The experience of a perinatal loss is a significant event in the lives of parents and grandparents, often one that shapes the disappointing and heartbreaking chapters in their life stories. Since 2003 I have been conducting the H.O.P.E. (Helping Ourselves through this Perinatal Experience) Perinatal Loss Group, a support group specifically designed for those in the Austin and Central Texas area who have experienced a perinatal loss. HOPE provides a safe place for parents to discover their own answers to some of the questions that consume them following their loss, to help them make meaning of their loss, and, eventually, to find peace.
Who attends HOPE?
The roads that lead families to HOPE are varied, but the end results are similar - the loss of hopes and dreams for their child. HOPE is for all parents, regardless of the cause for their loss. You may find that in the group there are people who had a miscarriage, others who had a stillbirth, some who chose to discontinue their pregnancies after learning their baby had significant health problems, and some who lost their child during the first months of life. Oftentimes both parents come to the meeting, but it is not required. Individual mothers and fathers are always welcome. HOPE does not discriminate based on sex, ethnicity, religion, or socioeconomic status.
The group addresses not only the common grief reactions, but also the concerns specific to this “Silent Club.” During the meetings, parents informally discuss their own experiences as they feel comfortable and frequently learn from and provide support to each other. While each group develops its own personality, I realize that there are commonalities for everyone. To make sure all aspects of this loss are considered, I interject into the conversations those that do not come up on their own.
What are the specifics?
Unlike most other support groups, the HOPE Group is a closed group, meaning the same individuals attend each of the six consecutive weekly meetings. In Austin, I normally hold them on Tuesday nights from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. 3-4 times per year in the Community Room on the fourth floor of the Ronald McDonald House at 1315 Barbara Jordan Blvd. The Ronald McDonald House and Charities of Central Texas sponsors the groups so they are free of charge.