Local organizations come together to offer support and help break stigma around subject of pregnancy and infant loss
Tim Brody - Editor
“Oftentimes it’s a silent grief. Oftentimes something that isn’t discussed in circles. So, it’s a time to support moms, to support birthing parents, as well as families in their grief and hopefully start something here in Sioux Lookout that can continue in the future,” shared PAIL Network volunteer and Northwestern Health Unit employee Twylla Penner.
This year, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day was observed on Oct. 15 and locally, the Northwestern Health Unit, Sunset Women’s Aboriginal Circle, the Ontario Native Women’s Association, the Nishnawbe-Gamik Friendship Centre, and a local volunteer from the PAIL Network collaborated to host an informal event at Cedar Bay, creating an environment of serenity where individuals felt comfortable to honour the day how they choose.
The day included a ‘come and go’ awareness walk along the Cedar Bay trail, with information regarding loss, smudging kits and memory items to take home available at the trail head in the parking lot.
“Along the path we’ve hung resources and poems and quotes and resources for grandparents, co-workers, employers, of ways that they can support families,” Penner shared.
The collaborating groups made information and resources pertaining to pregnancy and infant loss, candles to take for home for a Wave of Light in the evening, Smudge kits and purple butterfly beading available.
Specially painted stones adorned with butterflies were also available for people to take home.
“Those are really special. A local parent who is grieving a loss donated those,” Penner said, adding, “I think a butterfly is just something that is beautiful and calming and a very peaceful animal.”
Visitors were also invited to write a date or name in the sand down at the beach.
“As many as one in five pregnancies end in miscarriage, and each year in Canada there are approximately six stillborn infants in 1000 total births,” according to the Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) Network’s website (https://pailnetwork.sunnybrook.ca/).
Rosalyn Sanchez, ONWA Indigenous Healthy Babies/ Healthy Children worker, shared, “I learned about PAIL this year through my position at ONWA; when the NWHU reached out regarding their upcoming event, I felt it important to help spread the message that programs like this exist and support the NWHU in this. I also think it is very important to spread awareness on pregnancy and infant loss, as it is more common than many of us realize. Doing so helps break down the stigma, and let’s families know there is support in Sioux Lookout if they are going through this unfortunate loss in their life. For this year’s event, I was able to contribute twenty purple butterfly beading kits, a mindful activity to do, and a way to start a conversation about PAIL. In addition, Treena (Ashmugeesha) and I started Little Spirit Bundles within our organizations and felt that Oct 15th was a good day to promote that within the community. This initiative is open for all families in the community of Sioux Lookout that have been affected by pregnancy and infant loss to help honour the sweet souls they will never forget.”
Treena Ashmugeesha, SWAC Prenatal & Postnatal Support Worker, said, “Pregnancy and Infant loss day is something that we have honoured in many different ways over the years at SWAC, lots of smaller events amongst ourselves. This was the first year that I joined up with NWHU as they had reached out. I thought it was a beautiful way for families to take some time to acknowledge their loss, the grief they feel and honour their babies. I loved that it was all day long and families could go when they were ready, when they had the time and were welcome to go alone or with their families - it was very open and relaxed, which is so important for things like this. The weather was a little chilly, but regardless, it is always healing when you are outside in nature and that is exactly what is needed when you are dealing with loss.”
She added, “I contributed traditional smudge kits for people to take if needed or desired along with some bus passes to help people who maybe wanted to attend but didn’t have transportation to get there. To expand a little on Rosalyn’s comment about the Little Spirit Bundles - it is a care package that we put together from both of our organizations for women/families who have recently experienced a miscarriage or infant loss. We want our community members to know that they are not alone. It has been a touchy, almost taboo subject for such a long time. We want to help open the dialogue and let people know that it is ok, it is normal to feel hurt and grief over these very real losses and we want to show our support by providing these little packages and continuing with annual events to recognize them.”
“It’s good that we can start this year and hopefully we can continue and keep it simple and serene in the coming years and something that can continue in our community,” Penner shared, adding, “I’m thankful there’s organizations that can help support people in their grief.”
For those grieving the loss of a pregnancy or infant, Penner said, “There’s resources at the hospital, in both maternity as well as the integrated pre-natal program, the Hugh Allen Clinic has resources, the Northwestern Health Unit, SWAC has it, and also they can look online – PAIL Network has resources as well.”