That moment when “it’s time” to head to the hospital for the birth your child is one that no parent will ever forget. For many those moments are followed by exhilarating joy, but for some, it is followed by empty arms and minds full of unimaginable grief.
Whether it is a stillbirth, early loss, or a loss of an infant shortly after birth, all are devastating and something no one can prepare themselves for. After this loss may come feelings of grief, guilt, shame and the inevitable unanswered question of “was it something we did”.
These feelings and questions are the reason the Perinatal Bereavement Program at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women is so important. The program supports those who have lost a baby and teaches them that there is no right or wrong way to react or feel at this time, guiding each through their own journey of loss and recovery.
One way that the program supports families who have experienced a loss is through a group memorial service supported by the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation, Alberta Health Services, and Covenant Health Pregnancy and Infant Loss Program partner. Five local funeral homes join them to host the annual Remembering Our Losses Together memorial in the month of May. The memorial is a beautiful way for families who have experienced a loss to mourn and remember their baby. Remembering Our Losses Together is a way in which parents and families can support, and seek comfort in one another.
Ten years ago Brian and Denise Geslinger found themselves in this same life-altering situation shortly following the birth of their son. On April 6, 2008, Jonas Geslinger was born two months premature at the Royal Alexandra Hospital. Jonas spent the next few weeks in the NICU, and passed away on May 3, 2008, at 27 days old.
"Events such as the Remember Our Losses Together annual memorial are a beautiful and meaningful way for families who have lost a baby to be able to recognize and celebrate the lives of our babies, however brief those lives may have been," said Brian Geislinger. "This memorial is also an incredible source of healing and comfort as we come together with other families who truly understand our losses, whether that loss is fresh, or in our case years later."
Families are invited to bring a teddy bear to the memorial to donate to the hospital in memory of their baby. Hospital staff gives these teddy bears to families who have just experienced a loss ensuring the circle of love and support continues. Every teddy bear has a personalized tag on it letting families know another just like them are thinking of them in their time of need.
“Families continue to remember and honour their baby for the rest of their lives,” said Patti Walker, Regional Bereavement Coordinator for the Perinatal Bereavement Program at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women. “This is a very family focused event, so siblings, grandparents and friends may also attend. This can become an annual tradition. During the service, families will be given to the opportunity to light a candle and say their little ones name out loud validating that this baby was wanted, is missed and still so, so loved.”
This year the Remembering Our Losses Together memorial service and reception will be held on Sunday, May 27, 2018, at 1 p.m. at the Connelly-McKinley Funeral Home. Following the service, there will be a graveside ceremony for the families that participated in the 2016 Hospital Burial program.
"Losing a baby is something you learn to live with, not something you 'get over'," Denise Geislinger added. "The annual memorial is an important part of our journey in living with our losses."