A couple of things I want to share with healthcare professionals at birthing and NICU units are the letter to parents and an accompanying letter to caregivers. These letters provide tips on how to guide grieving families through the difficult process of having to say “goodbye” to a child.
My goal is for the letter to parents to be given to families at the hospital after being told that their little one has died — before it is too late. This letter outlines what parents can do to bond with their baby within 12 hours of receiving the news. From my experience, and from what other parents have shared, some of these rituals may significantly impact their journey of grief and healing. Families may rely on caregivers such as nurses, doctors, midwives, doulas and social workers for clear direction.
After pouring over books and reading ways that parents could have spent more time with their children before saying their final “goodbyes”, I was prompted to write something that could be passed on to families right away. To be honest, there are things we wish we had done with our son that we never got a chance to.
After hearing that other parents also had regrets and cringing when I heard comments like “I didn’t know I could have had a volunteer photographer take pictures” or “I wish I had known that I could have bathed my baby myself…”, this prompted me to create the letters so that parents could become aware of ways they could spend time with their infants.
About nine months ago, a close friend of mine called and I sensed panic in her voice. Her friend **Nicole was in the hospital and just delivered her full-term daughter who was born still. “What should I do, what can I tell her?” my friend asked. I knew I still had time and rushed home to email the letter to parents before the family left the birthing unit.
Nicole contacted me a few weeks later thanking me for the information and suggestions. This newly bereaved mother wasn’t sure at the time if she wanted photos, but 8 months later she proudly showed me the scrapbook featuring her beautiful daughter’s pictures. “Thank you” she said with sincere gratitude, “I look at the photos of her often, and it helps a lot”.
I’m working on getting this letter out to birthing unit staff, doulas, midwives and social workers. If there is anyone you know who might wish to have this letter via email, feel free to have them contact me directly and I can send it out.
This is what Little Light of Heaven is all about, being able to share with grieving families and caregivers and to let the light of our babies shine through as we reach out to others with faith, hope and love. This is how the healing begins and may it continue…
** Name changed