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Edited by Cindy Pucci
For most people in the Northeast, October is a time for cool crisp days, hayrides, and pumpkin picking. Many would be surprised that this October also marks the 19th anniversary of President Regan signing a proclamation invoking a national observance of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. The goal of the proclamation is to increase our understanding of what it is like to lose an unborn or newborn baby. The hope was that through this effort there would be help for bereaved parents and their families.
The statistics about miscarriage are staggering. One in five pregnancies end in miscarriage. This equates to over 1 million miscarriages a year in the United States alone. Miscarriage is a real loss: one that needs to be grieved for. Importantly it is a different kind of loss in that there are no memories, no stories to reminisce about or pictures to look at. There is only the loss of potential, the loss of the dreams and hopes of the baby that will never be fulfilled.
While miscarriage is common, it is not commonly discussed. There are many reasons why. Fear of not knowing what to say or saying the wrong thing. Fear of reminding the person of their loss. Feeling uncomfortable discussing a difficult situation.
Laura Racanelli and Sharon Stenger, the founders of OurHopePlace.com, offer help to women who have suffered a miscarriage by opening the door to dialogue, acknowledgement and ultimately healing for women who suffer from miscarriage. OurHopePlace.com is a source that encourages friends to help friends overcome the devastation experienced during this family tragedy. The website offers components which reach out to individual sufferers of miscarriage, as well as to friends, spouses and partners of these women. Racanelli and Stenger are hoping to fill a need in order to provide guidance, confidence and tools as how to best help.
Following their own miscarriages, Racanelli and Stenger found many technical websites, but all the facts left them feeling cold and empty. In addition, they found that very few people knew how to offer comfort while others were scared they might say something wrong. Racanelli & Stenger realized there existed a real need to help women, their families and friends through this trying time. Visitors to OurHopePlace.com can learn and share in miscarriage support methods, which others have employed to start the healing process.
The heart of Our Hope Place is a bracelet of hope. The delicate jade bracelet was inspired by a gift Racanelli, received from her mother after she suffered her miscarriage. According to Racanelli, the bracelet changes meaning and function as you heal. “It ranges from a distraction to a tangible symbol of hope.”
“And the bracelet works”, comments Stenger. “You’ll move on after the miscarriage, go back to work, etc. and the beads on the bracelet become positive thinking beads. I actually found myself playing with them one day and I realized the world had turned back on for me!”
Visitors to OurHopePlace.com are encouraged to customize “Cope and Hope Care Packages” --- with the bracelet and other items designed to console and promote healing. Linda Layne, cultural anthropologist who studies society’s treatment of women who have suffered miscarriage for the past 18 years, states, “Gift giving is a powerful way of offering support. By giving someone who has had a miscarriage a comfort item like those available through OurHopePlace.com, one offers concrete acknowledgment of a painful loss which, more often than not, is ignored or downplayed.”
Our Hope Place offers testimonials from sufferers of miscarriage, and addresses the emotions and situations of those individuals affected by this life altering experience. The company hopes to fill the gap and act as a source of comfort during a difficult time.
Six Pieces of Advice to help: 1) It’s all about your friend. Feeling comfortable talking to your friend about her loss may be difficult for many reasons. Get over it! Your friend needs you. Now is the time to think of her. Even if you get it wrong, she will know you meant well, and will appreciate all you do.
2) Remember there are no magic words that you can say or things to do to comfort your friend. It is OK to convey that you are not sure exactly what to say, but that you are there for her.
3) If you have had a miscarriage, tell your friend at this time. Then let her guide you in the conversation.
4) Do realize that everyone copes with loss, even the same kind of loss, in different ways.
5) Be specific when offering help. Saying, “Let me know what I can do?” is not specific enough. Instead it puts a burden on your friend to contact you. You mean well, but let’s face it, doesn't she have enough to deal with already? Offer assistance with specifications. For instance:
-help around the house (cleaning up, folding laundry, outside chores) -cook (drop off a meal for her and her family) -baby sit -do errands for her
6) Think about what you say before you say it… try Our Hope Place’s “perspective” test before you speak. Try to think of another type of loss and how the following sentences would sound relative to that loss.
"You can always get pregnant again"
You are diminishing this lost pregnancy, this baby and the hope and dreams already formulated for this baby. (Would you say to a friend “You can always get another husband, grandmother, etc.”)
"You have other children, consider yourself lucky" Every child is a blessing and if you were trying for another baby, you were hoping for another baby. (Again, you wouldn’t say, “You have other grandparents, best friends?”)