Every year, Gainesville families gather by the lake to remember the children they have lost before or shortly after birth with a “wave of light.” Each mother or family may place a candle in memory of their child on a heart-shaped raft and watching a piece of their own hearts float in the sunset on Lake Lanier.
Rock Goodbye Angel organizes the Wave of Light candlelight vigil every year, giving a safe place for families to grieve miscarriages, stillbirths and early infant death. One in four American women will suffer a miscarriage in her lifetime; 25,000 babies are stillborn each year. Sometimes mothers will struggle alone, but often this means one in four fathers, older siblings, grandparents and others try to find their place in grief as well.
"[It's] a very unique kind of grief," said Angela Ewers, founder and director of Rock Goodbye Angel. "It's grieving a future as opposed to grieving a past. But it's something that required education and learning and fellowship."
In addition to miscarriage and stillbirth, other medical problems and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Ewers said roughly one million babies are lost each year.
"That means there's close to two million parents of these babies in all walks of life that are grieving," Ewers said. "We just don't think about that, when you look around every day - in the grocery store, at church, at school - there are probably a lot of moms and dads that have had this happen to them."
Ewers said RGA, which is a 501(c)(3) organization based in Gainesville, currently offers virtual support groups, Mother’s and Father’s Day events, as well serving as an outlet for education and fellowship. And, Ewers said as the pandemic has progressed, they’ve been able to reach people outside of the normal boundaries.
In 1984, Ronald Regan declared October 15 National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, and October a month recognizing the same loss. Ewers said they hold the Wave of Light candlelight vigil every year, along with thousands of others across the country. This year, everyone is invited to join RGA at Longwood Park in Gainesville – or virtually, on their Facebook page - at 6:30 p.m. for the annual candlelight vigil and remembrance opportunity.
"We will light candles and we put them all on this big, floating heart, and we push it out into the water and just let it float for an hour," said Ewers. "So between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. it will be out there, and we'll just honor and remember that we all loved and lost."
"It's a great event not only to acknowledge, but also see the amount of people who have experienced pregnancy and infant loss. It's the validation that we are not alone."
Coming up, RGA is hosting its annual 5k run to raise money for their organization. While the annual vigil is free and open to the public, the non-profit also sponsors support groups for mothers, fathers and families.
"Rock Goodbye Angel just wants people to know it's ok to talk about it, that this grief is not something that you have to hold inside of you," said Ewers. "And I always tell people, it's not a matter of if we grieve, it's a matter of when and how."