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Earlier this summer, the Philadelphia Inquirer invited Three Little Birds to discuss the emotional and financial aspects of losing a baby and/or pregnancy. The healthcare costs of having a healthy baby are staggering, and even more so for families who leave the hospital empty armed and broken hearted.
If you have suffered out of pocket healthcare costs after experiencing a miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal loss and would like to share your story, please let us know and we will put you in contact with Sarah Gantz at the Philadelphia Inquirer. They are seeking other brave families to discuss their experiences and the out of pocket costs they incurred. It is sharing our experiences that helps institute change and helps others understand!
Sunday, September 9, 2018 is Grandparent's Day in North America. Most of us remember having a special connection with our grandparents growing up and reminisce of the time spent together. Many people do not realize, however, the grief grandparents experience when they lose a grandchild via stillbirth, neonatal loss and miscarriage.
No one expects to outlive their own children, much less experience the loss of a much-loved, much-wanted grandchild. It is so difficult to raise a family, see your children do the same and see the cycle broken in this out-of-order way. NO one is prepared for the grief that follows. As a grandparent, you have double grief. You grieve your grandchild who has died, as well as for your own child who is now a bereaved parent. You not only feel your own pain and sadness, but also feel helpless and frustrated at not being able to help your bereaved child.
It helps to remember that there is no timetable for grief. Don't expect too much of your child, his or her spouse or yourself. At first, no one believes it. When the reality hits, everyone feels even more devastated. It is important to consider your needs as well as those of your bereaved child.
Acknowledging and working with your grief will help you and indirectly, your grieving child. Don't be surprised if at first you can't reach out to your grieving child. Remember that you are grieving. Be patient with yourself. Eventually, you may be able to talk, listen and help. IF you find that you can't help specifically with the grief you can send cards, tell them you love them, etc. Explain that you wish that you could be of more help but you don't know what to do.
SUGGESTIONS FOR HELPING YOURSELF AND YOUR GRIEVING CHILD
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.
Kristen Samuelson, SBD, Founder & Director