Watching a friend experience the loss of their baby and the grief that remains can feel so helpless. Unfortunately, there isn’t a “one-size fits all” approach to support a grieving friend through loss, but there are many ways to be supportive. When my daughter died at 33-days-old, it was the first loss of this type…
When I was 36 weeks pregnant with one of daughters, I found myself sitting in the ER waiting room. My baby girl had not moved in half a day and with my history of birthing babies, I was not mucking around. Opposite me in the waiting room, sat another couple. The woman was bent over in pain and her partner was clearly distressed. Through tears, the man pleaded with the Triage nurse to let them in as his wife was miscarrying their 14 week gestation baby. My heart sank. My eyes welled with tears. I wanted to run over and hug them but knew that my own baby belly would only feel like salt in their wounds at that point. The couple was called through and I never saw them again. After being admitted myself for fetal heart monitoring, I spoke with one of the midwives about what they do for women leaving the hospital after miscarrying. I remember her words as if she only spoke them yesterday “Unfortunately, not a lot. We just make sure they are physically well and send them home”. Most of these women do not get to hold their baby and in even more devastating circumstances some babies are lost in toilets.
Shortly after my daughter was born I still struggled with the memory of the couple losing their baby in the Emergency Room. The thought of mothers leaving the hospital with an empty womb and no baby to hold and their partners feeling just as hurt, makes me feel physically ill. I remember the day I walked out of the hospital without my son. There are no accurate words to describe the pain I felt. After spending some time healing my own heart, a part of me that wished I could morph into a million versions of myself and be there for every parent experiencing the grief and trauma that engulfs you when your baby dies. I just wanted to be able to wrap my arms around them all and tell them that they are not alone, and that their baby matters and is loved and remembered. In the knowledge that I am not the magical being I wish I was, I knew that I had to come up with something realistic that would actually help.
I wanted to be able to give something that would let these families know that they are being held and thought of, and so a few girlfriends and I created these little brown paper packages of love and care to donate to the hospital in memory of our own babies. These packages were to be given by hospital staff to the women who experience the everyday unimaginable. It was our hope that they would help to comfort their broken hearts, and with the feedback and messages that we received back – it was obvious that they did just that.
We did our research before creating these packages and from the thoughts and feelings we received from women all over the world, what mother’s wanted was something that would let them know that they were not alone. So we put a little message of love inside each package with a couple of helpful websites. We only gave a couple of websites because people who are in the initial stages of grief find it too hard to process a lot of information. The last thing we wanted to do was overwhelm people. We included a small pack of tissues for their tears. Some calming tea that helps to ease cramping, a scented candle for a time of reflection and a little handmade white clay ornament In Loving Memory of their baby. This all fits into a small brown paper package that the mother can place into her hand bag. One thing that we read in our research was that an overwhelming amount of women said they would not have wanted to carry a big bag that made it obvious that they had experienced a miscarriage. They wanted something that would be discreet and not bring attention to them and so this is why we keep the packs small and we do not put any labels on the bags – they just have a little sweetheart attached.
Creating your own care packs or memory boxes to donate to a hospital is a wonderful way to give back in your child’s memory. Your gift of empathy will be treasured forever. If you are thinking about giving such a gift, be sure to contact the hospital you wish to donate to first, to make sure they will accept them. The last thing you want is to put all your love and energy into this project only to be turned away. Keep your gift simple and heartfelt and shop around. You can make these bags incredibly cost effective and therefore you will be able to make even more of them. You can even reach out to tea companies or tissue companies and ask for donations to your cause. At the center of your gift making, keep your baby’s memory there. Don’t make it about numbers, goals or how many you can create, but more, how much love can you place into each care pack.
This Christmas I donated a bunch of these care packs and a couple of memory boxes to a local hospital In Loving Memory of our son, Christian and it is this gift of giving that brings healing to my heart.