What congregations can do
Create leadership and support programs for pregnancy and infant loss
Congregations can ensure that families get the support they need by creating a ministry related to pregnancy and infant loss. This assures that there is a cadre of congregants supported by clergy who are paying attention to these issues. Members of the ministry would be able to create and coordinate the responses described in earlier sections of this module. In addition, they would be involved in the following types of activities:
- Learning about bereavement through self-reflection about their own bereavement experiences and learning about how others grieve.
- Learning how to acknowledge these losses and how to help other congregants to feel comfortable and knowledgeable about supporting grieving families.
- Developing a cadre of volunteers to be a listening ear for families.
- Providing pamphlets, booklets and books to families in need of support.
- Maintaining information on church bulletin boards and/or websites about pregnancy and infant loss resources within the church and in general.
- Beginning a bereavement support group specifically for this type of loss or providing space for it. (See the Resources Section of this module for information about creating a support group.)
What congregations can do:
Determine the need both for members of the congregation, church community, or the communities in which the congregation lives. You will need to do an assessment of your congregation to determine the area of perinatal loss on which you should focus on. You can use the statistics noted in this training guide or even for the community in which the church is located or where members live. You may want to consider doing this as ministry outreach or community support. The following is a suggested set of steps:
- Develop a questionnaire for the congregation to complete containing 4-5 questions about perinatal loss and understanding about it. It can be anonymous if people are uncomfortable giving out their personal information. If possible, you can allow the questionnaire to be completed online. For individuals who have literacy problems, consider a way to do the questionnaire as a conversation or interview.
- You can also do a more informal assessment by asking questions at the beginning of a Sunday School Class, Women or Men Ministries, Youth Ministries, or other church meetings if possible. Ask for a show of hands in response to a few questions. You will want to make the questions more general here than specific because some persons may be reluctant to share their responses openly.
- Review the answers to help you know where to focus. Even if none of the congregants have personally experienced this type of loss, (this is unlikely however given the statistics), they may have family members who have had or know others who have had this experience.
- Next, develop a resource support packet which includes:
- a list of local resources that are in the community that may be convenient for bereaved families to get support;
- reading materials that can be obtained from the local library, free online support materials (such as from the Center for Loss and LIfe Transition), the church’s library, or materials purchased through the ministry etc. that are specific to perinatal loss, SIDS or SUIDS; and
- a list of persons in the congregation that are available to offer support.
- Next, begin a bereavement support group for persons who have experienced perinatal loss if possible. You do not have to be an expert in the area of perinatal, SIDS, SUID loss to do this. Speakers can be invited for part of the bereavement group session. Local bereavement specialists from hospitals, hospice programs or other resources may be willing to help you. See the guide in the Resources Section.