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Honoring a Pregnancy Loss and Tips for How to Cope

 

The Sherouse Family: of Peoria. From left: Ashley, Jonny, Samantha (7) and Savannah (3).

October 15th offers grieving mothers, parents, and families a chance to honor the loss of a pregnancy or infant as it is deemed National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. 

It’s a heartbreak that the Sherouse family in Peoria knows all too well. Ashley found out she was pregnant with her third child in September 2021. Having had two healthy and successful pregnancies with her daughters Samantha (7) and Savannah (3), she was not expecting anything different the third time around. 

“My pregnancy was smooth sailing,” she said. “We found out that our baby would be another girl and we named her Sloane Isabella.”

On March 18th, 2022 when Ashley was 31 weeks and 4 days pregnant with Sloane, their lives changed. 

“It was just a normal Friday, the end of Spring Break for the older girls so we were just starting to prep to go back to school on the upcoming Monday. We were on the home stretch [of the pregnancy] and the day before I had started to get the room ready to have all three girls together, so we were getting super excited,” Ashley recalled.

As Ashley went to go use the restroom that morning, she said she felt like her water broke, but instead quickly realized she was bleeding out. They dialed 911 and Ashley was rushed to the hospital. Once there, it was determined that baby Sloane no longer had a heartbeat. 

Ashley was sent in for an Emergency C-Section where they delivered the baby and later informed her that she had suffered a catastrophic complete placenta abruption, never showing any symptoms of it until the moment she started bleeding.

Within hours, the Sherouse family went from happily preparing to become a family of five, to grieving the sudden death of their third daughter. 

Since then, Ashley, Jonny, and their daughters have had to learn how to navigate the overwhelming emotions that have come after their loss and want to share their story and advice in hopes of helping others. 

“Grief after losing your baby is such a roller-coaster of emotions,” said Ashley. If you find yourself in a similar situation, here are five things she says have helped her cope: 

Ashley Sherouse with her third daughter, Sloane, who died while she was pregnant with her.
  1. Have photos taken to look back on. While I was still in the hospital one of my very close friends came and took photos of Sloane and me so we would have them for our memories. I am forever grateful to be able to look at Sloane at any point in the day and just see her.
  2. Find and go to therapy. Within a few days of getting home I had called my VA Maternity Care liaison and let her know that Sloane had died. She instantly set me up with one of the grief psychologists at the VA that works with female veterans who lost their babies and/or children. This has been an absolute life saver. I have been speaking to both a grief therapist and a trauma therapist since the beginning weeks of Sloane dying.  
  3. Attend a support group. Banner Thunderbird, where I had Sloane, also has a Pregnancy And Infant Loss (PAIL) Support Group that I joined right away so I could talk to other moms who experienced loss. My oldest daughter and I have also started attending Billy’s Place in Glendale, which is a support group for all types of loss. I can talk with other parents who lost their children, and my daughter gets to talk to other kids who have lost their siblings. She also really enjoys this because no one in our family here in Arizona has gone through this loss so she is able to speak her truth. 
  4. Stay busy. I have made it a point for us to stay busy which can be good and bad in terms of being over exhausted, but our kids are getting to enjoy themselves while we get to watch their joy. We will never get over losing Sloane, but we must get up for Samantha and Savannah. 
  5. Elicit a friend or family member to set up a meal train. The day after Sloane died, one of my best friends started a meal train for our family which allowed our friends and family from all over the country to either bring us food or send us gift cards for food. This was such a blessing because for those first few weeks we really did not have to worry or think about what the girls and us would eat since it was taken care of. 

If you know someone experiencing a loss, here are three tips Ashley suggests for how you can help: 

  1. Don’t expect what you do or say to make them feel better. Just let them know that you are there for them to be heard. Allow those in the grief process to talk about their baby, no matter how far along they were in their pregnancy or how old the baby was. 
  2. Reach out. On those important dates, just reach out to the family to let them know that you are thinking of them, ask if they need anything, or if they want to talk about their child. I would love for someone to just be like, “Hey, let’s go to the cemetery and visit with Sloane.” 
  3. Let them talk. I know personally I want to talk about Sloane and keep her memory alive but there have been times where people have asked me to not talk about her. It is so important to let the families of those who have lost a child to be able to talk as much as they want and to share any pictures that they want as well.

“Everyone grieves differently and grief has no end,” said Ashley. “There is no getting over the loss of a child, no matter how long you had with them.” 

 

NICU Helping Hands’ Angel Gown® program

Sloane was buried in a dress from Angel Gowns by Karen, part of the NICU Helping Hands’ Angel Gown® program that provides custom made gowns to families free of charge for a baby’s final photos and/or burial services.

For more information visit nicuhelpinghands.org/programs/angel-gown-program

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