Helping parents cope with loss

CMH Infant Loss Team

(L to R): Allison Whisenhunt, CMH Care Management manager, Aly Khendek, clinical social worker in the Women’s Center and Family Birthing Center, and Lizzie Wiedmaier, Pediatric Clinic and Women’s Center manager, are starting a Share Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support community at CMH.

Infant loss support program to start at CMH

By Sarah Bello

As a clinical social worker at the Fetal Care Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, now-CMH Care Management Manager Allison Whisenhunt called a grieving patient once a month. The patient told Whisenhunt she was the only person in her life who referred to her unborn baby, whom she had lost prior to giving birth, by name. 

“Grief itself is hard,”Whisenhunt explains. “When it’s a perinatal loss, especially during pregnancy, people really don’t know what to say.”

Talking regularly helped the woman cope with the emotions that stemmed from losing her baby. Whisenhunt hopes to provide the same kind of support to area residents at CMH. Along with Aly Khendek, the clinical social worker in the CMH Women’s Center and Family Birthing Center, and Lizzie Wiedmaier, Women’s Center and Pediatric Clinic Manager, Whisenhunt will soon be starting a Share Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support community at the hospital.

A local touch

Share is a national organization focused on providing support and resources to anyone who has experienced a perinatal loss, any loss during pregnancy or an infant death up through one year of life. Its goal is to support the mother and anyone else who could’ve been affected. 

There are some support groups in Oregon, but none that are close to CMH. From her work in Cincinnati, Whisenhunt knew of Share, and she wanted to bring a chapter here. 

“The nice part about being an official chapter is we will have better access to evidence-based practices and be able to better support people in this situation,” Khendek says.

Khendek and Wiedmaier ran the data for patients and found an astoundingly high number had experienced infant loss. With Share’s resources, the three women plan to complete education and outreach with all departments at CMH.

“Society has minimized or ignored perinatal grief, which is among the most painful bereavement experiences,” Wiedmaier says. “Our patients and community deserve high-quality, evidence-based, healing interventions for it.”

Khendek will also be starting an in-person support group. Depending on interest, there could be separate groups for moms, dads and family members. 

“Everyone deserves the time and the space to grieve in their own way,” Khendek says.

Share support

The Share Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support resources are available to anyone in the community, regardless of whether a person is a patient at CMH. Reach out to Aly Khendek, akhendek@columbiamemorial.org, or Lizzie Wiedmaier, ewiedmaier@columbiamemorial.org, to learn more about Share and upcoming support groups.