As the CEO of First Candle I speak with hundreds of families who have lost a baby due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), accidental suffocation and stillbirth. Their grief is beyond description. It is all-encompassing and they can’t imagine surviving. I know – I was one of those parents 22 years ago when my son died from SIDS. In addition to me, our Director of Bereavement also lost her son to SIDS on Christmas Eve morning 35 years ago. So trust me when I say we get it.
Infant loss is like no other, but I’ve seen how some people have been able to move forward while others seems to be “stuck” for years if not their entire life.
What’s the secret? Doing something with your grief. Not allowing it to control you.
This doesn’t happen immediately of course. Grief is like major surgery. Your heart’s been shattered after all and it needs time to heal. That requires being good to yourself mentally, spiritually and physically. There will be “relapses” in your grief journey – birthdays, angelversaries and holiday where you’re sucked back into the dark place. But at some point, these become momentary. That is, of course, if you decide that you want to move forward and not wallow in grief.
I can tell when a family is at that point. They come to me and say “I’m ready to do something. I want to raise awareness and make a difference. How can I help?”
And it’s at that moment I know that the person is going to be OK. They want to honor their baby while also helping others. Oftentimes they think it must be something big, but it doesn’t. It can be as easy as hosting a barbeque for friends and family as one family recently did. They got a local deli to donate food and a few stores to donate raffle prizes. People had a great time and the family was able to talk about their daughter and how, through the barbecue, they were able to donate to First Candle and help raise awareness about safe sleep.
Another woman has channeled her grief as a SIDS grandma by volunteering for us and connecting with other SIDS grandparents on our grief support pages. A dad who lost his son 10 years ago is running as part of Team First Candle in the New York City Marathon this year. You can read more about him here.
Whatever moves you – do it! If you’re interested in hosting a fund-raiser, we’re happy to help you set it up. If you would like to be trained as a peer support volunteer let’s talk.