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Experts educate professionals on grieving process

Photo by Avan Clark

Photo by Avan Clark

ALBANY -- Most people are prepared to lose a parent or grandparent, but virtually nobody is prepared to lose a child shortly after or even before birth.

Some of those in Albany coming in contact with such loss on a daily basis recently received guidance on how to better deal with it.

Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital gave health and community professionals an opportunity to improve their skills in assisting bereaved families by attending a Resolve Through Sharing Bereavement Training in Pregnancy Loss and Newborn Death and Coordinator training.

"We are educating the professional caregiver how to be with them," said Darryl Owens, women's services chaplain and grief counselor at the University of North Carolina Hospital in Chapel Hill.

The training was held at Phoebe East on Sylvester Road. The conference was intended for nurses, social workers, clergy, physicians, midwives and funeral directors. There, participants were able to study the grieving process and explore the lifelong parenting and bereavement experience of perinatal loss.

"We used to treat them (the parents) like nothing happened, and we learned that was so painful," said Joni Yanda, perinatal education, lactation consultant and grief coordinator at The Medical Center of Plano in Plano, Texas. "Now, no matter how young, each baby is treated with respect.

"This is what parents tell us they need."

Each year approximately 870,000 families in the United States suffer the loss of their child through miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth or newborn death.

"It happens numerous times daily," Owens said. "(The numbers) tell us this is happening so much in our communities."

Owens and Yanda were both presenters at the Phoebe conference.

Roughly 80 people were in attendance at Tuesday's session, the first day of the conference. The event ran through Thursday, and is the first hosted by Phoebe.

"This is done as hospital systems are requesting it," Owens said.

The feedback offered by participants was very positive, most participants saying they had learned a great deal from the presenters.

"We deal with grieving parents on a daily basis," said Stephanie Covey, a nurse in Phoebe's NICU. "It (the conference) is a great tool to anticipate what the parents will need from us.

"I really enjoyed what they had to say. I'm glad we got this in place."

K.C. Seabury, a chaplain at Phoebe, said the conference gave him insight on how to deal with such difficult situations in the future.

"They are giving us information from real situations similar to (scenarios) where we were in a situation and didn't know what to do," he said. "It's always helpful as a chaplain to support (parents) and to give tools to families to help them move on. This equips Phoebe's staff to do that.

"The community will benefit greatly. This is a huge community investment."

The Children's Miracle Network sponsored the conference.

The RTS program was developed in the 1980s at Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center in LaCrosse, Wis. It addresses the individual needs of families that have experienced a pregnancy loss or newborn death. Through this program, an interdisciplinary approach to bereavement care is taught that reaches out to grieving families from the time their baby dies. The program has grown to include more than 34,000 health care professionals internationally.