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As summer winds to an end and kids head back to school, our September Focus Theme is appropriately EDUCATION.
Over the past two years, Three Little Birds has worked closely with numerous hospitals in the Philadelphia metro and Southern New Jersey region. These experiences have connected us with doctors, nurses and other medical professionals who reach out to us for guidance and support in helping families experiencing the loss of a pregnancy and baby.
While they are always well intentioned, the majority of these professionals openly admit, they don't have the education and resources to provide these families with what they need during their hospital stay and as they head home to figure out their "new normal". Nearly all of the professionals we have connected with explain to us that they are not provided education on bereavement, especially related to perinatal loss in their degree and licensing programs. Considering pregnancy and infant loss effects 1 in every 4 families, this is concerning to our organization.
It is difficult for families dealing with these situations to advocate for themselves, especially in the first few months as they heal and understand their situations. Many families are not aware of the resources and support available to them until it is too late.
It is part of Three Little Birds' mission to provide Educational Support to families and medical professionals in the field of perinatal support. Our organization has listened to the families who have reached out to us and bravely shared their stories with us to understand the varied and individual needs of families having to say hello and goodbye in a blink of an eye.
This includes, how to communicate with bereaved families, how to communicate among staff to share sensitive information and wishes families have, how to facilitate bonding and memory making with babies who pass away, providing post-partum support and resources to support families as they return home, forever changed.
Three Little Birds is developing a comprehensive educational program, complete with hospital-branded, up-to-date printed resources to assist medical professionals in explaining numerous overwhelming decisions that need to be made, items to facilitate memory making, supporting various cultural, religious, spiritual and diverse ethnic needs of families, as well as physical support items for mom as she heals after delivery.
Additionally, there will be a training component for medical professionals on how to take photographs of the family when a volunteer professional photographer is not available through Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. Often times, when a volunteer is not available, staff does not offer the gift of photography to families. This is an option that should be available to ALL families who wish to memorialize the short time they have together. By teaching medical staff on Labor & Delivery and Neonatal Intensive Care Units photography and posing basics, families can be provided with an invaluable gift that will set the footprint of their healing journey.
This program will be facilitated by Three Little Birds Co-Founders, Kristen Samuelson, Loss Parent and Bereavement Doula and Desiree Miller, Bereavement Doula and Professional Photographer. Both Kristen and Desiree have served more than 130 families throughout the region, providing validation, support and the gift of infant remembrance portraiture through Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.
This program is slated to be available for presentation in early 2019 and we are hoping to provide Continuing Education Credits to those who take our course. We are taking reservations now from hospitals who are seeking to improve their perinatal bereavement services to families in their facilities as well as meet the requirements of the Autumn Joy Stillbirth Research & Dignity Act passed in the State of New Jersey.
Three Little Birds is committed to educating the medical community in the varying needs and support required by families experiencing the unthinkable loss of a baby and/or pregnancy. Click here to read our Manifesto for Medical Support.
"Grief is not a disorder, a disease or sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love. The only cure for grief is to grieve". - Earl A Grollman
Can you believe it is mid-summer already? While summertime is hailed as a happy time making memories with family by most, it is often a trigger for families who have lost a pregnancy or baby because of all the memories and rites of childhood that are NOT being made.
Each grief journey is as unique as the individual who walks its path. That being recognized, an aspect of grief that is common to all who grieve is the need for self-care. We know it may be hard to self prioritize your needs, we encourage you to take some time to yourself to focus on self care and relax.
Grief may be experienced in a variety of ways—emotionally, physically, cognitively, psychologically and even spiritually. The reactions of our minds and bodies to grief can include symptoms such as fatigue, sleep disturbances, appetite changes, mood fluctuations, forgetfulness, loss of concentration and even despair. Coping with all of these potential responses may be overwhelming, but there are some things you can do to manage your grief while continuing to function day-to-day.
Accept your feelings.
Feelings are neither right nor wrong, they just are. Sadness, loneliness, fear, confusion, anger—these are among the many feelings you may experience, and are completely normal. Emotions are often raw early in the grief process, but it is important to express them. Attempting to stifle feelings usually leads to an emotional outburst at an inconvenient time.
Be patient with yourself.
Grief is an intensely personal process. Accept that it follows no magic formula or time frame. It will take as long as it takes. Think of the care you would extend to a friend in the same situation of loss, and allow yourself that same grace. Be careful not to take on responsibilities beyond what is realistic. It is better to allow for some flexibility in your obligations during this time.
Pay attention to physical needs.
