Empty Arms Bereavement Support serves individuals and families in Western Massachusetts whose babies have died through miscarriage, stillbirth, or early infant death. By cultivating personal connections, creating a compassionate community, and fostering professional collaborations, we provide grieving parents with valuable resources and validation as they navigate the murky days, weeks, and lifetime without their baby.
This means that at Empty Arms it is our goal to:
Help bereaved parents get the help they need.
Sometimes that means helping them ourselves, through support groups, online, or telephone support, or sometimes that means helping them to find a trusted therapist or arranging a phone call from one bereaved parent to another. Sometimes it means booking appointments for them when they are too overwhelmed to pick up the phone. Sometimes it means arranging the flowers for their baby's funeral because they can't bear to do it themselves. Whatever parents need, we work cooperatively to try to make it happen, because we know how hard this experience can be.
Help professionals who care for bereaved parents have the resources they need to do their jobs well.
We are blessed to have so many loving, devoted care providers here in the Pioneer Valley-- from midwives, to nurses, to doulas and therapists. Through our professional trainings, companion programs, and availability to these professionals, we work to make sure that these people, who are often the first source of contact for families, feel confident in the work they are doing.
Help the family and friends of bereaved parents become more knowledgable about what the grief process is like.
We know that when someone you know or love suffers the loss of a baby, you probably aren't sure what to do to help. Almost all parents who themselves lose a baby recognize how difficult it is to know what it feels like when you haven't been through it. We hope that our resources will help you to sift through the difficult emotions you may be experiencing all while being the best possible source of support for the parents whose baby has died.
We are a Western Massachusetts Chapter of Share Pregnancy and Infant Loss, Inc.
Want to know more about the history of our organization? Read on...
Written by Carol McMurrich, founder and executive director of Empty Arms
Our story begins with one baby and one family, and it continues to grow. In May of 2003, my first child, Charlotte Amelia, died in the early stages of labor from a compressed umbilical cord. In the months that followed, I could not conceive of a time in my future where I would not be literally crippled by grief. Multiplying the shock and horror of Charlotte's death was the suffocating feeling that I would never be able to recover from such a substantial loss. How could her death ever become less sad over time?
A telephone connection with a friend-of-a-friend was my only evidence that I might survive this loss. During those long days, I longed to know real people who had walked the road I was on. I knew they were out there, but I didn't know how to find them. I mourned the lack of bereavement resources in my community, and even in those early months of my grief I daydreamed of ways to bring people together around their losses.
Several years later, I approached Cooley Dickinson Hospital with an idea. I wanted to form a support group there, but I wanted it to be more than just a monthly meeting. I wanted to create access for families, so they would have a constant resource at their fingertips. Fortunately, the hospital received my ideas enthusiastically, and I was able to begin our program in May of 2007. We began as one support group and a willingness to be "on call" at Cooley’s childbirth center. I received peer counselor training through Share, Inc., a national organization supporting families through pregnancy and infant loss, and group facilitator training through MotherWoman. In the years that have followed, Empty Arms has grown to offer a variety of meetings and resources so that we can offer bereaved families the type of support that works best for them at the time that they need it the most. In the spring of 2011, with the blessing of CDH, we established ourselves as an independent non-profit. This has allowed us to branch out more completely to other area hospitals to touch as many lives as we can.
Currently, we are well connected with all the birth and prenatal care centers in the Pioneer Valley. It's our goal to be sure that each family, regardless of the gestation or age of their baby, receives support resources at the time of loss. We provide materials to be handed out in offices, and we are successfully implementing our Companion Program in three birth centers. We have thus far offered 6 professional trainings that have been well attended by providers from all over the Valley and beyond. We feel confident that our work is positively affecting the quality of care that families receive at the time of their loss.
We now host four monthly meetings and provide families with a variety of resources in the months and years following their loss. We offer peer support over the telephone and email, and we host several Facebook groups for members to interface about daily life. We keep a list of therapists in this region who are experienced and committed to providing compassionate care to the bereaved. Our special events and annual memorial provide other ways that bereaved families can socialize with each other. All along the way, we seek to provide each family with whatever resource will best help them at a particular time in their grief journey. We are pleased to know that we are offering all of these resources to bereaved parents as well as their friends and families so that they really do feel that they have a place to turn.
Running Empty Arms has become my passion. It is the way I mother my daughter Charlotte and I believe that this organization fulfills a vital need in our community. Because of Empty Arms, almost everyone we serve ends up with a true friend who has shared their experience of loss. If you have experienced a loss and would like more information about groups and resources, or if you simply need to reach out for support, please contact us at 413-544-5922 or firstname.lastname@example.org. That's why we're here.