By: Sister Jane Marie Lamb, OSF
It is always a privilege to honor and remember the many precious babies who were real and who were loved. My time of nearly 30 years journeying with bereaved parents has a been a gifted time for me in more ways than I could ever tell you. I treasure the memories of these precious babies and of their parents as I saw their courage and deep love for their child who had died. It was a privilege to share in the precious moments spent with these special babies.
It was through the life and death of one precious little girl, Anna Marie, who was stillborn in the hospital where I had recently joined the staff as chaplain. This was in 1979 when the average caregiver, including myself, had no preparation to fall back on during the crisis precipitated by an infant’s death. The parents were devastated when Anna Marie was stillborn. For the first three days, the father was alone, as the mother remained in a coma with complications and was hospitalized for a month.
Though I had been a Maternity nurse, I had no preparation to deal with grief, at least I didn’t think I had any insights into their pain. Looking back, I realized that I had developed sensitivity to my other’s grief when my older sister died at age 18 – I was only 9 years old at the time. The parents taught me to listen with empathy, to respond to their needs and to be their advocate. They needed most an avenue to give them options and the opportunity to make their own decisions. My role became one of journeying with them, to comfort them and to listen. They became my first teachers.
Later when I moved to St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, Illinois, through a series of circumstances in this large hospital, I found myself responding to other parents with a similar experience. From my beginnings with little Anne Marie, I have continued to journey with hundreds of families in the United States and other continents.
Every child’s life is precious and who can be more precious to parents than their infant? The hopes and dreams for this child are filled with anticipation and joy. Suddenly, their dreams are shattered and the world around them shaken. The parents find it difficult as they try to make it alone. We as caregivers are privileged to journey with the families during this time of putting the pieces back together. Many family members and friends do not have an understanding of the grief process and for that reason shy away from reaching out.
Each time I have journeyed with a family they have gifted me with a deeper love and understanding. I learned that the foremost important thing on the journey with them was to listen and be there for them. I have been privileged to lighten their way and to give the families the love and support they need to make it thought the difficult times.
Over the years I continue to learn and to rejoice in the numbers of people who are there for the grieving families. During grief, we need each other and to be with others who understand. As we gather in times of remembering we acknowledge the significance of each baby and the precious lives that are no longer with us here. We come to remember, not to forget them. We come to honor the precious babies by name and to support the bereaved parents and family members as they move through their good times and difficult times.
Today there are many sensitive and caring people ready to reach out to you. Give yourself time to grieve and be gentle with yourselves. Let your needs be known. Reach out to one of the support centers around the country. You need not go it alone. Today there are many ways that others can be a support and strength for you. Sharing your pain can lighten your burden. Do what you need to do to help yourselves, and do not try to go it alone. You are important to us and to so many people.
About Sister Jane, Share Foundress