It's hard to believe Empty Arms is celebrating 12 years, because it means I'm almost marking 12 years too. Twelve years ago, I couldn't imagine life 12 months later, never mind 12 years. I couldn't imagine the fullness and joy in my life now or what kind of place Henry would have in it. I couldn't imagine getting through the next 12 days or sometimes the next 12 hours. But I did and knowing other people who had done it, and who were doing it was so very helpful.
Empty Arms held its first meeting about a month after my son was born. I remember seeing notices in the hospital. My arms were empty at the time only because my son had been taken to the NICU... I had no idea by the end of the year they would be empty in a very different way and that the green flyer I had seen hanging would have a whole new meaning.
I showed up on a cold, dark January night, navigated the maze of the hospital to a conference room. It was about a month after Henry died and I needed to know other people who had lost babies. I listened to people introduce themselves and share their losses… I needed to be with people who just "got it" or who cared, but weren't (like my mom) going to stay up all night worrying about me if I said how I was really feeling. Empty Arms filled that need for me. I wish this group wasn't so needed, but it is. I've been so excited to see the growth ... new support groups, expanded services in different hospitals, a cozy office (no more navigating the maze of hospital hallways or revisiting painful sites).
-Sara Barry, speaking of her son, Henry Edwin Barry, May 29-December 19, 2007, and our faithful blogger here at Empty Arms
I remember that first meeting, too. We arranged to meet in the old chapel, which involved weaving through the hospital, up and down staircases, and through so many fire doors I couldn’t count. We brought cookies and lemonade, little packets of Kleenex and a small plastic tote of books we’d carefully curated, spending nearly all of the $430 we had made at our inaugural fundraising walk the month before. We sat around the table and we waited for it to begin, though we hardly knew what “it” was. That night seven people came. “It” had begun.
Twelve years have passed: and for twelve months of the year, on the fourth Wednesday of the month, people have come. One hundred and forty-four meetings of the bereavement support group later, and every single month, people have come. For nine years now we’ve been running Subsequent Pregnancy/Adoption after Loss support meetings, we’ve held Miscarriage Support for the past 7 years, and have had a Termination for Medical Reasons support group for over two years.
364 meetings so far. And counting.
We have held dozens of other meetings as we’ve seen the need: Infertility Support Circles, Parenting after Loss Circles, Twin Loss Circles, Postpartum Care Circles. Here at Empty Arms, we constantly seek to create the programs that we see our community needs. We’ve been able to do this because our community has pitched in and made it happen, every time.
Can you help us work towards a continuing future of providing support for families in the Pioneer Valley who need it?
June 27 marks the 12th anniversary of our first-ever support group, that one held at Cooley Dickinson in that hard-to-find room. To mark this anniversary, we begin today a two-week push to raise $10,000 to fund our support groups for the upcoming year. This campaign will replace Valley Gives Day, the community event hosted by the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts which brought in essential funds for us over the last four years, and which will no longer be held. Your donation today will help us maintain the circle of cozy couches in our Florence meeting space, furnish candles, tea and warm snacks for our participants, and keep this space open for individual meetings when a person just can’t wait until the next group to get support. Your donation will help us to further train our facilitators and make sure that we, as an organization, are well-informed as to the newest and best methods of group peer facilitation.
Today, I encourage you to donate. It could be in honor of Henry, and of his mother, Sara, whose words have tended to our souls for the past few years, or, you could donate in memory of your own baby or honor someone else’s. Your donation, in any amount, will enable us to meet our goal so that we can keep all of these essential programs running. Help us to know that our Valley (and beyond!) still gives. Thank you for your support.