Grieve Out Loud – Support in a Time of Loss

Wendy Warren was 24 ½ weeks pregnant with her second child when she was placed on bedrest at St. John’s Mercy Medical Center. 11 ½ weeks later, her son, Elijah, was born, but because of Potter’s Syndrome, a birth defect in which the kidneys fail to develop, the Warrens only had a few precious hours with their child before he passed away.

Each year, thousands of parents across the U.S. leave the maternity ward without a child in their arms to face a world of sadness and isolation. Yet, for individuals like Warren, they’ve also discovered a world of hope and support via the Internet.

“After Elijah was born and then shortly passed away, the women that I found online were the only ones I could turn to,” she said. “No one else in my life had any idea what I was going through.  I could share my feelings freely, and these women knew exactly how I was feeling.”

During Warren’s time at St. John’s and through her relationships on the web, a connection was made with another mother going through a similar loss. A connection that in time would help other grieving parents around the world.

A network of parents, a network of care.

Heather Mohr of Bethalto, Ill., who had also been on bedrest, met Warren in the ultrasound room at St. John’s. Said Mohr, “About a month later, someone pointed her to my blog as a similar story to hers, and we realized the connection!” Like Warren, Mohr lost her daughter, Madelyn, shortly after birth, and the two mothers relied on one another – and other parents they had met on the Internet – to help them during the most difficult times in their lives.

Throughout her pregnancy and loss, Mohr discovered resources online to give her strength, but found the number of choices overwhelming. With help from Warren and other mothers from across the nation, Mohr launched Grieve Out Loud – a comprehensive, one-stop website where parents can locate support resources, share their stories, find keepsakes and most important, speak with a family going through a similar situation thanks to the organization’s Pen-Pal program.

Said Mohr, “The Pen-Pal program is our primary focus at this time, and its main goal is to let parents know they are not alone. Losing a child is very isolating, and being able to connect with others who have been in similar shoes is a huge source of comfort.”

Mohr, Warren and 14 other mothers serve as Pen Pals, lending a helping hand and a shoulder to cry on to the thousands of families facing loss before and after birth. Recently, two dads have also joined the Pen-Pal program to offer a resource for fathers.  “While mothers often find the support they need online, fathers may not reach out in the same way,” remarked Mohr. “They face their own grief – trying to handle the grief of a loss while trying to remain strong for their spouse.”

For parents who are handling stillbirth, miscarriage or fatal genetic disorders, connecting to others through Grieve Out Loud’s Pen-Pal program is as easy as reviewing and sending an email, including name, email address, mailing address and description of the loss, to the organization. The parent is then connected to a team member who has experienced a comparable situation, creating a network of support for families.

After experiencing her own loss and helping others through theirs, Warren wants parents who have lost a child to know, “You are not alone, and you will survive! This precious child will always be yours, and it’s okay to tell people about him or her.  There is no moving on, there is only moving forward.  Your life will be forever changed but you will learn how to live in your ‘new normal.’  Don’t be afraid to talk about your loss, you never know who it might positively impact and you will be surprised to find out others who have gone through something similar.”

By Nicole Plegge, Lifestyle Blogger for SmartParenting

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Metro East mom Nicole Plegge is the lifestyle and pop culture blogger for STL Parent. Besides working as a freelance writer & public relations specialist, and raising two daughters and a husband, Nicole's greatest achievements are finding her misplaced car keys each day and managing to leave the house in a stain-free shirt. Her biggest regret is never being accepted to the Eastland School for Girls. Follow Nicole on Twitter @STLWriterinIL 

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