In Their Darkest Moments: A Nurse’s Experience Helping Families Say Hello and Goodbye

By: Lisa Zorn

Oh “you work in Labor and Delivery as a nurse you must have the best job!” This is the comment I would hear from people when they inquired about what I did.  I was quick to remind them that the it’s not as glamorous as most may think, we don’t sit around rocking babies all day.

I would share with them that one of the most fulfilling parts of my job was working with the families whose only time with their babies was spent saying hello and good bye at the same time. 

This often stopped them right in their tracks and stopped the conversation.  However, I didn’t let it stop I would continue to say that these were and still are some of my favorite patients that I had the privilege to care for.

The ability to care for an entire family and be invited to be with them during one of the darkest moments of their lives can be scary. I strived to give them not only quality care but friendship. The ability to help them slip into shoes that they never thought they would wear, and trying to make them fit correctly, was a challenge and a privilege.

Although anyone who received a pair of these shoes knows they never fit right, because you’re not supposed to have parent your child from the grave.

In my very first experience, I was a new graduate nurse. I remember the parents coming to deliver their first child, a boy.  She was so uncomfortable looking, as they walked past the desk during the middle of the night.  I began getting her room ready, thinking she would be in my care for postpartum before morning.  A few hours later, I walked to the labor and delivery area and found that when she had arrived, they learned the frightful news that their son had passed before arriving at the hospital. I didn’t get to take care of that mom that night or early morning, but returned the next evening to care for her.  It was then that I learned about Share and its wonderful mission.  Ironically, I had recently read an article in a nursing journal about caring for bereaved parents. I only have a few visions that have remained with me over the years from caring for her, but I can recall one very vivid one. I made sure the nursery didn’t bring any babies out for the few minutes she had to walk down the hall to the sitz bath room. She told me ‘thank you for not letting me see the other babies, it’s hard to hear them during the day.’  I offered to go get her little guy for her to have time with him, as this was before the time of Cuddle Cots and babies staying with parents during their stay.  The parents declined.  I think their time with their little guy was just a few hours after he was born.   

The courage I have learned from families who have footprints placed on their hearts and continue to strive forward full of fear is simply amazing.

One couple’s daughter left too soon at full term, but they were successful to have children to raise here on earth.  Yet in between those children, they sent several others to heaven to parent from afar.  At the service for their last daughter, I was able to be present at the grave site. I learned that when the baby’s grandpa would come to visit, he always left a penny on the baby’s head stones to let someone know he had been by to visit. This was such a heartwarming way of letting others know these little one’s are remembered. They displayed great courage to continue to bring children into the world, knowing that some they would get to have for longer periods than others. 

Families placed so much trust in me to help guide them on this journey- during the first few days of their world being completely changed. 

I always encouraged them to invite extended family: grandparents, uncles, aunts, and other siblings to come and meet their child.  Often these suggestions were followed by a look like I was crazy, but I would ask them if the circumstances were different wouldn’t they be inviting the family to come meet the new addition. I reminded the parents that the extended family may not accept the invitation but to make it available to them. I shared that it had been my experience that when extended family would come and meet their baby, it actually made things more real and people seemed to be more accepting.  I also encouraged them to allow any living children to come and meet their sibling.  Regardless of how young a child might be, most parents have done some preparing by telling them they are getting a new sibling or they are going to be a big brother or sister. One family didn’t think that they would want their older son to come meet their new baby. But they told me this was something they had never done and that they prayed about it, and the Lord told them to trust me, as I had seen this before. So they made plans for their older son to be brought to the hospital.  The experience was simply amazing! He came in and immediately went to the bassinet that his brother was in and said, “Hi, I’m your big brother. I brought you a car to play with.”  This little guy thought nothing of the fact that his baby brother didn’t respond. He simply put the car in the bassinet with his brother. It was such a privilege to be trusted by families when I suggested we take pictures, do hand and feet prints, and make memories with their baby. I would always encourage them to make as many memories as possible in the short time that they had. 

