Child and Infant Memorials
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Helping Overcome A Special Type Of Grief
Child and infant memorials play a huge, but often unrecognized, role in our society, helping to ease the pain of the parents of nearly 1 million babies who die before, or just after, birth each year in the United States. Some studies show that about 16 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriages or still births today, and, because these lives are so short-lived, society often encourages parents to try to quickly “get over” their loss. Yet the grief that these parents experience is the same as that of someone who has lost an older child. While society may attempt to trivialize these emotions, child and infant memorials help do the opposite. They are great for helping parents, as one popular website devoted to this topic says, “live with their loss, not ‘get over’ it.”
Memorials to children or infants who died in miscarriage or who were still born are often purchased by the parents themselves as, almost, a secret memorial. Full scale funerals and elaborate memorials are typically not done, and this is, perhaps, because the rest of society has never experienced such a loss, and therefore cannot sympathize with the grieving parents.
But experts point out that the grief of these parents is certainly real and, indeed, a powerful force. Child and infant memorials, therefore, like all memorials, are of utmost importance in these cases.
Many organizations have begun in recent years that aim to help grieving parents build child and infant memorials that will live for eternity. One of the most influential of these is the Kirby Scott Foundation, named in honor of a child who died at birth, whose mission is to help parents pay for headstones and other memorials. The foundation’s website also serves as a sort of clearing house for links to other organizations that give support to parents in other ways.
One such organization has worked since 2001 to have October 15 recognized across the world as Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day. This group of volunteer activists has secured signatures from governors of all 50 US States on resolutions officially marking the day and encouraging residents to burn candles from 7 -8 p.m. that evening. The goal, the website says, is for the world to someday experience a 24 hour wave of light as each time zone burns its candles for an hour. Such an event would certainly draw much-needed attention to the grieving that parents suffer when they lose a child or infant.
Another intriguing project is the Miscarriage & Infant Loss Memorial Book. A group of volunteers in a Catholic parish in England assembled a complete book of memorials that parents have written for their lost children. The group then arranged for the book to be permanently displayed at their church and placed at the altar for each Mass service. This first book was so well received by parents and others in the community that work is now being completed on a second book, and the group hopes to find a similar home for it in a church in the United States. Plans are also already underway for a third book that would be placed in a church in Germany.