Elizabeth Petrucelli

Author, Blogger, Educator

Tag: awareness

They lost a child for goodness sake!

It isn’t called a miscarriage, it’s called a stillbirth. They lost a child for goodness sake.

Miscarriage vs. Stillbirth

This is a very interesting statement and it implies that a woman experiencing a miscarriage, did not lose a child. If she didn’t lose a child, what DID she lose?

For me, the moment I discovered I was pregnant, I believed I was pregnant with a baby. Some do not believe this and that may be the right choice for them but if anyone called my baby an embryo or fetus, that was offensive to me. Because of this, when my baby died, I felt I had lost a child. There was so much our family lost when both Ruby and Gus died.

I recently attended a workgroup in Houston, Texas where we discussed how to effectively manage miscarriage in the emergency department. This is an area I am working hard to change because many women are sent away from the emergency department with little to no support or options.

While at the workshop, important leaders within the medical community met with leaders in perinatal loss which included members of PLIDA. We talked for four hours about what we can do to best assist families through miscarriage and we came up with some great ideas, but I left sad. The reason was because one major thing needed to change or none of what was presented would change either. That was the language that was used.

Spontaneous abortion/miscarriage, products of conception, embryo/fetus, baby/child, etc. While these words were used, I watch the faces of the medical professionals when someone referred to their “products of conception” as a baby. They cringed. And one woman called her baby a fetus but when a doctor heard the gestation of the baby, she became upset that fetus was used because the term embryo should have been used instead.

Even though we discussed language was a big factor in how miscarriage should be managed within an emergency department, if the medical professionals don’t want to change their language to what the family is using, our efforts will be fruitless. This will certainly be a challenge.

So let’s talk about the comments in the thread of the picture above. This was in response to a woman whose baby had passed away near term. I remember the story and the person is a celebrity. The news reported the loss as a miscarriage; however, the term was incorrect and in fact, the baby was near full-term which is a stillbirth.

But that first comment is one of the stigma’s surrounding miscarriage and can make women confused about whether or not they have a right to grieve. If society does not accept that a miscarried embryo/fetus is not a child/baby, then what it is and is it acceptable for a woman to grieve that loss?

The thoughts and prayers are certainly wonderful but the responses above are really trying to compare miscarriage and stillbirth. Comparing loss serves no one.

 

 

 

International Bereaved Mother’s Day 2016

Today is International Bereaved Mother’s Day.

Did you know that such a day exists? International Bereaved Mother’s Day was started by Carly Marie in 2010. This day falls on the Sunday before Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day typically focuses on women who have living children or are pregnant. Women are celebrated, meals are shared, gifts are purchased, and the scent of fresh flowers fills the air but what about mothers who do not have living children or have children who are no longer living?

The history of Mother’s Day is quite profound. Anna Jarvis was the “founder” of Mother’s Day, a day which was reserved for honoring a mother’s sacrifice for her children. Her mother was deceased at the time but Mother’s Day was meant as a celebration of between mother’s and families. A far cry from how Mother’s Day is celebrated today. Anna Jarvis succeeded in having the holiday officially recognized when President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

International Bereaved Mother’s Day is different. I wish it didn’t have to be, but it is. It is a day where mothers, in the true meaning, are celebrated. This includes women struggling with infertility or who cannot become pregnant, mothers who planned adoption, and those who have experienced the loss of a child, through miscarriage, stillbirth, infant loss, child loss, and loss of adult children.

International Bereaved Mother’s Day, is for women who struggled and made sacrifices for their children. A woman experiencing infertility has certainly struggled and made sacrifices for her children. A mother who had an adoption plan made a sacrifice for her child. And mothers who became pregnant and lost that child sometime within their lifetime struggled and made sacrifices for that child.

International Bereaved Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate the heart you have as a mother or “Mother Heart” as Carly Marie states. This day is meant as a temporary movement, to drive the real Mother’s Day back to recognizing all mothers. Anna Jarvis was never married and never had children, yet she had a “Mother Heart.”

