October can be a tough reminder for those who’ve lost an infant, as it’s SIDS, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. At Riverview Health, Maternity nurse Dede Flaherty, RN, and her staff make it their mission to provide support and memorial opportunities to people during this emotionally painful time.
How did you get involved in infant loss support?
Dede: My role as a pregnancy and infant loss coordinator began after the birth of my son seven years ago. Working in the maternity department, I saw parents grieve the loss of a little boy at 32 weeks and another little boy who was at full-term. I had recently given birth, and I felt so guilty after these experiences that I could go home and rock my little boy. After taking care of these families, I was invited by one of them to a memorial ceremony in their hometown honoring all pregnancies lost to miscarriage and stillbirth. Shortly after this ceremony, I went to my manager and said I’d like to do something to help patients and nurses cope with infant loss.
What kind of training does staff receive to help grieving patients?
Dede: A fellow labor nurse and I reached out to bereavement coordinators in the surrounding areas to see how they run their bereavement programs. We also attended a Resolve Through Sharing two-day bereavement course to learn more about how to care for grieving parents.
The Bereavement Coalition of Indianapolis provides education twice a year to nurses, social workers and clergy on caring for the bereaved patient. With their assistance, we’ve been able to develop a program in which we can respectfully care for our patients who’ve suffered a miscarriage or a pregnancy loss at fewer than 20 weeks.
What programs are offered through Riverview Health for those who’ve experienced a loss?
Dede: In October 2010, we held our first infant loss memorial ceremony for anyone who had suffered a miscarriage, stillbirth, ectopic pregnancy or neonatal death. Through a Riverview Health Foundation Women of Vision Giving Club grant, we were able to purchase a bench for the Healing Garden outside the Maternity Center at Riverview Health. In that location, we release balloons following our memorial ceremony on the first Sunday in October every year.
For continued support, we offer an infant loss support group at Riverview Health on the last Thursday of each month. We’re also associated with Little Angel Gowns, a national non-profit organization that takes wedding dresses and makes them into burial gowns.
In July 2014, Riverview Health became one of only three hospitals in the country at the time to receive a Cuddle Cot. When a baby who has passed away is delivered, parents usually get only a small amount of time to spend with the baby before he or she is taken away for preservation. The Cuddle Cot is a device that allows the grieving parents much more time to spend with their little one in the hospital room by constantly circulating cool water under the baby to help preserve it.
With these programs, we hope we can make even the littlest difference in the lives of grieving parents.
For more information, please contact Dede Flaherty at 317.776.7302.