A Walk to Remember returned on Saturday, representing a day for parents, families, and friends to remember and celebrate babies lost through miscarriage, stillbirth, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), neonatal, and infant death.
The walk is hosted by Tiny Hands of Hope, a group dedicated to spreading awareness and helping others during their time of grieving.
Tia Sheehan, Tiny Hands of Hope president, said for many, it feels taboo to speak about the death of a child, and the walk gives people a safe space to speak openly.
“When people ask me what (the walk) is like, I tell them that the air is different,” said Sheehan.
“Everything feels lighter, so you're just surrounded by people who want to talk about it and who get it and are just willing to have those conversations with you.”
Grieving for a child can feel different, explained Sheehan, “it's really hard not to think about all the what if’s.”
City coun. Chris Thiessen proclaimed Saturday to be Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day in the City of Grande Prairie, but also shared his recent experience with a loss.
He said earlier in the summer, his partner told him she was pregnant. They would go to a doctor for an ultrasound and find that their baby did not have a heartbeat.
“It hurt us,” he said.
“I'm sharing this with you today because well, truthfully, this is the first time I've shared this since that happened, and I think it's important that we share the experiences that we go through.
“I think it's important that we have organizations like Tiny Hands of Hope, who can be here to hear your stories, to share their stories and to get to the appropriate counselling services that you may need to overcome your grief and loss.”
Tina Shaw shared her story on Saturday.
“We're all here because we belong to a club that nobody wants to be a part of; you aren't a member until it's too late,” she said.
Her daughter Claire was born stillborn on June 30, 2014.
“It wasn't anyone's fault that Claire passed; she was healthy, no medical issues, it was the true definition of an accident.”
Shaw spoke of the challenges of once again becoming pregnant and the mental helath challenges she faced.
“The grief is always there. Always.
“I don't want to be the bearer of bad news but it never goes away.”
She told those grieving her secret for getting through the grief was to let life grow around it.
“We will never not remember our littles, but it’s okay to grow a life around them.”
“Grow your life and purpose, include them, and the ongoing growth around you, have your Claire days, so that you can have other days too.”
The names of babies lost were read aloud and then people walked through Muskoseepi Park where those same names were displayed along the walking path.
“This day is so important just to know that you're not alone in your grief,” said Tom Pura, who announced at the event.
“You're not alone in your loss; you're not alone in your feelings; it's a day to realize there are others that can understand what you're going through and can support you if you need it.”
Tiny Hands of Hope offers support groups monthly to families.
“Our support groups in the past have been geared towards the moms but we want everybody to know that our support group is a safe place for all other family members,” said Alicia McQuaig, Tiny Hands of Hope director.
“We welcome dads, grandparents, brothers, uncles, aunts, sisters, anybody who is seeking support community or just needs a safe place to talk about their children openly.”
She noted that child care is also provided at the support groups for those with children who want to attend.
“If you're thinking about attending but aren't sure if it's going to be a fit, please reach out, we are here for you.”
Tiny Hands of Hope is also offering self-care sessions monthly that include yoga and chocolate tastings.
More information can be found at tinyhandsofhope.ca.
This year was the 11th Walk to Remember held in Grande Prairie.