Some of the most humbling experiences have been from you, the bereaved parents and grandparents who have allowed me into one of the darkest moments of your life. 

To the parents of a beautiful little boy, who was given the same name as my own father: whenever I see an elephant, I will think of you and your family. 

Thank you to a beautiful baby girl who shares my zodiac sign of Aries: I think how brave your momma was receiving the news at a doctor office visit and your dad was half way across the country for a new job.  She waited for him to return so he could be by her side before you were born. And how she was the “night owl” of our support group telling others “I’m awake at night, message me and we can chat.” She was simply amazing. 

To the sweet little boy, whose parents and grandparents I met months before you were born, when they found out you had potter’s syndrome.  I was able to help them plan your time here. I still remember all the outfit changes that you had during those days at the hospital, and their generosity to the Share organization still today through allowing them to use your pictures and volunteering at events and fundraising.  I share your story when encouraging families to go outside by the lake to take pictures and get out of the stale hospital room. 

For the adorable little girl who was born the day after Thanksgiving, I remember when all the extended family came to visit. No one was holding you, but your big sister had a doll that you had brought for her. When I asked her what she named your doll, she had named her after you.  And your grandma shared with me how she always made holiday pajamas for the grand babies. She asked if we could dress you in your pajama’s and we did, they were bright red, how beautiful you looked. 

When I see a Raggedy Ann doll, it reminds me of a precious little girl, who’s grandma made her a handmade doll and brought it to the hospital for her.  Your grandma undressed your doll and dressed you in the dress and panties, it fit you perfect.  The smile on her face was irreplaceable. 

The dad who was with his wife while we were waiting for their son to be born. His one request was to have an answer as to the cause of his son’s passing. When you were born, we saw how you got tangled in your cord.  Later that evening, I had the privilege to help your grandma to give you a bath and get you dressed before the rest of your visitors came. 

When I see a turtle, I remember a little boy who was born to a healthcare member, his room at home was decorated in a nautical theme. He is the first grandbaby on both sides. I remember the kindness of your uncles who reached out to their fraternity family to donate stuffed animals so that future families having a loss would have something to hold onto when it was time to leave the hospital. 

My days not rocking babies brought so much more, especially when caring for families who were saying hello and goodbye. To say thank you never seems like enough.

Learning from the families in their darkest moments has led me to meet some of the most amazing people.  People that many I am now so happy to call friend.  I can only hope that others, working in the world of bereavement, can find that happiness too.

About Lisa Zorn

I’ve been a nurse for 31 yrs, my primary background is OB, labor and delivery. Currently I’m working in a physician office, but remain active with the Share program.  I learned about Share as a new nurse having met Cathy Lammert, who is my inspiration.  I truly believe I fell in love with Share and the program because my parents laid 2 of their 11 children to rest by the time I was 5 yrs old. They had also suffered several early losses that I didn’t know much about, but I can remember telling my dad about the program (my mom had passed when I was 16 yrs old) and he made the comment that there wasn’t anything like that for them “back in the day.”  I think it was something that became as important to my dad as his fishing and family. I truly enjoyed the opportunity to serve these families and give them as much as they would like to have memories and time with their precious babies. I knew that at the end of my shift I would go home to my family, but these families were going to go home to an empty crib and broken dreams. My husband, who is my rock, and I have been blessed with 4 of our own children. We are currently empty nesters and enjoy working on our small farm, crafting and traveling to visit our kids.  


  1. Marcia McCluskey on May 9, 2020 at 4:04 pm

    You are pretty inside and out and I am proud of you. Thank you for your nice stories of courage and hope, Lisa Zorn

  2. Ottilia Voegtli on May 9, 2020 at 6:13 pm

    I am profoundly grateful I have never had the experience of loosing a child. Lisa is a heroine.

  3. Julia Alvord on May 10, 2020 at 2:02 pm

    Thank you Lisa for your special touch and giving of you heart and time to these parents and also to the staff who needed help in knowing what should we do to help these families during this difficult time. You have been an inspiration to many.

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