So many women and men that have experienced the loss of a child go on to become parent advocates. This is a beautiful thing. After the death of a baby, there is this gloom of isolation; the feeling of being alone in the world while carrying a heavy sorrow. I felt this after Zachary died.
Parent advocates make a difference.
Then, once I started opening up to everyone – and I mean everyone – about the death of my son, I discovered that so many people had also endured the same pain, loneliness, confusion and grief. I was not alone! Sharing my story and being an advocate for others to do the same has become a huge passion of mine – and I am thankful for all the advocates that made a difference for me along my journey.
Parent advocates are those that help others along the grief journey in a variety of ways.
I am also passionate about helping bereaved parents talk about their pregnancies after loss. I know from experience, this is a challenging season and one that people often do not anticipate until they are there. Once you get pregnant after loss, it’s like, “Whoa! I thought I would be happy, and I am, but pregnancy after loss is stressful, anxiety-filled and worry-ridden!”
For me, I encourage bereaved parents, and those pregnant again after loss, through my blog, Wanted Chosen Planned, and my book and film Expecting Sunshine. I also get involved with different organizations like The Compassionate Friends and PLIDA that share the same vision for supporting parents who have lost children in their time of need.
For those of you who are not familiar with PLIDA, I would like to introduce you. PLIDA stands for Pregnancy Loss and Infant Death Alliance. They are a very compassionate organization with an empowering mission: “PLIDA supports health care practitioners and parent advocates in their efforts to improve care for families who experience the death of a baby during pregnancy, birth, or infancy.” I have been involved with PLIDA since attending their biennial conference two years ago.
I attended their 2014 conference, called the International Perinatal Bereavement Conference, as a parent advocate. I found myself amidst nurses, counselors, volunteers and other parent advocates like myself. The atmosphere was sympathetic and welcoming. I immediately felt like I was surrounded by people who deeply care about what they do – and that they engage in this work and volunteerism out of love.
International Perinatal Bereavement Conference
The next International Perinatal Bereavement Conference is taking place September 28 to October 1, 2016 in Phoenix Arizona. I will be there. I wouldn’t miss it. If you are a parent advocate, I would encourage you to consider attending. They even have a scholarship available to financially assist professional care providers, parent advocates and researchers.
The conference has all kinds of sessions, key note speakers and mingling time. There is a bookstore with resources and material for anyone who has lost a child and those that support them. Even beyond the scheduled activities, I found an amazing community. I spent time with nurses and counselors who had traveled to the conference from my city. Lasting friendships were formed around the hotel pool at night.
The conference has something for those interested in the topic of pregnancy after loss.
Our very own PALS editor, Lindsey Henke, will be co-presenting a session with Joann O’Leary called: “The Pregnancy that Follows Loss.” Here is the session description:
In this preconference session, O’Leary and Henke review the themes in research and clinical practice that alter the tasks of pregnancy for families pregnant after loss (PAL). Participants will become familiar with current research on continued bond and attachment theories as a foundational model in supporting bereaved parents’ life-long parenting role.
Lindsey will also be giving a poster presentation called: “Pregnancy After Loss Support (PALS) – An Online Magazine and Peer-to-Peer Support for Women Pregnant Again After Loss.”
There are so many sessions to choose from. Some of the other topics include:
- Creating a legacy
- Sibling grief
- Genetic testing
- How to support families that miscarry
- Culturally competent perinatal palliative care
- Mindfulness in caring for others
- Common misunderstandings around stillbirth
- Grieving as a caregiver
- Holistic retreats
- Pregnancy termination
- Lactation choices
- Perinatal loss legislation
- Mental health
Also, I am honoured to be presenting a workshop called: “Creative Expression to Rejuvenate Bereavement Professionals and Volunteers.” I created this session because I know that those who care for others often do not put their own self-care high on the priority list. Often those that care for bereaved families are individuals who have experienced their own losses as well. Even parent advocates can get burnt out from supporting others. In this informational, hands-on workshop, leadership reserves will be replenished, struggles expressed and grief acknowledged. I will lead participants in art-making and writing exercises, followed by a time of sharing.
How to get involved with PLIDA and the conference
To learn more about PLIDA, please visit their website: http://www.plida.org/
To find out if you want to attend the 20th Biennial International Perinatal Bereavement Conference, and to learn more about the sessions and speakers, check them out online: http://www.perinatalbereavementconference.org/
To apply for a conference scholarship, read more here: http://www.perinatalbereavementconference.org/scholarship/ *NOTE: applications due by August 5, 2016.
Sending you love and strength on your journey of grief and pregnancy after loss.