Canadian ice hockey player Erik Karlsson and his wife Mel made their unimaginable pain public this week by sharing the heartbreaking news that their son was stillborn, one month before he was due.
The 27-year-old Swedish-born professional ice hockey player shared the sad news on his social media, shining a light on a devastating subject for hundreds of parents, but one that so many people struggle to talk about or feel like they are unable to open up about.
‘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’ Erik bravely began his post.
‘We would like to thank everyone for the love and support we have received and also for respecting our privacy and the process we need to go through now.’
The devastated father went on to reveal the previously unannounced name of his son, Axel, before sharing words of hope that his fans and followers have described as inspiring.
‘We feel very lucky to be Axels parents. Even though he was stillborn, we know we will hold him again one day under different circumstances and the joy he gave us will be with us forever.’
Along with his words, Erik shared a picture of his son’s footprints, along with his name and the date that he was stillborn.
Erik’s sad announcement prompted thousands of fans to rally around the grieving couple, offering messages of support and condolence. Others also praised the sports star for sharing the news of his painful loss so openly at such a raw time, and being an inspiration to others who have also suffered unimaginably painful losses.
‘You have no idea what an inspiration you are to people at your most difficult time’ commented one fan, while another thanked Erik for raising awareness about a subject that so few feel able to talk about: ‘We just lost our son James in September to the same circumstances, it still hurts everyday but you learn to cope with the loss’ the fan wrote. ‘If I can give any advice it is to make sure you and your wife take care of yourself. Focus on healing, grieving and being there for one another . Thank you for sharing your story and bringing awareness, I know it wasn’t easy.’
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Last year, statistics showed that sadly ten babies are stillborn in the UK every day, but despite this the subject is rarely widely spoken about and parents who suffer such a devastating loss are left feeling desolate.
If you have suffered a stillbirth and need support, or for advice on how on to support someone you know who has suffered a stillbirth, visit tommys.org or call their helpline on 0800 0147 800. The line is open Monday to Friday, 9-5pm.