Mother’s Day became so commercialized and morphed away from the true meaning Anna Jarvis meant it to represent that she sacrificed her personal wealth to campaign against the commercialization and even lobbied to have the holiday removed from the national holiday calendar. All of this because the holiday she created, which was meant to celebrate the “Mother Heart,” turned from it’s original meaning.

More phone calls are made on Mother’s Day than any other day of the year. That is fact. Pick up the phone on International Bereaved Mother’s Day this May 1st, and celebrate a mother’s heart. It’s as simple as saying, “I heard today is International Bereaved Mother’s Day and I want to share today with you.”

International Bereaved Mother's Day

Be Happy With What You Have

These words:

“Be Happy With What You Have”

They sting.

They were meant to comfort but they did far from comfort. They hurt. They reminded. They made me angry.

I should have told her, but I didn’t. I just responded, “I AM happy with what I have.” And this wasn’t a lie, I am happy but I am missing two of my children.

I am not sure how she even knew what I was talking about. Maybe she overheard my conversation? Just a few moments before I had said, “We would have a 1 week old here today.” That’s when she came over. I continued, “We don’t have a baby for Mrs. Clause to hold.”

Then she said it, “I have Timmy to hold.”

She was missing the point.

She came over and gave me a hug. She placed her hand on my shoulder and that’s when she said those words.

“Be Happy With What You Have”

Those are actually horrible words to hear because the assumption is, I am not happy. In reality, I want to remember and I want everyone to remember. I want people to know…

MY CHILD DID EXIST

It’s hard for people to understand that those aren’t helpful words. I knew she was really trying to be comforting. It still stung. I still miss him. I still miss what we would have this year but even though I miss him and a future with him, I am not depressed. I don’t want people to think that’s the case but I DO want them to remember.

Some people have and I love that. This is what is comforting, that people remember. So thank you, to all those who have remembered with me.

Let’s take a moment though to remind others what is helpful to say to a bereaved parent:

“Talk to me, I am here to listen.”
“How are you doing today?”
“Are there any days coming up which remind you of your little one?”
“This must be so hard, I am here if you want to share.”
“It sounds like you are missing your son/daughter, would you like to talk?”
“Tell me more.”

These are just a few things that you can say to a bereaved parent, one who has been through the initial loss but is now remembering anniversaries and dates regarding their child.

Let’s also take a moment to remind other what is NOT helpful to say to say to a bereaved parent:

“At least you know you can have children.”
“You have other children at home to love.”
“You can have another.”
“Why don’t you try to have another baby (to replace the one lost).”
“Your child is in Heaven, looking down on you.”
“Be happy with what you have.”

Yes, these statements are usually meant to comfort and sometimes they are said to change the subject or to help the bereaved parent focus on more positive aspects of their lives but it minimizes the loss and also puts the lost baby/child into a box which should be closed and never opened again.

Please don’t close the door on my children. They both existed. I was missing Gus today at a family event. An event in which we have celebrated for eight years or longer. I am happy for what I have, I just wanted to bring Gus into the event and share him the same way we shared in all of the children today.

Gus Petrucelli Grave

Brought Together – October 15th

On October 15, 2015, families from across the front range and Wyoming, were brought together to honor and remember their babies and children who are no longer living. In celebration of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, Dragonflies For Ruby held a Candlelight Vigil and Remembrance Event in Castle Rock, Colorado in conjunction with Rock A My Baby Family Enrichment Center. Photographer Ashley Henry was present to capture all the candles and special moments of the evening.

This year, the event had grown so much, volunteers were needed to help with all the preparations and cost of the event. I cannot thank those volunteers enough for helping. We wrote names on each of the tags and placed those tags carefully on the candles. The candles were laid out lovingly by more volunteers which took several hours to place.

There were several unexpected happenings that evening. First, it was how everyone who attended was brought together and loved on by all there. It didn’t matter how early the loss, what type of loss, or how old their child was; the families here understood and loved. People they didn’t even know or had ever met, were embraced and surrounded by with loving arms.

Wave Of Light1

As the event coordinator, it gets easy to become lost in all the preparations. It is also difficult to remember your own children when you are holding up those who have come to attend. There were no silent moments for me to remember my own children who had gone too soon, but I didn’t even realize it until later. It was wonderful to have the support of my family there to help remember and light their candles.

