Yesterday Alive in My Heart was excited to host a Big Table discussion. The Big Table is a citywide community-building experience put together by The Columbus Foundation. Our discussion focused on infant mortality in the Columbus area and ways to support parents as they grieve the loss of their children. Columbus has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country. The city and various organizations have come together through critical initiatives to reduce the rates. But the tragic reality is that there will always be grieving parents in our community. Until our conversation yesterday, there had not been a large-scale effort to coordinate a response to perinatal bereavement in Columbus.
Bringing people together
It was surreal, sitting in Bottoms Up Coffee in Franklinton, the same place where we sat and began to imagine Alive In My Heart less than 2 years ago. Just 15 months after our organization’s official founding, we were able to host this event. We brought together twelve individuals, including grieving parents themselves and representatives of nonprofits, three major hospital systems, and a charitable foundation. Each person in the room had a particular passion for reducing infant mortality and supporting grieving families.* It was so rewarding to be able to talk and share ideas areound the same table.
Addressing critical topics
Our discussion centered around four major topics:
- Ensuring an individualized approach to loss. Once parents are released from the hospital, their loss and ongoing health must be acknowledged and supported. We need to work on how providers speak about losses as well. We need a standardized tool to assess the physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing of grieving parents, especially mothers.
- Addressing cultural biases in supporting grieving families. Grieving parents from underserved populations, in particular, may return to harsh conditions and social stigma following their losses. Those supporting loss parents, including providers, community health workers, and others, need additional culturally competent sensitivity training.
- Gathering data regarding health outcomes after loss. There is currently no data collected specifically about health outcomes of loss parents. Accordingly, we do not know rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, suicide, subsequent pregnancies/losses, etc.
- Identifying grieving parents who are utilizing other services in the community. It would be helpful to work with other resource providers including public benefits departments, homeless shelters, social service agencies, churches and more to identify grieving parents through their intake processes and ensure they become connected with resources that can assist in their grief.
Ready to take on next steps together
We were so encouraged to be surrounded yesterday by like-minded individuals, willing to give of their time and energy to support the health and wellbeing of grieving parents. We at Alive in My Heart are energized and ready to take the next steps to make these ideas reality!
*In addition to representatives of Alive in My Heart and Bottoms Up Coffee, participants joined us from Back in His Arms Again, Knox Community Hospital, Moms2B, Mount Carmel, OhioHealth, The Harry C. Moores Foundation, The Kiwanis Club of Columbus, and Sad About Sammy.