Today I'm celebrating a life and honouring loss ...

1:53 AM



... You see, I can do both.

Today two years ago an unforgettable, irreplaceable joy entered my life.

15 October was my daughter's due date and, as is quite rare, it was the day of her actual birth as well (babies don't usually pay much attention to doctor's scientifically calculated predictions).

15 October is also a momentous day - but not - for other families around the world for reasons that aren't as joyous. Yet, their babies are no less unforgettable or irreplaceable.

Today is International Baby Loss Awareness Day. This is a day for us to recognise the many families that go through the tragic loss of a child. If we don't, we risk isolating people just like us who have actually lived through what most people would consider their worst nightmare.

We don't have to be scared. Millions and millions of healthy babies are born every day. Facing tragedy does not mean it is any more or less likely for it to happen to us.

It doesn't take anything away from my cheeky, irrepressable mite for me to do this. It does not in any way threaten her present or future happiness or health for me to openly acknowledge that there are many people that I speak to, work with, tweet with, pass on the street or know by seven degrees of separation, that have tragically lost children - either before they were born or after.

It's been an interesting education for me these past few months. Through my short time volunteering with the not-for-profit Australian Community of Child Photographers and my limited experience, I have come to see that the grief that follows the loss of a child is engulfing but it can also be very isolating. Avoiding the subject does not make it go away and by simply acknowledging the little boy or girl, others can help a family immensely.

I recently spoke to Martine Oglethorpe, a fellow ACOCP member. Martine lost her baby daughter, Ava at five months. She told me that she believes the wider community finds it very difficult to openly address the loss of a child (I can totally relate; I have found both writing and reading through this post utterly intimidating should I say the wrong thing and upset anyone). We find it difficult to know what to say or what to do, so we often tend to say nothing or stay away - particularly after the funeral. The process goes on for a long time and support is needed over the long haul and not just the first weeks.

So, what should we do? Listening is the key. Parents often want to tell us the stories of their children. We don’t have to say much.

It’s understandable that people feel at a loss of what to say or do – for a long time, death has been a taboo subject in our society. It’s not something people discuss, so it's not surprising we feel uncomfortable and terrified of causing greater upset.

The Role of Photography in the Grieving Process

I had a chat with the president of the ACOCP, Jessie Broome and she explained to me the important role the photography plays, “The most heartbreaking thing in the world is losing a child. As a parent, we look forward to watching our child grow, finding out who they are and watching them develop. We fill boxes with drawings and paintings and reports and photos. When you lose a baby, you also lose a lifetime of memories."

That is where the ACOCP comes in.

"In some situations, when facing the imminent death of a child, parents are encouraged to take time with their little one. They are given a fleeting opportunity to try to create a lifetime of memories within a small space of time. They are encouraged to bond with their child, to hold them, to sing to them. To take their footprints, a lock of their hair and as many photos as possible. The ACOCP captures many beautiful, professional-quality, images in the most loving and sensitive way, so that parents have something that they can share with family and friends, something to treasure and remember always."

Martine agrees, “Nothing will ever take away the pain of losing a child but having photos is so important not only for comfort but to help keep their memory alive, particularly for other siblings who would otherwise not remember.

“It is hard for people to know what to say but I know for myself that I much prefer people to continue to acknowledge Ava and include her as part of our family. I have a canvas photo of her beautiful smiling face hanging on our wall and I too was wary of how people would react but mostly they just smile back at her and comment on how gorgeous it is.”

Across the world this evening, memorial services, balloon releases and candle lighting take place in honour and as a sign of remembrance for lost children.


About ACOCP
ACOCP is an entirely not-for-profit Australian community organisation giving the gift of photographic memories to children in need and their families. ACOCP works with families who have had a stillbirth, premature baby, infant in the NICU or child with serious or terminal illnesses. Participating photographers are on call 24/7 to go to hospitals or homes all over Australia. The service is entirely free. There is no charge for the photography, prints, beautiful presentation, packaging or delivery.

For more Information

ACOCP

http://www.acocp.org.au/

The Official Site of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day (USA) http://www.october15th.com/

Baby Loss Awareness Campaign (UK)

http://www.babyloss-awareness.org/

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