Wave Of Light3

In the past, I have always had a large candle at the top of the heart. It was Ruby’s candle. This year, I did not bring it. I wanted all babies and children to have similar sized candles. I didn’t want Ruby’s to be any bigger as if she meant more than any other baby or child. When Ashley (the photographer) could not find her candle and I explained why, she mentioned that Ruby is who started this whole event and the organization. I had never thought of it that way and I was so glad that Ashley was able to remind me. It was then, that I missed having her candle there but her place was still at the top of the heart.

All our children mattered that evening and it was evident in the faces and hearts of those who attended. Donations poured in like never before. All my prayers for how I was going to afford the event were answered. I had enough to share with Ashley and support her and I hope next year, we will have some funding to support others who help with the event.

We did some different things this year that I hope to keep as a tradition. First was the large candle with all the babies and children’s names on them. I was so happy to have found a way to keep those who we remembered and had remembered at past events, present with us. It was easy enough to make so I will do this again next year.

Wave Of Light4

We also added some LED balloons. We wrote names on the balloons. Everyone seemed to really love this addition. I will be sure to have the balloons next year blown up with helium that has additive in it so they float longer. Even though I had them filled at 5pm, a few were already struggling at 8pm.

LED Balloons

I really liked the idea of reading the names as the candles were placed. It helped the event move more smoothly. I know that next year we will be in a different location but I think we will still be able to incorporate this. I also hope that next year we have another person to read some of the names. I had four pages of names this year compared to one over the last two years.

Wave Of Light2

I was so honored to read each name; some were harder than others. I will close this post with the message I sent to all those who attended the event.

I want to take a moment and share my thoughts with you about the event. I apologize it has taken me this long to share with you. The morning after the event, I flew to Oklahoma to help my mother who had surgery. She has horses and she is unable to tend to them for a few months. I did not anticipate that they would have little access to the internet so that has delayed what I wanted to share.

I cannot thank you all enough for coming out and sharing your babies and children. I did not realize how important this event really was to so many of you. I know that sounds weird, as I am a bereaved parent as well and I have found events like this healing but as the organizer, I think I get a bit lost in all the planning that takes place for the event.

Needless to say, I was blown away by all of your responses at the event and on this page. Without you sharing, we would not have been able to honor all our babies and children. As we move throughout our daily lives, it becomes more and more difficult to incorporate our children who are no longer with us. Events like this help us take a moment to remember. We may hurt, we may cry, but we are remembering.

We know that society tells us we need to move on, to forget. We cannot forget and we do not move on. We love. Each step we take is one of survival because we hurt and long to hold someone we cannot. We can however, hold them in our hearts and share them with others.

All of us at the event understood that. We came together. We knew what the pain feels like and it didn’t matter when we lost our baby or child, we all held each other that evening.

While I hope this event grows, I do hope to maintain that love and support we had for each other that Thursday night. This is being human and it was so heartwarming to see all of us come together in such a way. Thank you all for that.

Each year, we will expand and if you want to help with the event, I would love to have you. I also want to thank you ALL for your generous donations. My heart is so full. You all have helped to sustain Dragonflies For Ruby, the event, and the support which can be provided to families enduring loss.

We had families from up and down the front range attend as well as a family from Wyoming. I cannot believe they came down here for this event and I hope to help them get an event started in Wyoming next year!!

So, as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month comes to an end, know that your babies and children are loved, missed, and remembered. You can light a candle each morning or evening to keep them present in your home or purchase a special candle holder. There are many ways you can keep your children’s memories alive within your home. I am honored to have the candle with all our babies and children’s names on it.

If you need anything, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. You will certainly get an email next year about the event. Thank you again and I hope to see ALL of you next year!

heart

October 15th, 2015 – Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

Candelight Vigil - Pregnancy and Infant Loss

This is my son Joey last year, lighting candles at the 2nd Annual Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Event in Castle Rock, Colorado. It was a beautiful evening of sharing and remembering babies all over the front range and throughout the US. We remembered over 50 babies last year.

