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Module 4What families need

Resources on infant loss for clergy

These resources were assembled and reviewed by Alicia Parker, Minister of Comfort and a member of the Health Team Ministry of New Covenant Church of Philadelphia, registered nurse with Certification in Thanatology.

Davis, Deborah, Empty Cradle, Broken Heart: Surviving the Death of Your Baby, Fulcrum Publishing.

While this book was mainly written for parents it will give insights to clergy, making them aware of what families experience and what support is needed to help them to heal when a baby dies. There are comments from parents and poetry interwoven throughout the book. The chapters in this book cover every aspect that parents may experience from the loss of their baby. It discusses how parents may feel, how they grieve and how they can “survive” their grief. It also covers the physical needs of the mother and special needs of the father, who may be left out during this time. It further reflects on the impact of infant loss on other family members. Chapter 12 addresses the importance of support networks and the lack of thereof to help families during this time. The chapter also gives helpful suggestions for parents in their search for their support. The difficult topic of having another baby is also discussed. Lastly, the book gives direction in setting up a bereavement ministry for infant loss including how to journal through this difficult period. Lastly, resources containing books and support groups for bereaved parents are listed.

Eddy, Mary Lou and Raydo, Linda, Making Loving Memories, a Gentle Guide to What You Can Do When Your Baby Dies, Centering Corporation, Omaha, 1990.

While this booklet can be used by parents to help plan a special funeral or memorial service for their baby, it can also be used for clergy and other leaders to give ideas in working with families as this special type of service is planned. Parents who experience these losses may not know what to do or even have thought of having a special service for their beloved child. Having a service acknowledges their loss and pain and also aids in the healing process.

Gilbert, Kathleen R. and Smart, Laura, Coping With Infant and Fetal Loss: The Couple’s Healing Process. Brunner/Mazel Publishers,1992.

This is a book following the healing process of 27 married couples who have experienced pregnancy and infant loss. The research with these couples supports other findings that the mother’s were generally more impacted and affected than the fathers but cautions that professionals should not discount or assume that fathers are not just as impacted. Different models of grief are explored and explained. The death of an infant has an impact on marital relationships between the parents collectively and individually. It also reports the support or lack thereof that families received from clergy, family, and friends. Chapter 9 has 6 very helpful tables that can be used by grieving parents to help themselves or by clergy to understand the needs of bereaved parents. Table 2 questions 4-6 can specifically used by clergy to evaluate themselves for readiness to work with bereaved parents. It is an excellent resource.

Hayford, Jack, I’ll Hold You in Heaven. Ventura, Regal Books 2003.

This is a book of comfort, a book of healing for parents and family members who have questions about their unborn child. When does life begin? Does my baby have a soul? Where is my baby will I see him or her again? Pastor Hayford gets to the heart of the matter of perinatal loss and offers healing, hope, and grace to the hurting souls of those who have experienced perinatal loss and utilizes Scripture in sensitive ways. He further offers suggestions for those who want to help. This book can be used by clergy to give them insight into how to approach families with a gentle touch to foster healing and wholeness.

Moe, Thomas, Pastoral Care in Pregnancy Loss: a Ministry Long Needed, Haworth Press 1997.

This is truly a long needed ministry book that gives pastors direction and information regarding pregnancy loss. It discusses the impact of this unique loss on the lives of the people involved. In chapter one he addresses the fact that many pastors do not understand the suffering experienced by families who have this types of loss. He gives statistics that show the prevalence of pregnancy loss nationally and compares it with other countries. While the data is more than twelve years old it still shows the high incidence of pregnancy loss. He further explains loss and the resultant grief in pregnancy loss and uses case studies to help explain the impact on families. It refers to the stages of grief as written by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, a theory that is not encouraged at this time, but also refers to the phases of mourning by Glen Davidson. He discusses the impact of these losses on children who are often forgotten grievers. Dr. Moe has also included a chapter on the philosophy and theology of pregnancy from a Christian perspective. Practical ways to establish this type of ministry are given and the book is a very helpful resource for pastors and leaders who are looking to establish this type of bereavement ministry in their church congregation.

Rosenblatt, Paul C. and Wallace, Beverly R., African American Grief. Rutledge, Taylor, and Francis Group, 2005.

This book is not specific to perinatal loss but is a research book that explains and explores African American responses to loss and grief. It includes chapters on racism and discrimination, the private ways that many African American families grieve, funerals, beliefs on being strong, ongoing bonds, reluctance to talk about their grief and other helpful ways to work with African Americans who are grieving. Chapter 11 discusses the importance of God, religion, scripture, and the African American church for many African Americans in making sense of death. This book includes interviews with 26 persons who had experienced the death of close family members. Page 5 has a paragraph on pregnancy loss and the response of and impact on a woman who was interviewed.

Nelson, Jan and Aaker, David, The Bereavement Ministry Program: A Comprehensive Guide for Churches.

This manual is an excellent guide for clergy wanting to establish a variety of bereavement support ministries in their churches. There are specific reading resources and information for support groups for those who have experienced loss through miscarriage or stillbirth on pages 175-186. There are also chapters on loss for parents (pages 196-198), children and teens, (pages 51-88) and grandparents (199-201) as well. There are monthly letters and reproducible handouts that can be shared with bereaved families and support groups. Included in the manual are also suggestions for help through holidays and other special days that may be difficult for families.

Schwiebert, Pat and DeKlyen, Tear Soup.

Tear Soup, written for children but powerful for adult grievers as well, gives recipes for healing after loss. While not specific for any one type of loss it explains the feelings of grief after loss and includes the normal feelings of anger and disappointment even toward God. It acknowledges gender differences in response to loss and gives each person experiencing loss permission to grieve and mourn in their own way by making their own “tear soup”. On pages 40 and 41, the old wise woman, Grandy, explains to her grandson, Chester, what making tear soup is all about. She references the stillbirth of his brother and the response of not only his mother but Chester, himself, at the loss. There are cooking tips at the end of the book for bereaved persons, friends of the bereaved person, grieving children, men, and couples. There are also internet resources listed. This book is also available as a dvd.

Claypool, John, Tracks of a Fellow Struggler. Harrisburg, Morehouse Publishing, 1995.

This book is not about perinatal loss but about a pastor who lost his young daughter to cancer. Rev. John Claypool’s openness about his own pain can help pastors to come to grips with their own feelings of loss and grief. He speaks both as a pastor and a bereaved father. This book can be very helpful for pastors as its principles regarding loss, grief, and mourning can be applied to perinatal loss.

Finally, the March of Dimes has several booklets in its catalog of publications:

  • From Hurt to Healing: booklet on the grieving process
  • What Can You Do: how family and friends can help
  • When You Want to try Again: decisions parents may want to consider when trying again

Acknowledgement

The content of this module is based on the training curriculum “Health Care Professionals’ Guide to Bereavement Support” developed by the SIDS Program Support Center at First Candle.

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