When Amy Brodhagen thinks of her son Owen, there are a rush of memories. She smiles and thinks of the moment she took a positive pregnancy test after almost a year of trying to conceive. Then there’s day she and her husband Rick learned they were having a boy. Amy also recalls the hours before their son’s death, when they made imprints of his feet and hands.
After a normal and uneventful pregnancy, at 26 weeks Amy began to experience preterm labour symptoms. The couple were transferred from their local hospital in Stratford to a London hospital, and then to Toronto. Owen was born at 29 weeks with a condition called pericardial teratoma (a mass on his heart) and had a lengthy stay in the hospital with numerous procedures and surgery. He died in Amy’s arms when he was 109 days old.
“There are significant dates with Owen that we pause, we smile and we cry. But most importantly we remember. Most parents get years with their children and have many opportunities to share stories and memories. Being a bereaved parent is much different. There are only a handful of dates for us so October 15, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, is one for all of us to be able to share our stories and carry on the loving memory of our babies gone far too soon,” says Amy.
Across the world, October 15th is marked with an International Wave of Light, intended to represent a continuous chain of light spanning the globe for 24 hours. To support bereaved families, friends and loved ones can come together light a candle at 7 p.m. Candles burn for an hour, representing the global Wave of Light.
For families, the day of remembrance is both healing and inspirational after losing a pregnancy or having a stillbirth. “Remembering their baby, and the hopes and dreams they had for their child, is such an important step in healing from a loss,” says Michelle LaFontaine, Program Manager, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Network. “The day of remembrance provides a safe space to share their pain, receive support and truly be heard.”
The Pregnancy and Infant Loss Network has some tips for how friends and family can support those who have had a pregnancy loss or stillbirth:
- Attend a remembrance event – Attending and offering a hug can be such an affirmation to families, and shows you care about their well-being and healing.
- Listen to their story – If your friend or loved one wants to talk about their grieving, spend time listening. Just by listening, you acknowledge their pain and grief.
- Ask what is needed – Grief impacts everyone differently. Some families may wish to have their loss acknowledged during holidays, others may prefer to grieve privately which might mean missing family dinners or other gatherings.
Amy is now a peer support volunteer with the PAIL Network, drawing on her own experience to support other women and families who have had a loss. On October 15th, Amy and Rick will gather with friends and family to light candles and remember their son who they call the “biggest little warrior.”
“The love we have for Owen is what got us through all those gruelling days and continues to keep us moving forward,” says Amy.