“Everyone runs the other direction when a baby dies.”
I remember one nurse came into my hospital room while I was recovering from Zara Beth’s stillbirth, and she said nothing about Zara Beth dying. I thought, "Oh, we’re going to pretend nothing happened.”
But there was another nurse who stayed all night in my room with me, the night after our loss. And she did things for me that I didn’t know to do for myself.
Vicki Niblett, now 40, lost her daughter Zara Beth Niblett at birth in 2007. That experience, along with the sudden loss of her 22-year-old brother in 2005, led her and her mother, Eileen Reichler, 66, to create Llost (Loss of of Loved ones to Suddent Tragedy) a 501c3 foundation dedicated to healing people in the first 48 hours after sudden loss. Four of her five siblings serve on the board.
“We funded it with my brother’s life insurance policy,” says Niblett.
The foundation has helped 44 hospitals in 22 states through their Treasured Memories program. The program sends nurses to bereavement training, and provides or supplements the $55 memory boxes that include clothes, booties, handknot blankets, pictures, foot prints, hand prints, clipped hair and other mementos.
“When Zara Beth died, at first I didn’t want to hold her or take footprints. But my nurse, Tammy Ruiz Ziegler, the perinatal bereavement coordinator at MWH, talked me through those feelings. The first time I saw Zara Beth she was wrapped in a beautiful blanket and dressed in a complete outfit from our memory box.” After a few months, I realized what a gift that memory box was. What else do I have that shows she was real, that she existed. My kids know their sister was real through that box.”
The foundation also runs a program called “Grieving, Handle with Care” to educate people on how to help friends and family suffering from sudden loss.
“We found LLost’s information on what to say and not say to grieving parents through Julie Brosnan, our sales representative here at Fredericksburg Parent, after she lost Gwendolyn (Gwen) in her 6th month of pregnancy. We were all so sad and really had no idea how to help Julie, or what exactly to say the first time she came back to a meeting,” says Leigh Anne Van Doren, publisher of Fredericksburg Parent and Family.
“After her loss, Julie located the LLost foundation and showed us some of their materials. We've since added a message to the bottom of our prenatal and baby eletter to say, “If you are unsubscribing due to loss, support can be found at the Llost foundation, www.llost.org.”
“One of the first things I did was unsubscribe to all of the baby emails for Gwen,” says Brosnan. “And I was so angry each time another email came. It’s not rational really. I also was surprised at how angry I became if people called her Gwendolyn, not Gwen. I wanted them to say her name, and I also wanted them to say it correctly.”
October is Infant Loss month. On October 1st, the Llost foundation will hold their annual “Healing Hearts Walk to Remember”at Old Mill Park, starting at noon.
“We can’t keep boxes or pins people wear to show they are grieving in stock,” says Niblett. “We need $4000 to keep six months of supplies on hand.”
But what Niblett really wants is to expand Llost’s reach. “We have a great model. We’ve reached a whole region and we know where the gaps are. Now we want to expand to the whole country.”
Books about Pregnancy & Infant Loss
• A Guide For Fathers: When A Baby Dies, by Tim Nelson
• An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination: A Memoir, written by Elizabeth McCracken. This touching story written after the author lost her first baby in the 9th month of her pregnancy. This book is deeply moving and will have you not wanting to put it down.
• Companioning at a Time of Perinatal Loss: A Guide for Nurses, Physicians, Social Workers, Chaplains and Other Bedside Caregivers, by RN, Jane Heustis, et al
• Empty Cradle, Broken Heart: Surviving the Death of Your Baby, written by Deborah Davis. This book covers things from immediately after the loss all the way to being pregnant after a loss. This book has many quotes form various families that have lost children (pregnancy loss and stillborns) and various topics, such as the differences in how woman and men grieve, are covered.
• I Never Held You: A book about miscarriage, healing, and recovery, by Ellen M. DuBois
For a complete list, go to llost.org/resources.