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Guest Contributor Jeff
It is a day every year that I take time to honor my twins with a lighting of a candle at 7 p.m. I remember them always in my head, but for this day, I light two candles for my remembrance of my boys and a candle for all others who have lost.
As a father, a first-time father at that, the loss was hard and compacted nearly daily after the fact as well. Everyone knew we were expecting a child; most knew it was twins. When we would encounter friends or family, the condolences were given freely, mostly to the twin’s mother. One out of every ten encounters would give me a pat on the shoulder, a hug, or a simple “I’m sorry.” All those times were great, but not the same. I thought maybe it was my circle, but quickly found out it was happening to other fathers as well.
As a result, we clam up, we become numb to things, and we just grow to accept that we are only there physically. To this end, when I finally was able to open up about the experience, I began sharing this freely, especially every year on their birth (and death) day. Sometimes that male gene or brain causes us not to be as open as we should, so seeing others open up about it can help, because there are a lot of us out there that could use some attention and comfort (even if we are highly reluctant to ask for it). The number in this awful club grows every year.
A staggering number of pregnancy and infant loss occurs each year. Approximately 24,000 pregnancies result in stillbirth, about the same amount die within the first year, and about 2,000 pass away due to SIDS. (1)
The loss of life is never an easy thing, especially with ones so small, so beautiful, and so helpless. It haunts your dreams, your thoughts, and impacts you in ways that you will never fully understand. My twins died nearly 11 years ago, it still hurts and affects me, even with prior knowledge that their birth at 25 weeks with them having TTTS (2), that one, though likely both, would die. You are not prepared for it when it happens.
But stepping outside of my circle of pain, I am reminded of the pain that those around us felt as well. The NICU doctors, nurses, and staff become all too familiar with loss. Then there are the friends and family members that have to deal with the hole their friend, brother, sister, mother or father now are experiencing. Many within that circle find it difficult to express ‘proper’ feelings toward the parents. (The use of ‘proper’ here is a word of convenience.)
There are groups out there that attempt to help with those who have suffered loss, with most doing great work in assisting individuals with coping and finding ways to keep to going. Not every location has resources for face-to-face therapy, so sometimes turning to online communities can help.
It is a subject that we all have troubles approaching with ease and comfort, which I am thankful for, as it is not a frequent event as it once was. So tonight, if you know someone that has lost a child, whether during pregnancy or as an infant, give them a quick message of support, light a candle for them and others at 7 p.m., and hug your child a little extra hard tonight.
1. CDC Stats via https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/stillbirth/facts.html
2. TTTS: Twin-to-Twin Syndrome (For more information go to https://www.tttsfoundation.org)