In this country, approximately 1 in 160 deliveries ends in a stillbirth (20 weeks’ gestation and over). It’s estimated that 15 percent to 20 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage (up to 20 weeks’ gestation). These are startling statistics.

Yet miscarriage and stillbirth often go unacknowledged, or insensitively acknowledged, reflecting our culture’s discomfort with death and dying as well as a common belief that “perhaps it was meant to be,” “it’s God’s way” or “you can always get pregnant again.”

Oct. 15 is International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day. Around the world at 7 p.m. in every time zone, candles will be lit in memory of babies lost. Portland will be part of this global collective at Maine Medical Center at a candlelight vigil at 6:30 p.m.

It’s hard to imagine losing a baby if you never have, making it difficult to know what to say. While grieving parents know this, silence is often painful.

In my work with women struggling to conceive, what I hear most from grieving mothers is the additional pain of their loss not being acknowledged. From co-workers, to health care staff and even family members, the averted eyes, anxious body language or attempts to act as if they are unaware all make the parent feel worse.

People mistakenly think that if a loss is acknowledged, the grieving parent will feel sad. The truth is that they are feeling sad every day. A kind word, a hug or a simple “I’m so sorry” can make the difference.

On Thursday, please consider offering a gentle acknowledgment to someone you know who has had a loss. In the words of writer Sue Monk Kidd, “There is no pain on earth that doesn’t crave a benevolent witness.”

Anne Belden, M.Sc.

fertility and adoption coach

Cape Elizabeth