2020 - September - Gazette - Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance

By: Dar Bellissimo
Thursday, September 24, 2020

Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance

In our HEART Support Group sessions – HEART stands for Helping Empty Arms Recover Together - Jennifer Stubbs and I have the privilege of sitting with individuals and couples who have lost a pregnancy or infant near birth. In these support group sessions, we often talk about the loss of innocence. Not only are the participants experiencing grief from the loss of their baby and their dreams of a future together, but they’re experiencing grief from the loss of security and expectation that things in the future will go as planned or as they “should.” With innocence gone, fear often accompanies future pregnancies, births and parenting. In a recent meditation by author, teacher and Franciscan Priest, Richard Rohr of the Center for Action and Contemplation he said the word innocent comes from the root innocens which means “not yet wounded.”

Innocence is gone after losing a pregnancy or infant because you do get wounded. I often share with HEART participants that after we lost our first ectopic pregnancy, I tried really hard not to be wounded. I tried to convince myself that it was just some “thing” that had to be surgically removed because it was causing me physical pain and was threatening my life. That convincing worked for a couple of weeks until one day while recuperating, I heard the heartbeat of a six-week-old fetus on TV. My wound opened.

This was the beginning of my journey to come to the work I do today. My wound became what Rohr calls a “sacred wound.” I’ve come to believe as Rohr says that, “We must trust the pain and not get rid of it until we have learned its lessons.” I don’t believe that we are meant to be in pain nor do I believe we suffer for a reason, but I do believe that from the pain and suffering we can be transformed and maybe even grateful for the transformation. When it comes to losing beloveds, however, we’d still rather have them back more than we’d want to be transformed.  

Transformation sometimes takes the form of reaching out with compassion to others who have experienced a similar pain. One such case is Footprints in the Field – A Pregnancy and Early Infant Loss Remembrance Garden on the generously donated grounds of Calvary Harvest Fields in Boalsburg. This Garden is the result of loving efforts spearheaded by Cathy Holsing, a grandmother who lost her grandson, Josiah Emmanuel, after 90 minutes of life. Inspired by Josiah and along with her husband, Ray, and Josiah’s parents, Hannah and Mark Holsing, Cathy has brought together a group of community members to create Footprints in the Field in honor of all of the families who have experienced early infant and pregnancy loss, regardless of religious or spiritual beliefs.

In our country, one in four women experiences this kind of loss and often these losses aren’t recognized or validated. So it’s important to have a comforting place to go to honor, reflect and heal – Footprints in the Field will be that place. Situated near two ponds, the Garden currently has some initial landscaping and a gazebo. Upon completion it will be full of river rocks parents can select and have inscribed with their babies’ names or other wordings of their choice. These rocks can then be taken home or placed in the garden in honor of the babies.

To kick off an informational and fundraising, the Footprints in the Field organization members are hosting a virtual gathering at 6:30 p.m. on October 15, National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. This gathering will include a video of the garden with interviews of some of the involved members, time for reflection and virtual candlelight vigil. Participants are invited to light a candle to be a part of the virtual wave of light that travels around the world beginning at 7 p.m. Please RSVP to FootprintsInTheField@gmail.com to receive the link to join the event, or visit the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/FootprintsintheField. To support Footprints in the Field, visit: https://www.gofundme.com/f/footprints-in-the-field.

And if you want to spend some time nurturing yourself as you attend to your wounds from loss, please join us for Healing with Love: A Virtual Retreat for Those Who Have Lost a Loved One. On Friday, October 9 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., we will join together on a video conferencing platform to be gentle with ourselves, learn helpful lessons from nature’s seasons and recognize that we’re not alone. 

We also invite you to these other safe places to help heal your pain from loss:

  • Monday’s Moments Virtual Gathering – Mondays, October 5 and November 2 from 12:00 to 1:30 p.m. Please RSVP by the Thursday before each gathering.
  • Virtual Death Café, Mondays, October 19 and November 16 from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. 
  • HEART (Helping Empty Arms Recover Together) Grief and Loss Support Program – 1st and 3rd Thursdays with TIDES, November 5 through January 21, 2021 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • Virtual Healing through the Holidays – Mondays, November 16 through December 14 from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m.

Jackie Naginey Hook, MA, is a spiritual director, celebrant and end-of-life doula.  She coordinates the Helping Grieving Hearts Heal program through Koch Funeral Home in State College.  For more information, please call 814-237-2712 or visit www.kochfuneralhome.com.      

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