You may find ways to volunteer in your local community through churches, perinatal or SIDS/Stillbirth local organizations. There may be local support groups with opportunities such as Walks to Remember, fundraisers, Candle Lighting Ceremonies, Mother/Father Day events. You could check with your local hospitals offering to help them, be available for teaching staff, helping families, or fundraising for their baby (perinatal) loss program.
Then there are larger regional groups and national organizations. A few groups that have chapters are the MISS Foundation and National SHARE, Hand of No. Califorinia, AMEND,and The TEARS Foundation. Groups in the Sands UK, Sands Australia, and Sands NZ have support groups, raise awareness, produce helpful newsletters and materials, etc. They can always use help. There are miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal, SIDS, continuing and ending pregnancy groups.
The Star Legacy Foundation, First Candle and a couple of other organizations are looking at causes, risk reduction, and prevention. They would love your help raising money, support of research, help with studies, and so much more. While they both have education and awareness components, they are two of the few groups that actually fund researchers and do studies.
You can support others in many ways. Send notes to parents found in local obituaries. Tell your clergy/rabbi that you are ready to help others. Visit your hospital to learn if there are opportunities for you to give help or support. Write letters to area papers and articles that you submit to publications offering well thought out advice.
Many parents want to do something to honor their child and to show they came and will remain loved by their family. This need for a legacy makes sense. Our children have died and if we don’t make the world a different, better place who will? If we don’t keep saying their names, who will? And if others act like their deaths were minor events, to be forgotten in a month or two and to be replaced by other children, who will say it loud and clear? They matter, they changed us; they will always be our children. A legacy page, fundraisers in their name, are but a few ways to deal with the above questions.
Check the back of your Empty Arms (Ilse) book for long lists or visit our Resource Section.
Share our Materials
If you like our materials and wish to make them available in your community, we can help. Over the years, many parents and families have purchased our books and booklets for their hospitals, clinics, and churches to share with bereaved families.
Often hospitals will report they have no money to buy some materials to assist families at the time of their loss. What a sad thought. A baby dies, and there is not $25 in the budget for each family. They leave with no baby and no materials that might have helped them cope and learn about what is to come. Many, many parents report that when they were given a little pamphlet instead, they felt it was disrespectful of the significance of their loss, though clearly something is better than nothing.
For those of you who have already purchased appropriate materials then donate them, thank you. We feel quite humbled by it; and we are hopeful that those who then read it will feel your support and love while making better decisions on their journey.
You can share our books and materials if you want to raise some money for your favorite cause. Visit Become an Angel Distributor or just get some books to give away. We’ll help you accomplish your goals.
Peer Support & Companion Support
Sherokee speaks up on what a Peer Support Parent (Befriender) is and how to become one. As a trainer for the past three decades on the topic of preparing bereaved family members to become be-frienders to newly bereaved, she advocates the creation of such programs throughout communities.
This brief (5 minute) discussion explains what a peer support program is, why it is important, and a little about the training she conducts in person and over the phone.
According to a recent study, Giving Birth to Death, S. Pullen, parents expect and want doctors, midwives, and their hospital caregivers to give them a peer support contact. This parent, who has been there, can be a patient advocate and a listener during the experience and/or over the days, weeks, and months that follow. This gives parents a chance to 'give back' and make some meaning of their baby's short life while touching the hearts of those in need. For more information on peer support, email Sherokee.
You may be a birth professional, social worker, therapist who wishes to be a part of this type of volunteer work. If you are a parent feeling well enough to help others, you may wish to consider becoming a peer support, loss companion, or parent advocate.
There are a number of ways to do this. All will require that a good amount of time has gone by and that you have worked through much of your grief. None expect you to be ‘recovered’ or all healed, especially if that means you are to forget about them. For most people that is virtually impossible. We learn to live without them in our daily lives, but they remain an important member of our families and forgetting them rarely happens. Tears may still come throughout the years…that is what happens when you love someone and are reminded that you miss them.
Some training programs for Peer Support or Peer Companions: www.NeoFight.org in Indianapolis, Heartstrings.org from North Carolina, and the NationalShare.org are a few organizations who offer programs and opportunities to connect up with newly bereaved to help them along their grief journey. GrieveOutLoud.org matches people up on an informal basis and there is no training required or offered.
Another option is to become a Baby Loss Family Advisor or Loss Doula (which is an advocate and loss companion). This new program has intense and professional training that will build respect for you if you wish to be a part of a hospital program or be a referral for newly bereaved families. See the Loss Doula Section of our webiste or visit www.BabyLossFamilyAdvisors.org
Use Your Creativity
Paint, craft, needlepoint, make jewelry, bookmarks, knit, crochet, sew (a quilt or clothing), write, play/create music, do woodwork for yourself, or ther creative outlents that work for you. You could create projects that you can share with others in need. Hospitals can always use blankets and gowns. David Campbell has made a beautiful wooden baby cradle casket that can be used for creating memories as baby is cradled and then can be used as a casket. Naomi Arnold wrote and recorded From My Heart, a CD of songs to honor her babies who were stillborn. Blane Brazier has created Pilgrimage, a Christian CD of songs Both can be used at memorial services. The book Grief Unseen: Healing Pregnancy Loss Through the Arts, by Laura Seftel lays the groundwork for the value of creativity after a significant loss. She also has a website and Facebook page to help understand pregnancy loss through the arts.
Find an Unfulfilled Need and Fill it
Some of the areas that needed to be filled – making small, cute baby diapers, giving parents who have an early pregnancy loss a soft, homemade baby pillow (www.heavenborn.com), taking footprints and putting them on jewelry (www.myforeverchild.com), turning wedding and prom dresses into beautiful burial gowns of all sizes, inviting parents to put up their baby’s stories on a web page (FacesofLoss.com), drawing or painting babies from pictures.
What is NOT being done that you would like to see done? After checking our Resources Pages and doing your own research…jump in if you want to. There are so many of us out there that will help you. If you do something new, let us know so we can share it with others.