Empty Arms' Peer Companion Program
The Empty Arms Companion Program is based on a program that Share has successfully run in the Midwest for many years. Our local program is now in place at Cooley Dickinson Hospital, Baystate Franklin Medical Center, Holyoke Medical Center, and Mercy Medical Center in Springfield. Empty Arms has eight trained, experienced companions who are on call to these birth centers to assist families who are experiencing a stillbirth or newborn death. We are in the process of expanding our services to include Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, which will complete our expansion to cover all of the Pioneer Valley. Our Empty Arms Peer Companions are bereaved parents who have been involved in Empty Arms for at least four years and have felt ready to move into the role of offering support to others. When the hospital calls in a companion, that companion helps in a multitude of ways:
Companions provide emotional support...
By listening to a family's story, helping them to make difficult decisions, and when appropriate, sharing their own experience. Parents facing the imminent or recent death of their baby are often in shock, and the presence of a non-judgmental, available person can be immeasurably helpful. The presence of a companion in a hospital at the time of the loss ensures that the family gets the emotional support that they need from a caring, empathetic person who has experienced a similar loss.
Companions help staff with the time consuming process of creating the mementos that the family will cherish.
Each of our companions have been trained in the art of creating hand casts, doing detailed photography, and putting together memory boxes. Companions can help to advocate for families, making sure that each family has the experiences with their baby that they need. At this time, companions also have access to a list of area professional photographers who have offered to donate their time and resources to bereaved families.
Companions establish a long term source of support for families.
After meeting with a companion, families go home having already made a connection with the Empty Arms community. This makes it more likely that they will then utilize the myriad of resources available to them from Empty Arms, and decreases the likelihood that they will be isolated in their grief in the weeks, months, and years after their baby’s death.