Tina Thibeau Foley says she doesn’t want a gravestone to be the only thing her nine-month-old son Tyson remembers about his big sister.
The Thibeau Foleys lost their first child, Micheline, at 23 weeks gestation, and were one of dozens of families who participated in the first annual Walk to Remember at the IWK Health Centre yesterday.
“I did not want to take (Tyson) to a cemetery,” said Thibeau Foley, who spearheaded the organizing committee for the memorial event. “I wanted to take him to something uplifting. I want him, every year, to remember that he had a big sister.”
About 300 people who have suffered the loss of a fetus or a newborn infant turned up for the walk, chatting and holding hands as they wound their way through the streets surrounding the hospital.
On every jacket or sweater, a small tag was pinned bearing the name of a child being remembered. Many parents brought older or younger siblings along, pushing carriages or hoisting the children onto their shoulders.
“As they deal with grief, some parents and families have found it helpful to share their loss with others who have had similar experiences,” said Glenn Breen, who works with the IWK’s spiritual care team and helps counsel families who have lost a child. “The loss of a baby before or after birth can be devastating.”
That profound sense of loss was still apparent among many of the participants as they wiped away tears and clung to one another for support throughout the afternoon.
“When you go through this process, you feel very alone,” said Thibeau Foley, acknowledging the raw emotion surrounding the event. “It’s amazing to talk to other people who have been through what you’ve been through.”
Organizers called the walk a major success, saying it attracted nearly six times the number of participants they had hoped for.