Dee McClain, a volunteer from www.mollybears.org attended the Wishbone Foundation training in September, bravely shared her story and the impact our training made on her. Here are her thoughts as she reflects on the two-day experience.
Wishbone training touched my heart is so many different ways. I was unbelievably fortunate enough to be able to attend the training in September. What I thought would be two days that might provide insight into how to be more empathetic toward families who had lost a child, ended up being so much more than that—more than I could have ever expected.
I feel like I came to the Wishbone training with a unique perspective – as a mother of a daughter who lost her sweet baby girl, Caroline. I think I was the only bereaved grandparent at the training, among groups of medical professionals. I was drawn to the Wishbone Foundation and its work because of the birth of my granddaughter. The way the hospital approached my daughter and son-in-law the day of Caroline’s birth was completely lacking in empathy and compassion. It was as if no one knew the ‘right thing’ to say to them, or to any of us, who were so sad over the loss of our precious baby girl.
If I had known then what I know after attending the Wishbone training, I would tell the hospital staff, “Say anything!” Well, not anything… but almost anything. Truly, any words of empathy help. Just talk to our family. Ask about our baby girl. Don’t tell us you understand unless you’ve been in the same place that we have. Don’t tell us there’s still hope for another baby—because the one we had great hope for is the only one we can imagine right now. Instead, let us tell you what we imagined her future would be. Let us tell you about the clothes we had planned for her to wear home. Let us tell you about her cousins whom she would grow up and play with. Let us tell you how feisty and independent but absolutely precious we know she would have been. Because only through sharing our baby girl with others can our family begin to heal. And though this is a road I have walked with my daughter and son-in-law over the past 2 years, it was something I would never have been able to articulate before attending the Wishbone training.
But I can articulate it now. Our sweet baby matters. Not mattered – matters – NOW. She’s important to our family every day. She was taken away from our arms, but was not taken away from our hearts, and talking about her with someone who asks makes us feel better—because someone took the time to ask, and because someone recognizes that our baby is a permanent part of our lives. A part that can’t be seen, but a part that can be felt—and that’s just as important.
This is what originally led me to work with my daughter making weighted teddy bears for Molly Bears. I love the idea that a compassionate, empathetic group of volunteers takes the time to get to know about a baby from his or her family. I love that we create a tangible memory of a parent’s son or daughter. I love that we create a memory – a memory of what it was like to hold the weight of your new baby angel. And I can’t put into words how important that is—because the memory of their precious babies is one thing grieving parents (and grandparents!) hold on to. If I feel like I can have even a small part in helping a parent hold onto the memory of their child, and if I can do that in honor of our sweet Caroline and share her name with other people, then I think the love and time that goes into the bears we make is not wasted.
The same is true of the many compassionate hearts I came to know through my two days with the Wishbone Foundation. Coming through the saddest day any family can endure, and using the experience to make that sad day a little brighter for other families in the future is valuable beyond measure. Educating nurses and doctors from a parent’s perspective, providing insight from the other side of the hospital door, sharing stories about experiences of loss—all of this over the two days of the Wishbone training helped parents, nurses, and even grandparents become messengers of what a blessing it can be for families and care providers to work through the loss of a baby together… because no family should have to endure a loss alone. I am so grateful for the Wishbone Foundation, and their willingness to share this message with hospitals, ensuring other families of loss might find hope and comfort in a time when they need it most.