Grieving Parents Help Each Other In Infant-Loss Group
This loss is different, crushing a profound anticipation.
“When you lose a baby … you’re losing part of the future,” says Lacey Songhurst of Wallingford, who woke up a few weeks before her due date and didn’t feel her daughter moving. When doctors couldn’t find a heartbeat, she was sedated and rushed into surgery.
“I opened up my eyes and the first thing I said to my husband was, ‘Is she OK?’ And, he said, ‘Yeah, she’s fine,’ and my heart just jumped for joy. And, he said, ‘She’s up in heaven,’ and it was just like the whole world came crashing back down,” remembers Songhurst, who eventually turned to the Hygeia Foundation, an infant-loss support group, for help with her pain.
“We really have a model of parents helping parents,” says Executive Director Gillian Eversman. “We are very much now a group of bereaved parents who have been through it, who have lost a baby, who now want to help other parents who’ve been through it.”
The foundation, based in Woodbridge, was started by a local OBGYN in 1995 as an online support group but has grown to include in-person sessions, educational programs for medical professionals and an active Facebook community.
“We also provide burial assistance to low-income families who have lost a baby but can’t afford a funeral,” says Eversman. “This has really been a parent-driven growth.”
On Oct. 6, families will come together for the 3rd Annual Footprints on Our Hearts Walk to Remember at East Shore Park in New Haven, a fundraiser and meaningful event.
“We have a remembrance table set-up. It’s a place where people can come, write their baby’s name on a paper butterfly cut-out and hang it up, so all the baby’s names are hanging together,” says Eversman. “I know every year how old my daughter would be, if she were still here. I know when she missed her first day of kindergarten.”
She believes recognition of the life in this understanding setting is incredibly important, as well-intended friends and relatives are often uncomfortable or don’t know what to say. Group support can also give parents permission to grieve and ideas for tackling difficult situations, such as returning to work or answering unknowing questions from acquaintances.
Songhurst is finding solace through work with the foundation. “I want to take this horrible, terrible thing that’s happened to me and I want to do something good with it,” she says. “I can tell people, ‘It’s OK to talk about your baby. If you don’t have anybody you can talk to about it, talk to me because I’ll do the same’.”
A year after her traumatic ordeal, she became pregnant again and delivered a beautiful baby girl. Now, her kids, ages 2 and 7, often glance at a picture of their sister, Victoria, that their mom keeps in view, and when they see a butterfly, they believe it’s her spirit, checking-in with love.
>>To learn more about the upcoming walk, check out http://www.hygeiafoundation.org