's in a better place", "it was God's will", etc. But nothing was more appreciated, than a woman whom I had just met asking me about Ethan's name, his birth story, my pregnancy experience with him. That was the most comforting.

Just being able to talk about him, to acknowledge that he was real, a real baby. Not just a casualty of a pregnancy gone awry.

Noël said...

I just can't resist any longer. Who is the artist responsible for the main drawing at the top of your blog? And the painting on this entry? They are very powerful & I have tried to search them with no result.
Thank you for your time...you must not have a lot of it.

Lilly's Life said...

That post was so beautifully written and touched me so. I believe too. Found your site through SITS.

Preston said...

What a heartfelt post! You write with such compassion in your words. My co-worker Erin last a baby and she dedicated a portion of her blog to the experience. If anyone is reading this, go visit her at Laughts and Rants from My Inner Child aka http://erinblackwell.com. To read her story, click the link named "miscarriage."

KDLOST said...

Thinking of you! Thanks for raising awareness, too...

Take care!

Meaghan said...

Thank you for doing this! You inspire, change and heal more lives than you will ever know!

-Meaghan
www.cancerlost.blogspot.com

Anna Lefler said...

What a thoughtful, beautiful and intelligent site.

Thank you for providing this...

:^) Anna

Gaspegirl said...

Thank you for sharing this entry with us... beautifully written and fully appreciated. (((hugs)))

Honey Mommy said...

What a great post!
Thanks.

jenn3 said...

This is a beautiful post. I can't even imagine losing a child, and I'm grateful that there are people out there that are helping those who are dealing with it.

Marrdy said...

What a great post. Thank you for sharing.

Brooke said...

Great post. I am here from SITS. I am not a mother yet but this day and the blogs I have read have made me more aware. Thanks!

Melissa Lester said...

What a beautiful post. I have a friend who lost her unborn baby last week. I have a fluffy white robe for her, hoping it will help her feel wrapped in a warm hug when she needs it. Your words have inspired me to get a gift basket together for her today, and deliver it with a hug!

RobynsOnlineWorld said...

I'm not really sure what to say, but I wanted to say that I was here, and I read and absorbed, and now I am sitting here thinking of those I know who have lost - still unsure what to do - but more aware at least.

Jen said...

That was so beautiful & the song that played..Oh it just put the candle on the cake. I just cried my eyes out. (beauty from pain)

I have lost 5 babies, my last set of twin girls in July this year. My wounds are fresh & I am having a harder time than ever this year.

I am saving your blog. I want to read more but right now, I can't.

prayers for you today.

Annikke said...

That is a beautiful post. I delivered a stillborn 5 years ago but can recount the details as if it were just yesterday..or even just this morning!

Avery Tales said...

Thank you for your words. Thank you for helping families like my own. It means so much just to have someone who will listen to our story. Thank you.

Laura Ingalls Gunn said...

Thank you for this post.

Be well and be blessed.

Carrie said...

Beautiful post. My heart aches deeply for all those who have lost their children.

Came over from SITS.

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...

Thank you all for your kind responses and loving support. It means so much to the many families who visit this blog, and who have, tragically, been touched by a child's death...

Suzana said...

Beautiful post! Found your site at SITS.

My blogs at http://www.firefly-shop.org/

Jen - Queen of Poo said...

Thank you for helping, by making more aware, those of us who are friends to families who've lost children.

(here via SITS)

Erin said...

I found you through SITS this morning and I'm so glad to have found you. What a beautiful blog and I thank you for sharing your experiences with us all.
HUGS!

Lavender n Lattés said...

Thank you for sharing this with us.

Lavender n Lattés said...

Thank you for sharing this with us.

Truth4thejourney said...

This was a beautiful and insightful post. Thank you for sharing this with all who will read.

I'm stopping by from SITS.
Sonya

Lori said...

I'm always moved when I hear of older women still silently remembering their lost little ones. For me it dispels the notion that there was a time when infant death was so common it carried less impact. I can't imagine there was ever a time when a mother didn't feel as though a piece of her heart had been ripped from her body knowing that her baby had died. Perhaps they were shamed into silence but I don't doubt for a minute that their hearts ever forgot.

Thank you for this lovely post and for all you have done to raise awareness.

ParentingPink said...

Thank you for this wonderfully written, thoughtful post. A few weeks ago, one of our relatives had a stillbirth. Thank you for remembering those little lives that were so brief, yet every bit as deserving.

mrsmouthy said...

Thank you for what you are doing with your research and with your website. We lost a baby to Trisomy 13 last year and while it was the hardest thing I've ever been through my husband and I both agree that our lives are so much richer because of Angelo. Nothing turns a person's world upside-down like the death of a baby.

TMI said...

The picture and quote are so lovely. God bless you for celebrating the life of your children who walk and commemorating your child who soars. Thank you for your courage, strength, and example!

Becoming...

""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""
The soul still sings in the darkness telling of the beauty she found there; and daring us not to think that because she passed through such tortures of anguish, doubt, dread, and horror, as has been said, she ran any the more danger of being lost in the night. Nay, in the darkness did she, rather, find herself.

--St. John, Dark Night of the Soul


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