Life was nearly perfect for National Hockey League star Erik Karlsson and his wife Melinda. They got married last year and in November announced the impending birth of their first child.
During a hockey-themed gender reveal, Erik smacked a puck that disintegrated into a blue cloud of dust.
Then tragedy struck.
Earlier this week, just one month before their son’s scheduled due date, Erik and Melinda experienced the tragic death of Axel Michael Karlsson.
The pain is akin to someone reaching in and ripping out your heart.
On Monday, the star player and captain of the Ottawa Senators and his wife became unwilling members of a sad fraternity – parents of a stillborn child.
But as the tragedy unfolded, Erik, Melinda and those who love them are showing the world the beauty and value of Axel’s all-too-brief life.
An outpouring of support was swift and heartfelt. In a public statement the team wrote, “The collective thoughts and prayers of the Ottawa Senators organization, the city of Ottawa and entire hockey community rest with Erik and Melinda Karlsson following the loss of their son.”
Erik’s teammates, other NHL teams and even former NHL athletes conveyed their sympathies to the grieving family. Guy Boucher, Erik’s teammate, said the entire team was devastated. “Everybody is heartbroken, it’s awful.”
Erik posted a picture of his son’s inked footprints on Instagram writing, “At this extremely difficult time it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel but we know one day we’ll get there.”
Yet amid their emotional trauma, there is hope. Erik added, “We know we will hold him again one day under different circumstances and the joy he gave us will be with us forever.”
While reading about this tragic event, it was obvious that Axel – who never took his first breath – nonetheless affected many people. He is lovingly remembered by name and referred to as “their son” and “the baby.”
Erik and Melinda were the beneficiaries of a good way to acknowledge pregnancy loss.
Thankfully, there were no callous comments online such as, “She’s young. She can have more children.” Or, “Let it go and move on with your lives.” This was the death of their child. And it made no difference to the parents if their loss had occurred before or after birth. It was a tragedy just the same.
Hopefully, good can come out of this, for example a learning opportunity for the rest of us. Regardless of when a baby dies during pregnancy, that precious child was not a “fetus” or some other cold medical term, but a dearly loved member of the family.
We should follow the example of Erik and Melinda’s circle of friends and family by providing immediate, heartfelt sympathy and support to others in similar situations. Grieve with them for as long as it takes. Do small acts of kindness that will mean the world to the parents. This shows them that you loved their baby too.
And we must remember that the child or children lost during pregnancy will have a dramatic, life-long impact on the parents and their family and friends. Walk with them through this dark shadow of death.
Please don’t forget the mothers and fathers who grieve a past abortion. Now more than ever, they too need our love, compassion and prayers.
Join me in praying for peace and comfort for Erik and Melinda Karlsson. Peace and comfort are often elusive at a time like this.