When Kelli and I decided we would host an event together every year that warm 2013 summer, we had no idea how this event might go or grow. It started out so small in 2013. We had about 40 babies and children to remember that first year. All of about 15 people attended the actual event as we shuttled into the front office of Kelli’s store and gathered in a circle holding our candles.

Last year we had a room to meet in and we all gathered there with chairs and some music. Families shared stories and talked about their babies and children then went out to the deck to light the candles you see above. One candle went out and Joey made sure to relight the candle. It was a baby, someone’s baby whom he wanted to be sure was remembered.

This year, I have spent several weeks planning for this event. Scheduling, contacting media, writing names, buying candles and other items for this event and being overwhelmed this morning as I see the overflowing inbox of additional names of babies and children people want to remember and share tonight. While I am super excited, this is also a very sad evening. All these babies and children parents didn’t get to hold or hold long enough. It’s never enough.

A fleeting moment, a flicker on an ultrasound that diminished too quickly, a kick or punch which faded away, a breath that emptied too soon. 

No matter how early a baby was born via miscarriage or stillbirth, that child mattered to someone. That child matters today and will matter every day. Tonight we honor those babies and children. Yes, it’s Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, which President Ronald Reagan proclaimed in 1988 but October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.

Today is the day we remember, together. In the worldwide Wave of Light. #waveoflight.

No matter where you are, stop at 7pm and light that candle. Light the candle for one of your own children or babies who has gone too soon or one of the many families touched by baby or child loss. I guarantee you know someone who has experienced this. They might be so silent about it but it hurts so many inside.

It’s tonight at 7pm. Don’t forget!

October 15th Vigil

11 Ways to Honor a Friend’s Baby During October’s Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Did you know that? We tend to hear more about Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October instead of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness, so this month is full of fundraising and awareness. As we shed light on pregnancy and infant loss, it’s important to know how you can honor and support someone during the month of October.

