An estimated one in four pregnancies ends in loss, yet there is still a taboo around talking about the death of a baby. As a society, we lack rituals and outlets for grieving pregnancy and infant loss.
Many people struggle to understand the depth of grief bereaved parents experience. It’s common not to know what to say and do to support them: Even loved ones may avoid mentioning the baby, which can create a tremendous sense of isolation for the parents and other family members affected by the loss.
Often, the partner who was not carrying the baby feels pressure to be supportive and stoic, at the expense of processing their own grief. Siblings of the baby may need support too ― they may not know how to cope with their feelings, especially when they see their parents are already in distress.
There are many organizations out there for grieving parents (and their loved ones) to find community and access peer and professional support, as well as a place to share their story and commemorate their baby. Below are some groups that Canadians can turn to for support through pregnancy and infant loss.
This is a website where people affected by pregnancy or infant loss can share their stories. Reading about the experiences and emotional responses of others can be a comfort to people going through this and make them feel less alone. Readers are encouraged to respond to posts using “Like,” “Me Too,” or “Hug” buttons in solidarity. This resource is for grieving parents as well as other loved ones indirectly affected by the loss. It also has a resources page and articles to help people navigate challenges such as trying to get pregnant again or making sure fathers are supported through their grief after loss.
Mothering Your Heart
Created by a former doula and midwife on the West Coast of Canada, this website is a place where people who need a roadmap to navigate their grief after pregnancy, infant or child loss can find community and healing. The Mothering Your Heart program is designed to help grieving parents create space for their emotions and make sure they are well supported and taking care of themselves. Subscribers receive monthly packages by email to provide them with advice and guidelines on topics such as meditation, journalling and creating a support network.
Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope
An international resource, this website is a place where parents grieving pregnancy or infant loss are encouraged to share their stories and faces, so they feel less alone and break the taboos around discussing the miscarriage and the death of a baby. People share their stories in written, visual and video forms, and the site has an excellent search function that allows visitors to easily find relatable stories that will bring comfort.
This not-for-profit organization offers support to parents in the form of Bereavement Sharing Rooms, where parents, and also grandparents and children, in the case of infant or child loss, can share their feelings and memories. Baby Steps also has a ProfessionalShare Room, where experts share essays and articles that could be helpful. The online resource also has a place where family members can create and visit memorials, dedicated to their child. And in their Resource Rooms, there are do’s and don’ts for people supporting loved ones after pregnancy, infant or child loss, as well as book recommendations for people of all ages and links to more bereavement organizations geared towards this community.
Pregnancy and Infant Loss Network (PAIL)
Run out of Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Centre, PAIL provides peer support, either one-on-one or in a group format, and holds meetings in communities across Ontario. (During COVID times, offerings may not be in person, but there are online support groups too). Phone counselling is available, and the organization serves both bereaved parents and other adults affected by the loss. PAIL also provides support through post-loss pregnancies, and they hold Family Picnic events. The organization has created a variety of free booklets, available in multiple languages, to help parents with their grief.
Pregnancy and Infant Loss Newfoundland and Labrador
This closed Facebook group provides community and peer support for people who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth or the death of an infant. It is moderated and has community guidelines to ensure it is a compassionate space for parents who want to “talk, share and heal together.”
This Alberta community offers a variety of support groups, healing workshops and retreats (some of which are currently affected by COVID restrictions), for parents who have experienced pregnancy loss or still birth or the loss of a child under the age of 24 months. It provides a place online to memorialize children and sends out quarterly newsletters to subscribers. The resources section is extensive.
Across Quebec, parents grieving pregnancy or infant loss find community through this bilingual organization. As well as supporting grieving parents, they provide resources for loved ones and healthcare professionals. In-person and online peer support breaks parents’ isolation, and an annual Candle Walk provides a space and time for families to commemorate their babies together.
Families in Saskatoon and surrounding areas can find support through this organization that serves people affected by pregnancy loss or the death of a child up to the age of six. They provide many free services, including support groups, grief counselling, help with remembrance photography and creating keepsakes, lactation information, and neonatal end-of-life services.
Gardens of Grace
Created for bereaved parents in Nova Scotia, Gardens of Grace is an advocacy group that raises awareness around prenatal loss and infant and early child death. Its Facebook group is public, so it is not a support group, but it’s an excellent resource for finding community and learning about resources.