October is SIDS, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. While we know nothing can truly mend a heart in a time of such grief, Parkview does offer several services to provide some comfort. Here, we explore a few of those.
Patrick Riecke, director, Chaplaincy and Volunteer Services, offers a closer look at the services Chaplaincy provides to parents in this time of need, including support groups.
Each time a mom experiences miscarriage, stillbirth or infant death, a chaplain responds and provides a packet of grief resources and information about her rights at that time. We can help facilitate the use of a funeral home for memorial services, funerals, burial or cremation as well. Chaplaincy follows up with two mailers to her home (one immediately afterward and another a year later) as well as an invitation to a Parkview memorial service. Together with the Family Birthing Center and/or NICU team, we provide memory making items like small worry stones, necklaces, heart stones, and other keepsakes.
My hope is to tailor a personalized experience for each mom and family. If they want to spend more time with their baby after the baby’s death, we provide a Cuddle Cot™, which keeps the baby cool and makes it easier to keep baby in the room with mom a bit longer. These were purchased by Chaplaincy a couple years ago, and dedicated to a couple of special babies and their families. They are available at Parkview Regional Medical Center and Parkview Hospital Randallia. If they want to have pictures, dress baby, have family come in, etc., we are happy to support all of that. If they want to remain private and keep things as simple as possible, we are happy to honor those wishes as well.
The loss of a child is probably the most difficult thing a person could ever encounter in this life, but we are focused on two key things during this time. The first is world-class teamwork; It takes a village to care for a person in this situation. Chaplaincy is one part of the team, and we love our medical staff, social workers and others who care for these moms and families. The second is compassion. These situations call upon the deepest reserves of compassion from within all of our staff, including our chaplains.
Nearly two decades ago, when my wife, Kristen, had a miscarriage, little was available in the way of support. No one told us we could use a funeral home at the time. Looking back, had we been told that was possible, we likely would have taken advantage of that to grieve and remember our baby. One clinician who spoke to us back then had a desperate lack of compassion and the office lacked teamwork. Thankfully, the physician and team who cared for her from that point on have wrapped us in care and demonstrated true excellence.
Part of the reason that we do what we do is to leave moms and families feeling supported and cared for during what may be their darkest days. When our chaplains respond to these moms who have experienced loss, they have a wide range of experiences. Some moms are thankful to discuss the life of their baby with them and may feel that the chaplain is the safest person to address spiritual questions, grief response, or funeral plans. Other moms aren’t ready to talk when our chaplains visit so close to the time of the death of their baby. And that’s OK. We are happy to play whatever role that mom or family needs.
Support groups aid with healing because they help the participants realize that they are not alone. The feelings they are going through may be very similar to what others have felt or are feeling. Grief can be isolating, but it’s hard to feel alone when the person next to you is talking about their loss and their grief.
Parkview offers the Healing Hearts support group and our new Pregnancy After Loss support group. I help with their materials and meeting space, but my wife Kristen and Cori McKenzie, patient care technician, have shepherded Healing Hearts for nearly three years and, more recently, the Pregnancy After Loss group. These support groups aren’t just an activity, they are a community. Their regular meetings are the hub of a connected group of people (moms and dads) who care for one another, know how to access outside support, and have the continuity of access to the best Parkview has to offer.
This year the Healing Hearts group did an event at Bottle and Bottega, where moms (and some dads) worked through their grief through art. Their creations were as amazing as they were touching, each highlighting their baby in a special way. The group also attended a “pound class” at the Jackson R. Lehman YMCA. This fitness class included using sticks to pound on surfaces. Not only was it a great workout and a great time together, but it was another way to physically work out the emotions that can live inside of a person who had experienced the pain of baby loss.
If you have experienced the loss of a baby, Parkview invites you to attend our Healing Hearts support group, the third Tuesday of every month, 6:30-8 p.m., in the Chaplaincy Suite on the second floor of Parkview Regional Medical Center or our Pregnancy After Loss support group, the first Tuesday of every month, 6:30-8 p.m., in the Chaplaincy Suite on the second floor of Parkview Regional Medical Center. Call Parkview Chaplaincy Services at (260) 266-1470 to learn more.
LITTLE ANGEL GOWNS.
A group of local sewers put their time and talent toward a very special gift.
In a conference room nestled behind the coffee bar just outside of Labor and Delivery at Parkview Regional Medical Center, sewing machines are running. It’s a Friday morning, and Barbara Kramer, RN, along with nine other volunteers are busy crafting precious little dresses, intended for precious little patients.
Barbara has been a Labor and Delivery nurse for 32 years. In that time, she’s seen a number of families experience the heartbreaking loss of a baby. Years ago, spurred by the desire to help these parents, Barbara put her love of sewing toward a greater cause. She began making bereavement gowns.
Eventually, she was paired with Cori McKenzie, patient care technician, and the two worked together to form the Parkview infant bereavement program. Cori, who suffered a full term loss herself, shared a passion for coming alongside grieving families in their time of need.
Then, three years ago, Cori had a friend with a wedding dress she no longer needed. She asked Cori if she could donate it. Intrigued, Barbara connected with Little Angel Gowns out of Indianapolis. The founder is a NICU nurse dedicated to providing patterns to volunteer groups so they can create bereavement gowns out of wedding dresses.
In January 2015, Barbara hosted the first workshop for those interested in helping with the Little Angel Gowns at the hospital. She also invited her friends from the American Sewing Guild. And they’ve been meeting ever since, with people coming and going. The group has grown and evolved, thanks to social media and word of mouth.
And the donations have poured in. In fact, the group does not currently have a need for new dresses. “People can donate them to the Little Angel Gowns in Indianapolis if they like,” Barbara said. Depending on the style, the sewers can make anywhere from 4-27 Little Angel Gowns from just one donated wedding dress, which is typically all they can manage in a month. If anything, Barbara mentions, the group can always use more seamstresses.
Last year, the volunteers were able to sew 100 Little Angel Gowns. These are handed out at all Parkview locations, as well as several local funeral homes. “It’s never easy. You can’t do much for those families during that time,” Barbara said. “But we can give them something special to dress their baby in. That can be a bright spot.”
To learn more about the program or to volunteer as a Little Angel Gowns seamstress, email Barbara.Kramer@parkview.com.