  1. Light a Candle. October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. At 7pm in your time zone, you are invited to light a candle in honor of babies and infants who are no longer with us. You could encourage your friend or family member to participate in a local event or you can light the candle and share your candle on Facebook. In the Denver Metro area, the 5th Annual October 15th Candlelight Vigil and Remembrance event is taking place at 7pm and over 300 babies will be honored this year. Join an event and if you can’t join in person, many of these events will still honor babies and children without attendance.Candelight Vigil - Pregnancy and Infant Loss
  2. Send them a card or text message. While it is becoming more rare for people to send cards these days, it’s so wonderful to receive something tangible in the mail in which we can remember our baby by. There is a new line of pregnancy loss cards but Hallmark has some as well. I also love Carly Marie’s Line of Cards. If none of these cards seem appropriate, purchase a blank card and write “Thinking of you and your baby this month,” or “Remembering your baby this month and on October 15th we will light a candle in honor of your baby.” There are e-cards as well and if none of these fit your personality, send a text! The family will not be upset. They are already hurting and they are usually so happy that someone else has remembered their baby. This leads me into #3.
  3. Say their baby/child’s name. In the card, if you can replace “baby” with their baby’s name, they will feel even more acknowledged. Not only did you remember, you also remembered their baby’s name. But even if you don’t remember the baby’s name, don’t let that stop you from sending that card or message. When out with your bereaved friend or family member, bring up their baby/child. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just say something like, “I heard it is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and I wanted to let you know I am thinking about you and ________ (fill in baby’s name).
  4. Participate in a Remembrance Event or ask to participate with them. I mentioned the candlelight vigil in #1 but October is full of events. LED Balloon Releases, Remembrance Walks, Runs/5k’s, Lantern Releases, Candlelight Vigils and more. You can visit October 15th to find events in your area. And as I mentioned before, with many events you do not even need to be present to participate. It’s so wonderful when we can all gather together in remembrance especially with our close friends and family.
  5. Send a donation to an organization in that baby/child’s name. There are many organizations that support families through pregnancy and infant loss. Some also create bereavement packets and boxes that are given to newly bereaved parents and those boxes have a note that state “donated in memory of ________.” This can be a wonderful way to not only help a newly bereaved family while also honoring a baby/child. My organization Dragonflies For Ruby, provides personal one-on-one support to families enduring loss in any gestation. Services are free and we rely on donations to help keep the organization running. I also like to donate to Rowan Tree Foundation but there are many organizations that are in need of your financial help.
  6. Complete a Random Act of Kindness (RAOK) in their baby/child’s name and encourage others to follow suit. This can be an amazing and fun time. You could even set up a Facebook event page and place that event page on the RAOK encouraging others to share their subsequent RAOK. There are a few organizations that have similar projects but anyone can participate on their own. The Kindness Project has downloadable cards to help you and you can see a list of the RAOK’s others have done to help you with ideas. Some might be purchasing groceries for the person in front of you at the grocery store or leaving a $5 bill taped to a vending machine with a little note that this is an RAOK and where to share their thanks. Let your friend know so you can share in the joy!
  7. Purchase a remembrance sticker and give it to them. There are many places to purchase stickers, car magnets, and appliqués. Many can be personalized. I purchased a personalized car window sticker at Remembering Our Babies and I am in love with it. Even if your friend doesn’t display it, they will be appreciative of the gesture. Remember, it’s about showing them that you remember their baby and their loss experience. You are sharing in their experience when you remember and help them memorialize their child.
  8. A phone call. How many of us just pick up the phone these days and talk to the person on the other end? Just like calling to say Happy Birthday, you can call up your friend or family member this month and say, “Hey, I just heard it was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and I wanted to let you know I am thinking about you. How are you doing?” Then share with them all you are doing in remembrance of their baby/child or make the offering to take them out to remember their baby/child.
  9. Take them out, spend time together, or just drop by to say hello. Bring a meal, cookies, or chocolate covered strawberries! Tell them why you are there, “It’s Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and I have some treats!” When someone I know experiences a loss, I bring over Grief Soup. Food is great for the soul! When you share in a meal, you share in so much more. Take the time to talk, mention their baby’s name and remember together.
  10. Facebook Status Update. An easy and cost free way to help remember and acknowledge someone’s loss is a status update, meme, or changing your profile picture to pink and blue. Messages can be simple, “Remembering ______ (insert baby/child’s name) this October.” Here is a great meme you can share!October 15th Meme
  11. Volunteer time or donate goods to a baby/child in need. This is something that is frequently done during the holidays but Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month is another excellent time to provide stewardship. Not only are you spreading awareness by sharing with an organization why you are gifting time or goods, you are remembering and honoring someone’s baby/child. You are also giving back and incorporating all I have mentioned above. Be sure to let your friend or family member know what you are doing and why. They will feel the love and compassion in your acts of kindness.

No matter how small your act may be, you are spreading awareness and showing you care. No act is too small or too big. Celebrate a lost baby/child’s life. With 1 in 4 women affected by miscarriage, 1 in 160 babies who pass through stillbirth, and 1 in 2500 babies dying from SIDS, there is no doubt someone you know has been touched by pregnancy and infant loss.

 – Breaking the silence of First Trimester Miscarriage

Shame in Parenting Your Living Baby

Natalie Morgan with Daughter EleanorLet’s talk about this article. I have seen Natalie Morgan’s post shared all over Facebook and it appeared today in the Huffington Post.  Natalie shared a plea with readers, “All I ask of you is when you have your dark moments with your baby — when you’re at your wits’ end and feel like you can’t go on anymore when you’re only getting an hour or two of sleep a night — instead of begging your child to go to sleep and being swallowed up in your frustration and exhaustion, find the tiniest bit of strength within you to keep going, and say a prayer of gratitude for your child, as difficult as it may be in that moment,” she wrote.

Natalie shares that her daughter, Eleanor, was stillborn. I do not personally know her pain although I do know what it’s like to lose a child of my own. I also know what it’s like to parent a child after loss and it is oh so difficult. But before I delve into parenting after a loss, let’s take a few more moments to talk about stillbirth.

1 in 160 babies in the US will be stillborn. That’s 26,000 babies a year! It’s not a secret, yet it’s a silent syndrome that is not talked about. Most families are concerned with SIDS, yet 1500 babies died from SIDS in 2013. As a childbirth educator, I share this unexpected outcome with my students in every class I teach but in some places I have been asked not to mention stillbirth. I have talked about this before in a previous post but I have managed to include this unexpected outcome in all my curriculum’s.

