Landstuhl Regional Medical Center is slated to host an observance in honor of National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, Oct. 12.
The observance aims to recognize parents and families who have experienced pregnancy loss or infant death and guests who wish to support grieving efforts associated with loss.
Pregnancy and Infant Loss includes miscarriage, stillbirth or death of a newborn. Traditionally, the observance is held on Oct. 15, and a candle is lit for each loss at 7 p.m. around the world symbolizing a wave of light in remembrance.
“It’s something that we hold for families who experienced a perinatal or infant loss or anyone who wants to remember those that have passed,” said Army Cpt. Samantha McCardle-Willcox, a nurse at LRMC’s Labor, Delivery, Recovery and Postpartum Unit. “Some nurses commemorate the observance because they've taken care of these families. I have taken care of these patients personally, so to be able to give back to their memory I think it's quite an honor.”
McCardle-Willcox, who is leading the observance efforts, believes nurses’ roles impact bereaved families beyond coping with grief and loss by helping them remember their children.
“I'm a stranger to these patients and it’s probably one of the most vulnerable and intimate experiences these families go through. To be a small part of it and to do anything at all that can help is a privilege,” said McCardle-Willcox.
With a small team of bereavement-trained nurses, staff members help grieving families by encouraging them to create memories with their child.
“Bereavement is not something everyone has experience with day in and day out so we train staff so they feel prepared and can give adequate care to these families,” explains McCardle-Willcox. “We labor our patients daily, but bereavement care is different. Not just the physical nursing care but also helping them cope through the loss.”
Strategies for remembrance include allowing the family time to bond with their child, dressing the child, family photographs, molds of hands and feet, and snipping a lock of hair, all of which the bereavement team includes in a memento box to be presented to the family later.
For McCardle-Willcox, providing any type of comfort to families during loss means taking care of military families in a different way.
“Being in women’s health, I really take pride in caring for my military peers and spouses. That connection is even more unique to me when experiencing something like loss because we start as strangers, but quickly we see these families as our own,” said McCardle -Willcox.
According to studies by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 10-25 percent of all clinically recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage (under 20 weeks of gestation) with risks intensifying depending on several factors. The annual observance not only remembers the losses but aims to raise awareness of those who have suffered such a loss as well.
The observance will be broadcast live over LRMC’s social media, allowing viewers to join in the ceremony and virtually include their baby’s name to have staff members light candles in remembrance of their loss.