Carle social worker Brynn Howard identified a need for families suffering pregnancy and infant loss by helping organize the first Shining Light Memorial event.
“I remember how beautiful the ceremony was and how brave the parents were,” she said, not knowing that later she’d be experience the ceremony as a grieving parent.
Families and staff will gather at 7 p.m. October 15 in The Forum at Carle for a candlelight ceremony to honor the memory of babies who are no longer with us physically, but will forever be in our hearts. Generous donations to Carle Health Center for Philanthropy make this event possible.
Those not attending can participate by simply entering information about their baby on the website. Organizers will place a first name, phrase or symbol on a line of luminaries that will wind its way through Carle’s Infant Memorial Garden. The Howards found out they were pregnant on a Thursday. Tuesday her baby was gone.
“You’re instantly attached the second you find out you’re pregnant – whether you carry them one day or nine months,” she said. They decided to try again and were overjoyed to be pregnant again and to hear the “indescribable joy” of their baby boy’s heartbeat.
Joy turned to sadness once again when weeks later her ultrasound tech said, “I’m sorry. There isn’t a heartbeat.”
“The first time I miscarried, I was sad. The second time, I was angry. Empty,” Brynn said, adding, “I didn’t really have time to properly grieve our first before I was pregnant again. And Chad was not just grieving the loss of our children, but also trying to be strong for me.”
The Howards felt isolated. Attending the ceremony last year, they were astounded to see others like them.
“Too many families grieve in silence,” said Linda Ellison, bereavement coordinator. “The ceremony gives families a place to remember their child and provides community so they know they aren’t alone in their grief.”
The Howards agree.
“We learned that naming our babies can be helpful in the grieving process. Giving our babies a name helps keep their memory alive and was important to our healing,” Brynn said.
The first year after losing Ellory and Cal, Brynn’s heart was “too tender” to attend the ceremony, but last year she found strength and comfort.
“I am a voice for women going through this so they know they aren’t alone,” Brynn said. “Grief is personal, and it looks different on everyone. There isn’t a ‘right way’ or a ‘wrong way’ to process it.”
Carle’s Shining Light Infant Memorial Garden provides a quiet place for Brynn to remember her babies.
They also planted two trees in their backyard.
“When I’m washing dishes, I look out and see their trees I wonder – who would they be, who would they look like, what dreams would they have?” Brynn said.
Reminders like meeting a child with the same name trigger her grief.
“Even though these moments are hard, I like to think of these signs as my children talking to me saying, ‘Hey Mom, I’m watching over you,’” she said.
Events like this support the entire family – moms, dad, grandparents and siblings. The Howards hope someday this event and the garden will help explain her siblings to their living daughter, Tessa, now 4 months.
For more information, please call Ellison at (217) 326-3196.