In 1988, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed the month of October as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
“When a child loses his parents, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they’re called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them,” said President Reagan. “This month recognizes the loss so many parents experience across the United States and around the world.”
Although this was 27 years ago, the topic still not widely discussed and numerous families grieve in silence. Turlocker Cheryl Fink has made it her personal mission to shine a light on the subject.
“I’ve found that we aren’t talking about this as a society,” Fink said. “It’s a very isolating situation that a family can go through and the Central Valley was a vacuum to any post support in 2004 when I went through my loss.”
Societal norms often put a box, boundaries or guidelines for how people should grieve, but Fink said there’s no right or wrong way for anyone.
“Give yourself time; society sometimes puts a timeline on when we’re supposed to be over things,” Fink said. “When you lose a baby, you’ve also lost a future you had planned. It’s something that you don’t just get over—it’s something that you learn how to move forward from.”
President Regan acknowledged that October shall serve 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.
Helping After Neonatal Death, or HAND, is a resource network of parents, professionals and supportive volunteers that offer a variety of services throughout Northern California and the Central Valley.
“A support group works for some, but not for others,” Fink said. “It’s hard to wrap your head around that kind of a loss—the loss of a baby. Some people need the shock to wear off, some people need support right away, it just depends on what works best for the person. What’s most important, though, is you don’t have to feel alone.”
For more information, or to be in contact with a local support group, visit handonline.org or talk to your physician for recommendations.