There is no way to really prepare for this. There is no way to prepare for miscarriage either (1 in 4 women will experience miscarriage) but to never hear the term stillbirth and to assume this only happened in the “olden days” is doing a disservice to women and families across America. Natalie is now enduring that pain and devastation.

She is someone I would want to serve. Women like her, are the reason I have my ministry, Dragonflies For Ruby. No woman and her family should have to endure this alone. No one who supports her can take away this pain but they can support her in many ways which can ease some of what she might endure. I have listed ways to help in previous posts as well. I hope you will visit that page and the next time you know someone who endures a pregnancy loss, that you will incorporate those ways of helping into your care for them.

Now I return to her plea. The plea that women who are holding their screaming, crying baby; who are running on little sleep, with sore and cracked nipples; who may feel like giving up, should “say a prayer of gratitude for your child,” in those moments as hard as it might be. This plea though, is definitely not easy. I have lived it and lived through the shame and guilt of the feelings I had for my son in those moments she is describing.

I will share an excerpt from my next, upcoming book, “I felt extreme guilt after yelling at you or being frustrated with you because I wasn’t sleeping or couldn’t get something done that I had planned. The guilt was based merely off the fact that I should be happy that I have you and there should be no sad or frustrating times. I lost my baby and you are living so I needed to be happy every second because you could be gone the next.”

I went to my therapist because of the feelings I had and she shared an amazing poem and a blog “Don’t Carpe Diem.” It helped me to feel normal and to release some of the guilt I had been experiencing. Not all women though, seek therapy. I remember feeling ashamed to explore some of the feelings I had.

Parenting After a Loss

Parenting after a loss was very lonely. I couldn’t share my feelings with anyone really. There was no support group (at the time) and there was so much shame around my feelings. I was supposed to be happy all the time. I was supposed to be grateful because he was alive no matter how hard things were. I struggled immensely but I was supposed to enjoy that struggle. Society told me I had to embrace every moment.

Nevermind that I am also human and I have feelings too. But I was supposed to push all those feeling aside because I had lost a baby. I was supposed to push those feelings aside because others lost their baby and would give anything to be holding a screaming, crying, inconsolable baby.

But I couldn’t. I was operating on no sleep and I was desperate. So the guilt set in. Therapy helped.

Messages like Natalie’s are strong. They are meant to impact the woman who is struggling, just like I was. It is meant to share empathy. The message has been shared, hundreds of thousands of times. But is her message helpful to the women who are struggling, AS they are struggling?

I am not sure. I can only look back and wonder how her message would have helped me. The only part of her message that I can see possibly would have helped is this, “Say a prayer for my sweet, sweet Eleanor who never got to know life outside my womb. Please. Do it for Eleanor. And do it for her mommy who loves her and misses her beyond measure.”

I could have said a prayer for someone else. Believe me, I prayed for me to have the strength. I prayed for the Lord to continue giving me strength to keep going. I prayed for God to have mercy on me for the feelings and thoughts I had. I prayed for me but I didn’t pray for others in those moments. I didn’t pray for those often enough who loved their babies but could not hold them here on earth.

This post isn’t about discounting the plea that Natalie shared. It’s just a response to let those who are struggling know that you are not alone. That it’s okay to struggle. You don’t need to have shame in your feelings, even though you have lost a child yet the one you are holding won’t stop crying.

 

What is a Bereavement Doula? Glad you asked!

What is a Bereavement Doula?

That isn’t even a common question. I have been a birth doula for over 11 years and when I started, most people had no clue what a doula was, nor could they repeat the word. It was usually repeated back as “adoula.” When I began my bereavement doula journey, the occupation became even more confusing followed by the question, “Is there really a need?”

First, there is ABSOLUTELY, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a need for this occupation. The biggest concern I have right now, is how do I, and others in my occupation, get the word out to families that this is something they need. They don’t know they need it until it’s too late and then we hear, “I wished we had known about you at the time.” Even so, would they have called? Most likely they would not have called because this is not something expecting parents plan for and they are quickly overwhelmed with all the choices they are suddenly presented with.

