September 3, 2020

Supporting families through the grief process of perinatal loss

Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital Foundation is helping support Saskatchewan mothers and families during their time of grief while experiencing the tragic loss of a pregnancy or infant. 

The foundation has granted more than $25,000 to Empty Arms Perinatal Loss Support Services to provide supports and services to approximately 50 families experiencing perinatal loss in Saskatchewan this year. 

Photo credit: Jamie Cleveland/ Empty Arms

Empty Arms supports families in hospital as they say hello and goodbye to their little one who has died in utero or within the first few months after birth. Families are provided with specialized companion support, professional photography, mementos, and assistance with final arrangements. The companion offers specialized emotional and informational support and helps guide the family through memory-making with their little one, while a professional photographer captures all of these moments for the family.

Photo credit: Melody Slemming/ Empty Arms

“We support families from all over the province who come to Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital to deliver their baby, or whose little one comes to the NICU for care,” said Empty Arms co-founder Jasmin Herchak.

Empty Arms started in 2015 out of the perceived gap in care that some bereaved mothers, including Herchak, identified during their own personal experiences within the health care system, as they were experiencing the birth and death of their baby. 

In 2013, when Herchak was twenty weeks pregnant with her fifth child, she found out her little girl’s heart had apparently stopped beating at least two weeks before. With no time to plan or process, Jasmin and her husband didn’t know how to navigate their time with their baby girl, so they spent 20 minutes with her before leaving. Herchak said the grief, regret and research that followed sparked a deep desire to help other perinatal loss families.

Herchak family
Photo credit: Bri Koop

“It’s helped with my own healing to help these other families. By not creating those positive memories with my own daughter, that left a lot of regret for me so helping these families create positive memories to hold on to in their grief is really rewarding,” Herchak explained.

Empty Arms supports mothers and families at the Mosaic Maternal Care Centre at Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital, as well as at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and recently the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. In 2019, the organization supported 82 mothers and families in hospital. 

If you would like to help support important programming like this at Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital, please donate here.

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