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Residents gather to support grieving families on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

Norma Roark (left) and Imogene Dotson (right) proudly hold balloons with their children’s names. Photos by Veronica Burniston.

By Veronica Burniston
Freelance Writer

The 6th Annual Community Memorial Service for Pregnancy and Infant Loss took place in Mountain City, Tennessee, at the Sunset Memorial Park cemetery on Thursday, October 15.Declared a national day of awareness in 2002, the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day (PAILRD) works to support families who lost children during pregnancy, at birth, or in infancy while also drawing awareness to the many stillbirths, miscarriages, and sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUID) devastating families around the world. 

According to data from the CDC, 24,000 babies are stillborn in the United States annually. On an international scale, the World Health Organization noted that more than 7,300 babies are stillborn every day.Although the awareness movement has grown tremendously over the last two decades, it first came to national attention under President Ronald Reagan.

On October 25, 1988, President Reagan declared October the National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. He noted that an awareness month “enables us to consider how, as individuals and communities, we can meet the needs of bereaved parents and family members…” Proclamation 5890 gave voice to a movement that respects and builds upon the value of life. 

In 2002 Robyn Bear, Lisa Brown, and Tammy Novak, successfully petitioned the Federal Government and all fifty states’ governors to secure October 15 as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.  Beyond the U.S., other countries have adopted the remembrance day as well. Some of those countries include Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, Italy, and many others. 

It is this international observance that makes the “wave of light” encircling the world every October possible. On Remembrance Day, grieving families light candles at 7 p.m. in memory of their lost children. As each time zone participates in the candle vigils, a “wave of light” shines from each country, stretching worldwide. In Mountain City, Tennessee, the Sunset Memorial gazebo glowed through the night in memory of beloved children now in the presence of God.

If an individual or family is currently struggling with the loss of a child, please reach out to First Baptist Church at 727-9711 to learn about the Grief Share sessions held every Tuesday at 10 am.  For additional support, please text Norma Roark, Certified Grief Counselor, at 972-0133. If interested in learning more about this local event every October, visit the “Community Memorial for Our Babies” Facebook page.