2021 - September - Gazette - A Place to Take Your Grief

By: Jackie Naginey Hook
Thursday, September 30, 2021

A Place to Take Your Grief

When my husband and I were living through the years of losing our first six pregnancies, angels became significant to me. Angels symbolized the lives that began in me and abruptly ended but continued on in the afterlife. In a culture that doesn’t always recognize these kinds of losses, the angels also symbolized that the pregnancies were real and after years of fertility issues, that future pregnancies were possible. Angels helped me mourn and brought me comfort and hope.

After our third pregnancy loss we hung three artistic angels made of ribbon in a prominent spot on the wall of our Orlando home, and added an angel with each new loss. I’d see them every day and find some peace. And then on a late fall day one year an unexpected package arrived at our front door. I opened it and was filled with gratitude. My mom, who is the quintessential holiday celebrator, had gone through all of her Christmas tree ornaments, found every angel she had, carefully packed them in a box and sent them to me – pewter angels, glass angels, ceramic angels, some with notes of their origin. She knew what angels meant to me and wanted me to be surrounded by them and her love. It worked.

Holidays were especially challenging times when I was grieving but starting that year and every year since, we’ve hung those angels on our tree and we’ve remembered. Early on the angels brought more tears; later they brought stories and gratitude for our family. Our daughter and son recognize the angel ornaments’ significance and talk about their meaning. One year we added a homemade, ceramic heart ornament originally made for a good friend’s baby shower but instead was used as a memento of her twin’s lives that sadly ended before full term. We’ve hung that ornament and remembered. We’ve felt gratitude as well. Gratitude for her two children who continue to grow and fill her life with joy today. For years, our angels have been places we’ve taken our grief and found solace and healing.

When you experience a pregnancy loss, stillbirth or early infant death, there aren’t many places to take your grief. The nurses at Mount Nittany Medical Center do an incredible job of providing mementos if the loss occurred there, but not every loss does.  Sometimes there are burial plots, gravestones and urns, but again not for every loss. Grieving families need to know their pregnancies and infants were real and mattered – a place to take their grief helps with healing.

Thankfully in our area, we have Footprints in the Field. This is a pregnancy and infant loss remembrance garden on the beautiful grounds of Calvary Harvest Fields. Families can take their grief here, soak in the healing surroundings of nature, remember and find comfort.  

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed October as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. To kick off this month, Footprints in the Field is holding a Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Ceremony at 6 p.m. on October 6 at the garden, 150 Harvest Fields Drive, Boalsburg.  This will be a time of coming together outdoors, honoring our grief, remembering our pregnancies and infants and recognizing that we’re not alone. You are invited to join us. In addition, you are invited to contribute to the efforts to finish completing the garden with plantings and engraved river rocks representing the lost babies.  For more information, please visit the Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/FootprintsintheField and to support Footprints in the Field, visit: https://www.gofundme.com/f/footprints-in-the-field.

An additional invitation for couples who have experienced pregnancy and/or infant loss is to join the HEART – Helping Empty Arms Recover Together – Virtual Grief and Loss Support Program. Details of this program are available below in the listing of upcoming community outreach programs. 

For more information, please visit the Bereavement Gatherings and Events page on the Koch Funeral Home website. To reserve your spot and receive the invitation links, email Jackie@JackieHook.com, call 814-237-2712 or visit the Koch Funeral Home Facebook page @kochFH. If there are changes to our in-person gatherings because of COVID, we will provide updates on the website.

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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