By Caroline Lavoie, Clinical Social Work Intern
For Masters level social work students, internship placement day is among the most nerve wracking and exciting.
Where will we be spending countless hours a week? What professionals in the community will we get to learn from? What clients will we impact?
All of these questions run through our minds, as we spend countless hours envisioning this leap in our career. When people asked me where I wanted to be placed, I always said “I’m not really sure. Hopefully something in maternal mental health. That’s kind of my niche. A hospital? Maybe adoption? We will see”.
I opened the email and saw the words “Full Circle Grief Center.“ At that moment, I realized I had narrowed maternal mental health to the concept of birth. I soon said out loud “We know not every birth ends in life.”
In my first few months at Full Circle, I quickly immersed in the world of grief counseling — theory, techniques and interventions. I studied perinatal loss heavily, observed client interactions, and felt a deep sense of empathy for their experiences and their stories.
But, what I kept hearing over and over again from these clients is “We are pregnant after our loss, and now what….” And alas, the vision for a Pregnancy After Loss group came to life. Key members of the agency came together.
We brainstormed, collaborated, planned, and problem-solved. Brave mothers who experienced pregnancy after loss themselves fundraised thousands of dollars in a matter of hours to fund the group. We surveyed previous Perinatal Loss Group clients to inform the curriculum for the group. We ordered supplies, made flyers, marketed, assessed mothers, and in January of 2020, we implemented the group.
It’s filled with Mamas who have loved and lost, and continue to find hope amongst the lingering darkness of fear. It is full of vulnerability, tears, support, and encouragement. It represents a rainbow in the midst of a storm. The words exchanged are supportive and empowering, as the group members remind each other that this is their personal journey and story to tell. How to navigate changing support systems, challenges with doctors and service providers, coping with anxiety, and managing polarized emotions are amongst the topics heavily discussed.
The most beautiful part is seeing the connection amongst members.
It’s an instant reminder that we are not alone, even in the darkest of valleys. My desire to start this group was to fill a need in the community, to play a role in facilitating healing, and to provide psychoeducation on the individual nature of the grief experience. I think it’s safe to say that this group offers more to me than I could ever offer it, and I owe that to the candor and grace of each woman that has attended this group.
To the brave Mama’s who show up and let me see a glimpse into their bravery and strength: thank you! Your babies are so lucky to be loved by you.
The Pregnancy After Loss Group meets the second and fourth Wednesday of each month from 6:30 — 8:00PM at Full Circle.