Darlene A. White
There is no pain like losing a baby, and a local nonprofit is doing its part to provide comfort to grieving families.
Angie Winton, 44, of Taylor, and her husband, Eric, suffered an early pregnancy loss in 2003 and the full-term loss in March 2005 of their daughter, Brooke Marie, who was stillborn at 37.5 weeks.
While heartbroken over the loss of their babies, Winton discovered there was a lack of support and resources for families who experienced a similar loss.
“There were general grief support groups, but nothing related to this type of loss,” Winton said.
In remembrance of their daughter’s birthday, the couple held fundraisers for Brooke’s first and second birthdays and donated that money to the hospital where she was delivered.
While planning for Brooke’s third memorial birthday celebration, Winton decided to explore the idea of starting a support group in the metro Detroit area. She then visited Nation Share, a national nonprofit support group in St. Charles, Missouri, to learn how to organize a group.
By February 2009, Winton launched Metro Detroit Share, a pregnancy and infant loss support group.
“I know what it’s like to experience this devastating loss and not being able to find the right support,” she said. “It is difficult to put into words your feelings after experiencing the loss of a child. I personally felt devastated, alone and without hope.”
The program is geared toward families who experience the loss of a pregnancy at any gestation or as an infant during the first year of life. The group primarily provides support for parents, but often helps grandparents and other family members who need support.
“Although we cannot take the pain away from families, we can help them through it and give them an outlet for support,” Winton said.
The organization offers support meetings for families, caring cradle placement at Michigan hospitals, keepsake support boxes for second trimester pregnancies to infant loss, and early pregnancy loss bags designed to support first-trimester losses.
The memory boxes contain support literature, a hand-crocheted baby blanket and hat, a special baby book to document the loss, and comfort items that include chamomile tea, lip balm, tissues, a loss bracelet and a charm, and a teddy bear, journal, votive candle, forget-me-not flower seeds and a small bag to hold a lock of the infant’s hair.
Volunteer board member Melanie Dove said she learned about Metro Detroit Share when she suffered the loss of her daughter Amber at a day old. Amber’s twin brother survived. Dove later lost her second daughter, Juno, at 16 weeks gestation. Dove eventually discovered a blood clotting disorder caused the losses. Of four children, two are living.
“I was a recipient of a memory box after our first loss and prior to learning about the community support Share offered, a nurse on our NICU unit had directed me to Share support group,” Dove said. “I was an involved member with Share when my second daughter had passed and also received a memory box in her honor. Having the support system in place already was immeasurable.”
Dove works directly with families in coordinating payment of services for funerals, cremations and urns for the program.
“I like volunteering with Share in that I have been able to do something constructive with my grief,” Dove said.
Metro Detroit Share has now grown into a 100% volunteer program that offers many different programs for families, hospitals and OB/GYN offices.
They also formed the Southeast Michigan Perinatal and Infant Loss coalition, collaborating with 10 other nonprofits, which supply similar support.
“Ensuring grieving parents do not walk this grief journey alone is what motivates me to keep going,” Winton said.
“I’ll be honest that it gets really overwhelming at times doing this work, but then you get a phone call from a family and that little bit that you can do to make it easier on them is worth all the work.”
To date, Metro Detroit Share has distributed more than 3,750 keepsake support boxes throughout Michigan and 1,750 early pregnancy loss bags.
One of their latest initiatives is getting Caring Cradles into Michigan hospitals. The cradles are cooling bassinets, which allows families to spend more time with their baby after he or she has passed. To date, the group has donated 26 cooling cradles, which cost about $5,000 each to various Michigan hospitals.
“My hopes for our program is that in the future, when a family experiences a loss, our reach is wide enough that someone close to that family can point them in our direction, said Michele Caruso, secretary of Metro Detroit Share.
The organization recently assembled 500 keepsake boxes and 500 early pregnancy loss bags to give to grieving families. For more information, visit www.metrodetroitshare.org.