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The loss of a child is one of the most painful tragedies a family can endure. And unfortunately, this heartbreaking experience occurs more often than imagined.
Approximately 15-25 per cent of Canadian families have lost an infant or have had a miscarriage, and unless you've been through a similar experience, it can be hard to understand what it might be like.
Ahead of World Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, which is marked on Oct. 15, Yahoo Canada spoke to fertility expert Emily Getz, founder of Day 1 Fertility and an advocate for Fertility Matters Canada (FMC), about how to best support those mourning the loss of a pregnancy or death of an infant.
What might cause a miscarriage or the loss of an infant?
According to Getz, one in four people miscarry, while six million Canadians are currently going through infertility in general.
Despite this exceedingly high number, Getz says there’s no overarching reason that causes a miscarriage or the loss of an infant.
"There'a a gamut of things that can cause a loss. But mostly, we don't know. It could be a genetic thing. I’d say the most common reason in the first trimester for a miscarriage is that the chromosome of the embryo is incorrect," Getz explained.
"When we talk about loss, we talk about life. And life doesn't have all the answers."Emily Getz
However, when it comes to infants, there could be more at play.
"When we get into infant loss, there’s genetics, random incurrences, and things that ultrasounds don’t catch...but when we talk about loss, we talk about life. And life doesn't have all the answers," Getz says. "And that's what makes the grief so heavy, because you're so blindsided by it and you're not expecting it."
"However, there's connection made in the losses. There's always a place in your losses and a meaning to them that is hard to see in the moment," she added. "So stay the course."
How do I support someone who's had a miscarriage or lost an infant?
When supporting someone who’s lost an infant or had a miscarriage, Getz says that "it depends on how fresh the loss is." However, no matter the time, her message is the same.
"It doesn't have to be complicated or deep. A simple check-in goes far. People might be OK on the outside, but in reality they aren’t. They want support," she says.
To start, Getz suggests putting an alert on your phone to check in on loved ones once a week. If you want to go farther, she recommends checking in on the due date the baby was supposed to be born.
"It doesn't have to be complicated or deep. A simple check-in goes far."Emily Getz
"You can also send flowers, or help take their mind off things by getting them out. It seems simple, but it means a lot," Getz added. "You are inviting yourself as someone who’s interested and here to talk about it if they need."
Additionally, if you’re questioning asking someone about their loss, Getz urges people to "just go for it."
"Acknowledging them and their loss will never upset somebody," she says.
What shouldn't I say to someone dealing with loss?
While there are plenty of ways to support someone who’s dealing with pregnancy or infant loss, there are also things Getz recommends you don’t say.
Specifically, anything acknowledging the fact that someone doesn’t have a child, or doesn’t have enough children, is "a big no-no."
"Never say things like ‘at least you got pregnant,’ ‘you can just do it again,’ or ‘just relax and it will happen,’" Getz explains. "Unless you've gone through a loss, you shouldn't be assuming anything."
"My advice for someone experiencing loss is to give yourself the time to grieve."Emily Getz
Further, Getz suggests refraining from asking them if they’ve tried certain kinds of treatment or thought of adoption, because "they have probably already thought of these things."
"Actually, I wouldn’t say anything at all unless you are going to say something in support and you know the person's circumstances," she added.
Advice for dealing with pregnancy or infant loss
As humans, we want to rush and keep moving forward. However, when dealing with pregnancy loss or the loss of an infant, Getz recommends taking a step back.
"My advice for someone experiencing loss is to give yourself the time to grieve. Physically you might have lost the child, but emotionally you need to honour what’s happened and not bypass it in order to move forward," she says. "Don't be scared to cry."
"Don't let your loved ones be heartbroken that you aren't there to support them."Emily Getz
"There’s so much fear that it's never going to happen, and it’s never a good thing to make decisions from fear," Getz added. "Get the support you need, whether it be therapy, coaching, or surrounding yourself with people who are a safe space for you. You don't need to do this alone."
On the other hand, when supporting someone dealing with loss, it’s important to make your presence known.
"Don't be afraid to be a support. The journey comes with heartbreak. Don't let your loved ones be heartbroken that you aren't there to support them. Don't let you not supporting them add to their heartbreak," Getz shares.
How can I further educate myself on pregnancy and infant loss?
To further support and educate yourself on this topic, Getz suggests checking out Fertility Matters Canada (FMC).
"They’re an amazing resource and the largest Canadian charity and they are pumping out educational content on this topic," she says.
Moreover, consider going directly to the source.
"Don't be afraid to ask people in your life who have experienced this type of loss if they are open to discussing it. Don't be scared to acknowledge that you want to understand more about pregnancy and infant loss, as it’s is a powerful way to support and get educated," Getz explains.
This weekend, FMC is having a six kilometre run, which is intended to raise funds and awareness about pregnancy and infant loss. The run, which is both nation-wide virtual, takes place between October 15-16.
"Don't be afraid to ask people in your life who have experienced this type of loss if they are open to discussing it."Emily Getz
Participants can choose a date, time and location that works for them on the FMC website, and then gather friends, families and co-workers to walk, run, or even bike together.
"The run is so important to raise awareness and a super tangible way to share your support. When you don't know what to do to support someone going through this, donate or support by participating in this event," Getz adds. "The proceeds go directly to FMC's access and advocacy programs…We can't give people support unless there's more awareness."
Getz it also offering a free virtual workshop on November 2. She will speak about infertility, loss, and how to not fall victim to your infertility.