Support for the Heartbroken
Franciscan St. Francis Health Provides Solace for the Grieving
Writer / Jessica Pflumm
Photographer / Polly Riddell
In the mid-1980s, the voice of grieving parents spoke louder than ever asking for changes in how infant loss was being handled at hospitals nationwide. Parents went through a heartbreaking loss only to have their child then whisked away – never to be seen again.
Nurses and hospital staff in La Crosse, Wisconsin, partnered together to form Resolve Through Sharing (RTS). Hospitals here in central Indiana also knew changes needed to be made, so Indianapolis nurses sought out training from RTS.
To date, the RTS program has implemented training around the world that allows doctors, nurses and other key hospital staff to better understand the needs and desires of grieving parents. The Indianapolis Perinatal Bereavement Coalition provides training annually for staff caring for families with pregnancy loss. This training has comforted many families in their greatest time of need.
In the Greenwood area, Franciscan St. Francis Health provides support for all their families who receive a fatal diagnosis, go through a stillbirth or have a child pass away after birth. In addition to providing these services, St. Francis offers two monthly support groups: Infant Loss meets one time per month and Subsequent Pregnancy meets two times per month. Subsequent Pregnancy members support one another as they go through a subsequent pregnancy after the loss of a child.
St. Francis also offers breakout groups for the fathers of these children. These are scheduled as needed and allow fathers to get together and discuss their struggles or what has helped them in their journey. Oftentimes, the role of the father is seen as the strength of the family, so this group is vital to family support.
In 2006, a group of women who met through the support groups decided they wanted to do more. A new group, Caring Companions, was created. This unique and very special group of women came alongside other women that delivered at St. Francis and experienced the loss of a child. Having been through this journey themselves, they more fully understand the needs and wants of parents during a time when parents can’t often think though decisions clearly.
Caring Companions also provides support for the hospital staff as often many families are in labor and delivery at once. Support for doing tasks such as making handprints and footprints, encouraging moms and dads to bathe their babies and overall counsel is often needed.
In addition to these compassionate services, St. Francis also provides perinatal hospice. When a family receives a fatal diagnosis, staff at St. Francis will meet with the parents and help them go through a delivery plan to ensure all of their needs and wants are discussed and thought-through.
“We try to meet the parents where they are in their journey and provide options that best suit their family’s needs,” explained Joni Cutshaw, BSN, RNC, Certified Pregnancy Loss Care (CPLC), CCAP. On July 1, 2016, a new law was passed in Indiana that ensures families that receive a life-limiting diagnosis are told about perinatal hospice and what options are available. Until then, some Indiana hospitals did not meet with families, and often parents were left unsure of what choices they have during a very emotional and difficult journey.
St. Francis and other area Indiana hospitals go the extra mile in providing remembrance ceremonies for families. “We support them throughout their journey, and it does not end when they leave the hospital,” Ms. Cutshaw stated. Through St. Francis, families can choose to participate in as much or as little as they’d like. There is a beautiful memorial garden in one of the courtyards at St. Francis. Families can visit here and can also participate in Parents Remembrance Day, an annual event held in June. Parents can order a brick to be placed in this garden with their name(s), their child’s name and birthdate on it. They also have a butterfly release to commemorate children that have died.
Additionally, every October, to tie into National Pregnancy Loss Month declared by Ronald Reagan in 1988, there is the Walk to Remember. This walk allows parents and families of children that have died to gather to support one another and most importantly honor their sons and daughters that are no longer here on earth. For more information on the Walk to Remember, please visit bit.ly/franciscan_wtr.
Thank you to St. Francis and its compassion to the southside community. For more information on any of the services offered, please contact Joni Cutshaw at 317-528-5199.