It can be very easy to neglect your physical needs while grieving. However, this is a time when taking good care of yourself is crucial. As difficult as it may seem, making every effort to get adequate sleep, eat nutritionally balanced meals and fit in regular exercise and intentional relaxation can do wonders.
By pursuing a healthy routine, you are preparing yourself to take on the new challenges facing you during this difficult time. In addition to these efforts, a check-up with your physician is also recommended. Be certain to make your physician aware that you have experienced a loss.
Accept the help of others.
Understand that grief is hard work. It requires a great deal of energy and can be exhausting. Even though we place a high value on self-sufficiency, it is important to ask for, and accept, help from those close to you.
WAYS TO FILL YOUR CUP
The following suggestions were written to help you take care of yourself following the loss of a pregnancy or baby, but apply to any kind of loss you might be experiencing.
Three Little Birds wishes you all a happy, healthy and healing summer. We are here to support you immediately and long-term through the tremendous loss of a pregnancy or child. Please do not hesitate to reach us via text, email, telephone or social media for free support!
Often, after the loss of a pregnancy or baby, family and friends focus on the needs of the mother and overlook the needs and grief of the father who lost the same baby/pregnancy. Many father's have other children at home, while others do not. No two fatherhoods look the same, but they should all be celebrated and acknowledged. This month, Three Little Birds' focus is to validate, support and celebrate all fatherhoods as a show of unified and empathetic support.
Understanding and helping grieving fathers isn't usually easy. Men tend to handle emotions so differently than women and their grief is no exception. Unfortunately this difference, added to the stress of losing a child, causes many parents to split up only few months after loosing their precious child.
Grieving fathers respond to the sad event very differently - and sometimes in a way that puzzles mothers, as many don't show their grief. To all grieving mothers: this is very common, not necessarily a need to worry and can have many, often several causes.
Ways to Support Grieving Fathers
What can be done to show support on Father’s Day to a father who has experienced the deep pain of losing a child? Probably the most appreciated gesture of support would be to acknowledge the fact that the father is still a father even though his child is no longer living on this earth. Refer to him as a father, and express your genuine sorrow for his loss. Fathers who have lost a child as early as miscarriage should certainly be included among the group of grieving fathers.
Finding a Father’s Day card specifically for fathers who have lost a child can be next to impossible. If you cannot find a card with an appropriate verse, choose a blank card and write your own message from the heart. “Sharing in your sorrow this Father’s Day” or, if appropriate, “Blessings to you this Father’s Day as God watches over your heavenly angel” will show a tremendous amount of compassion and support to a father who is grieving the loss of a child on Father’s Day.
Recognize the fact that fathers go through emotional upheavals during the grief of child loss. Fathers grieve differently than mothers, so they might not want a lot of special treatment on Father’s Day. Men are generally less apt to talk about their feelings of hurt and loss than women, but those feelings are still there and need to be recognized. Father’s Day without a child can be just as emotionally heartbreaking for a father as Mother’s Day is for a mother without her child. We need to be sensitive to the needs of fathers, too!
Special holidays stir up many different emotions for fathers, and Father’s Day is a particularly difficult holiday to go through following the loss of a child. With help and support from family and friends, a father can move forward in his grief. By letting a father know that he has not been forgotten on Father’s Day, you will validate his identity as a father, and you will allow him the special privilege of once again being called that most cherished name of all—daddy.
Finally, find some way to validate the fact that a father is still a father even though his child is not living. Fathers are by nature “fixers” and the loss of a child is one loss that cannot be fixed. This fact is often very hard for a man to accept. By giving a card and a personal word on Father’s Day, you will help validate to the father that he is still honored among that special group of men called fathers on Father’s Day. Validation of fatherhood on Father’s Day is one more step forward in this process we call grief.
Additional Resources to Support Grieving Fathers
My wife, Monica, and I suffered the full-term stillbirth of our second child, Kathleen. While that was a number of years ago, I have stayed connected to the issue through my writing and speaking on the topic of father’s grief following the death of an infant. I, like many men, had trouble talking about my feelings after my daughter’s death. I’m hoping this blog might be a place for dads to share their thoughts about what they are experiencing and find support from other dads.
This project is designed to reach out to all bereaved dads and to provide a conduit to share their stories. One of my goals is to bring awareness to the impacts that child loss has on fathers and to let society know that it’s okay for a father to grieve the loss of a child. A father shouldn’t have to hide his pain or feel ashamed to show his emotions.
Kristen Samuelson, SBD, Founder & Director