Second, what is a bereavement doula?

Bereavement DoulaA bereavement doula doesn’t have one single definition. She is, who she is and supports in many different ways. She is unique. But in a nutshell, a bereavement doula provides physical, emotional, and informational support to families experiencing pregnancy loss. Yes, this is a similar definition to a birth doula who provides physical, emotional, and informational support to families during pregnancy, birth, and immediate postpartum.

So what does that support look like?

This is where the support becomes very individualized. It depends on the gestation of the baby at the time of death and the needs of the family. For miscarriage, the support may simply be attending the doctors appointment to confirm the miscarriage, presence with her in the emergency room while she bleeds and births her baby, emotional support via text, phone, email, or instant messaging while she labors and births her baby at home, preparing her to greet her baby, bonding options for her tiny baby, explaining options and final disposition for her baby’s body, and walking with her through the grief journey after she has birthed her baby.

For stillbirth, the support may include much the same as above but may be more in-depth for ensuring memories and mementos are created with a more fully formed baby.

Recently, a hospital social worker stated that it was her job to support the family. There is no doubt that the hospital social worker has an important role in supporting families through loss and through the NICU experience but there are some major differences in the support that a bereavement doula provides.

A bereavement doula will:

  • Provide individualized support
  • Be present during appointments
  • Attend the clients birth
  • Be there beyond any “shift”
  • Be available after hours
  • Will create a sacred space (music, lights, ceremony, smell, memories)
  • Hold space for the family
  • Won’t treat this as “just another shift” or “just another loss”
  • Hold hands and walk the family through their journey
  • Provide follow-up support for weeks and months to come
  • Give individualized resources and support groups

Some of these a social worker or bereavement coordinator can provide but there isn’t a single hospital program that can give a patient one-on-one continuous support by the same care provider for the entire length of the labor and birth.  This, right here is the biggest difference between a bereavement doula and any other perinatal loss specialist. Bereavement doulas are there, no matter how long it takes. We don’t work on shifts. It’s hard work. We aren’t bound by the same laws and policies as a hospital employee is.

Some hospitals follow-up with their patients following loss. Some hospice programs offer regular phone calls to ensure the family is doing well and these are wonderful additions to the perinatal loss program but how many hospitals and hospice programs have the same care provider following up in-person, on the phone, via email or via text? 

These are some major differences and these are all aspects of support that a bereavement doula provides. It is continuous, one-on-one, support for the family through pregnancy, birth, and beyond. I didn’t touch on other services that bereavement doulas can provide such as funeral planning but that is also available too. We have so much to offer families and we have a huge network of resources and tools to help the family cope and move forward.

– Breaking the silence of First Trimester Miscarriage

Bereaved Parents Awareness Month

Bereaved Parents Awareness Month

Did you know that the month of July is Bereaved Parents Awareness Month? I didn’t. So let’s talk about what this means and what bereaved parents hope will happen.

Believe that our loss is real no matter how young our child was.

Extend your love as we learn to move forward.

Recognize that we all grieve differently and no one way is the “right way.”

Extinguish the false beliefs about loss.

Awareness that you will share this month and what it means with others.

Validation for what we are going through and what we have lost.

Embrace us.

Don’t forget us or the child(ren) we are missing.

It really doesn’t matter how long ago our loss journey began. We could have learned today that our baby has died or our adult child could have died many years ago. Know that we are thinking about this child and always will. You will not hurt us by saying their name. We will love you for it.

I didn’t realize how important this was until my friend Charley died. He died in 2008 and every year on May 1st, I post his picture on Facebook and leave a message for his family. I want them to know I am thinking of him too. This was the day he died and I remember.

Every time I do this, they tell me that this means more than I will ever know. When I lost my daughter Ruby Josephine in 2010, when someone remembers her, I love them for it. I may shed a tear but this is a happy tear. It’s a tear that others remember her and it’s not just me. I feel the same way when someone remembers Gus (our third son who died and was born via miscarriage).

Bereaved parents want you to know it’s okay to talk with us and say their name. We want to share. We want to know you were thinking of our child too.

– Breaking the silence of First Trimester Miscarriage

 

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