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Foundation helps support those grieving pregnancy loss

According to Pacific Perinatal Foundation data, there are an estimated 11,000 to 14,000 early pregnancy losses and 500 to 600 stillbirths in British Columbia
Jaclyn Rinehart, holding newborn daughter Camille, sits on the beach at the International Bereaved Mother’s Day Gathering May 5 at Willows Beach in Oak Bay. Rinehart turned to the Pacific Perinatal Foundation for support after giving birth to a stillborn baby in November 2022. VIA JACLYN RINEHART

When Jaclyn Rinehart gave birth to a stillborn baby in November 2022, her two-year old son, River, who had been looking forward to being a big brother, was confused.

“He was with me during the pregnancy, had felt the baby kicking and had told all his friends that he was going to be a big brother,” said Rinehart, 32.

She was also dealing with her own grief, and she needed support as she considered having another baby.

Her midwife recommended that she look into the Pacific Perinatal Foundation, which calls itself “a space for compassion and hope” for those experiencing infertility, pregnancy loss and other perinatal challenges.

According to foundation data, there are an estimated 11,000 to 14,000 early pregnancy losses and 500 to 600 stillbirths in British Columbia each year. Between 12 and 15 per cent of couples struggle with infertility in the province as well.

But because there is no public funding for emotional support, families are often forced to deal with their personal grief in isolation.

“Medical care is funded, but there is a gap in their home-based care, as their emotional needs and support are not funded and not met,” said Stephanie Curran, co-founder of the foundation. “Most people are left with a deep sense of grief and loneliness.”

The foundation offers clinical support, counselling, programs and community support from people with lived experience. Its goal is to ensure no one has to walk through grief and loss alone.

It was that emotional support that made a difference for Rinehart.

“I was introduced to other bereaved families. I felt totally safe and surrounded by their compassion. Safe if I felt like talking. Safe if I didn’t,” she said. “I wasn’t ready to talk, but [I knew] that there was someone to talk to once I was ready.

At social events organized by the foundation, individuals and families can find comfort in shared memories, countering the feelings of isolation, loneliness and helplessness that can accompany infertility or loss, the foundation says.

The events are also important for the children affected by the loss of a sibling.

“It was huge for us to watch River play and be with other children that ‘get it’,” said Rinehart, who attended the foundation’s International Bereaved Mother’s Day Gathering at Willows Beach in Oak Bay this month.

She believes what her son, now four, experienced early in his life will shape who he will be when he grows up.

He freely talks about his sibling, who lives “in the stars.”

“He is not afraid to talk about grief and loss, much to the surprise of adults he has met.”

Rinehart said the support she received was equally important as she conceived again.

“I was horrified at first — scared that my new baby could die at any moment,” she said.

She was reassured by the foundation team that every pregnancy is different, and on Feb. 28, she gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Camille — a little sister for River.

“Life can still be beautiful while learning to live with grief and loss,” she said.

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