Grieving parents can get support from volunteers whe relate to their loss
By Robert Stevens
One in four pregnancies ends in loss. Although many Sanpete families experience infant death and their journey through grief varies, they are now being supported by Share Parents of Utah.
Stacey Fletcher, a former resident of Ephraim and Share volunteer, has helped bring Share services to Central Valley Hospital, Sanpete Valley Hospital, Gunnison Hospital and Sevier Valley Hospital. The Fletcher family lost two babies, one at 10 weeks gestation in 2005 and another baby in 2006 who was born still full-term. After experiencing the grief and pain of infant death first hand, the Fletchers now seek to honor their babies by paying support services forward to other families experiencing similar losses.
“When you lose a baby, you feel very isolated and alone…even when you are surrounded by many people wanting to help,” explained Fletcher. “I felt like I could only take one moment at a time and focus on surviving. The grief was consuming and overwhelming. I think that talking to other parents who had experienced similar loss helped me realize that I could survive, that the pain would lessen, that I would eventually be able to function again.
“Now that I volunteer with Share Parents of Utah, I realize that my hospital experience could have been very different. I only held my son for a couple of hours. I have no pictures of anyone holding him. We did not include our boys in any memory making at the hospital. I did not dress or bathe my son, with the exception of dressing him for burial at the mortuary. I realize now that we could have done so much more with him. That is why I volunteer now. I want to help other families and pay it forward for my angel children.”
Share Parents of Utah provides several services in the event of a baby’s death. Once contacted by the hospital, volunteers visit with families to provide emotional support during their hospital stay. Th is peer-to-peer support is a unique form of comfort for grieving families because they are given the ability to speak with other families who have been in similar situations.
When possible, Share volunteers create hand and feet molds and provide photography for the families. Babies are dressed in small handmade diapers and hats and wrapped in blankets. Volunteers give families mementos and remembrances to help them memorialize their babies.
In addition, Share provides information about burial services, cremation and parental rights. Volunteers help families create precious memories with their babies in the short time they are given with them. Zach and Ame Shumway lost their son Gage and they were comforted by Share volunteers. “The experience was absolutely amazing,” noted Ame. “The comfort and the support that we received helped us in so many ways with the grieving process. It was amazing to have someone who had gone through the same thing, because they knew what it was like to have an angel baby. They helped us accept the loss, but they also helped us to remember and celebrate him. The pictures and the hand/feet molds that they made also helped in the grieving process. They gave us something of him to have forever.”
JC Slaugh and Adam Unferdorfer of Mt. Pleasant were served by Share volunteers when they lost their daughter Emmalee. “Share helped us remember Emmalee because we had such a short time with her. I was scared that I would have her, and we would bury her, and she would be forgotten,” explained JC. “I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to remember what she looked like, but the volunteers took so many pictures. I can still see her face and her fingers and toes. The molds are so amazing.
“I also believe that the Share community helps people realize that losing a baby is more common than you think. The volunteers told me that she was beautiful, and it made me feel so much better about my own feelings because I thought she was beautiful too. These babies are still human and important. Share helped me realize that even more.”
Shilo and Laramy Madsen lost their son Brink at Sevier Valley Medical Center. Their family was served by Share Parents of Utah. “In such a heartbreaking event in our lives, Stacey was there with a warm smile and kind word to be our guide in the storm,” Shilo commented. “It was beautiful how warm her spirit was and how she catered to not only my husband, myself, and my baby, but also the needs of our whole family. Without her, we may not have our greatest treasures.”
Since support began in central Utah, many local families have benefited from Share’s program, but more volunteers are needed to keep the program viable. Fletcher, the central Utah coordinator, moved to St. George, but still covers many hospital calls, traveling a great distance often with little notice. If you have experienced pregnancy or infant loss and would like to become a Share volunteer contact her at 435813-0044. All volunteers will be trained and guided in proper support procedures.
Share Parents of Utah has been supporting families through pregnancy and infant loss for 35 years, and that support expanded to central Utah hospitals in April of 2016.