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“Little Footprints” Walks with Parents Through Grief

“Little Footprints” Walks with Parents Through Grief

“Each person’s grief is as unique as their fingerprint. But what everyone has in common is that no matter how they grieve, they share a need for their grief to be witnessed.”

That’s what David Kessler, a leading grief researcher, says in his book, Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief.

That common experience – the need for grief to be witnessed – is at the heart of Little Footprints: Perinatal and Infant Loss Support Group held at EveryStep Grief & Loss Services, home of Amanda the Panda, in West Des Moines.

Little Footprints inspires friendship, support, and solidarity; still, there is no escaping the fact that every member has known unbearable sadness. They have all experienced the death of their babies. Participants, including couples and single parents, are led by a trained facilitator through conversation and activities. Some of the discussions have centered around the pain of anniversaries, frustrations with medical care, and books that have helped them find comfort. Many participants bring in ultrasound photos, baby blankets, and maternity photos that carry both happy and sad memories, nuances that are understood by the other group members.

Nick and Annie Rivas lost their son Noah at 21 weeks and one day on March 24, 2018. He was stillborn due to an insufficient placenta. The Rivases first learned of EveryStep’s support group nearly a year after their loss. 

“We were uneasy about going at first, but we said, ‘let’s go,'” Annie said. While she had received support through other resources, they hadn’t had much luck finding help for Nick or for them together as a couple.

Little Footprints allowed Nick and Annie to connect with others who could empathize with their feelings. 

“It’s a safe environment, they’re non-judgmental, and it’s helped me move forward,” said Azra Cavlovic, who attended with her husband, Igor. “They ask helpful types of questions. There’s something so healing about the way we share.”

Many of the participants have forged such strong friendships that they opt to get together outside of support group to honor their lost babies and socialize with each other.

“We’re our own little infancy loss family,” Azra said. “It’s a support group, but it’s become so much more for us.”

Little Footprints is part of EveryStep’s seasonal Braving Grief series. These free support groups occur four times a year, with the next session starting January 17, 2022. To learn more, call 515-223-4847 or email griefandloss@everystep.org. You can also learn more about EveryStep Grief & Loss Services at https://www.everystep.org/services/grief-loss

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