A Vote For An Angel

People are not taught how to deal with the death of a baby. Friends and family often don’t know what to say. Most people expect the parents, especially the father, to return to work within a few days and be ‘back to normal’ within a matter of months, but the death of a baby changes parents forever . . .

_7903271As I finished a call and cradled the phone, an unfamiliar woman entered and then quickly exited my co-worker Lori’s office. The woman had been carrying a rectangular object. I knew Lori* had left for hospital visit and wouldn’t return for several hours. What had been delivered in her absence? Curious, I eased across the hallway and stopped at the door’s threshold to peer inside.

I gulped. Now I knew what had been brought for my colleague:  a coffin the size of two back-to-back shoeboxes, its exterior elegantly wrapped with soft, padded fabric.

For the last few years, I’ve worked part-time at Hinds Hospice as a so-called Bereavement Support Specialist. Trust me, I’m not much of a specialist in anything, but my employers had to concoct a title for my duties. The part of Hinds where I’m employed is The Center for Grief and Healing and Angel Babies. The diminutive coffin had been brought to Lori’s office by the person who had built it because of the final two words in The Center’s name . . . Angel Babies.

My bereavement work is exclusively with adults. I make follow-up calls to those who have experienced the death of a loved one. When a sister or grandparent or father or aunt has died under Hinds Hospice’s care, we make sure those who are grieving know they’re not alone. Not only do we call folks, but we also send monthly letters and sponsor various workshops and conferences throughout the year. Additionally, I lead grief support groups and do a variety of “this” and “that” for The Center.

But I don’t work with the ones who’ll use the handmade coffin waiting in my colleague’s office; I don’t deal with the parents who have, or will soon, experience their baby’s final breaths. I like to think my work with adults struggling with loss allows my colleagues to have more time to care for parents grieving the death of a precious infant. Continue reading →