A Profound Loss . . .
For Savannah and Justin, losing their beautiful baby Bennett at 31 weeks was unfathomable. How does a parent even begin to process such a profound loss? How does a parent find a way to say goodbye to someone they have been so eagerly waiting to meet, someone who had a place so purposefully and lovingly prepared for them in their family? Some say, grief is love’s twin, and as such the grief that Savannah and Justin experienced was all consuming.
After Bennett was born a stillbirth, Savannah and Justin were able to spend just that one day with him. Every moment a treasure, they spent that one day holding him, memorizing the feel of his skin, and softly whispering words of love.
Savannah delivered at Baystate Medical Center and feels “extremely fortunate” for their partnership with Empty Arm Bereavement Support, a non-profit offering support to families who have experienced loss. She remembers team member, Carol, coming in and immediately acknowledging that she wished she wasn’t needed. That she was sorry they were in this situation. That she personally understood what they were going through.
Empty Arms . . .
Empty Arms knows what it is to lose a baby and how important it is to commemorate the life that didn’t get the chance to happen. That Bennett, whose little life was far too fleeting, will always be a member of their family – a cherished son and a beloved brother to 2-year-old Myles. Bennett’s life matters and Bennett matters.
Carol, who understood how much the tangible can mean to someone who has suffered a loss, arranged for a professional photographer to take pictures of Bennett and his family. They snipped a lock of his hair and made molds of his tiny hands and feet, all treasured keepsakes.
Empty Arms gave the family children’s books about infant loss to help brother Myles understand what had happened. They brought experienced empathy into a dark moment and shone a sliver of light where it seemed all but impossible. Not only that but they stuck around. Carol texted Savannah every day (making sure she knew a response wasn’t expected) and continued to offer support.
A Precious Gift . . .
One of the realities of losing a baby later in pregnancy is that a mother’s milk comes in, milk that was meant for the baby you are mourning. For many mothers in this situation, the milk supply is yet another painful reminder of the loss and medical professionals offer to help them stop producing as quickly as possible. But for some, like Savannah, the emergence of her milk supply motivated her to provide it to another baby. There are so many beautiful ways to honor a life and sharing the nutrition meant for Bennett was just one way in which Savannah could honor him.
Savannah told us, “Donating Bennett’s milk made me feel full and purposeful again. In many ways it felt like my world was crashing down around me but sharing his milk with families in need helped me feel connected to him. It was my way to inject some positivity back into a world that felt so negative.”
Grief Is A Process. Recovery Is A Process . . .
One of Savannah’s most pronounced feelings after the loss of Bennett was one of being totally alone. In her words, “Grief can be so isolating. Everyone around me wanted me to be okay – not because they didn’t care but because they cared so much.” It was hard to share the truth, that she wasn’t ok, she was far from ok. And that, she emphasizes for anyone who might be going through something similar, “is really important to accept.”
Hesitating for a moment, Savannah explains that she’s reluctant to offer advice for anyone who has experienced loss and particularly a loss of this magnitude. It’s then that I’m struck by her strength of character. Even in the midst of such personal grief, she remains empathetic, unwavering in her determination to protect others.
Continuing, Savannah reminds us that, “Grief is not only different for everyone but different from one day to the next – and yes, it comes in waves.” It’s this that gives her pause. The last thing she wants to do is offer what may seem like a “one size fits all” piece of advice. How she feels today may differ greatly from another mom who has experienced loss. Likewise, what now provides comfort may not tomorrow. Grief is a process, recovery is a process. Ultimately, Savannah hopes that parents are patient with themselves.
Finding Comfort . . .
I’m reminded of something I heard years ago, “I’ll always be recovering, never recovered,” and we agree that this is pretty apt. Of course, that doesn’t mean that it’ll always be this hard. In time, your heart will feel a little less heavy and the light a little brighter. And there it is again, the importance of patience. As Savannah urges, “take what you need, when you need it – time and space in particular.”
Throughout her days, Savannah finds positive ways to reconnect and projects to focus on. After discovering (and discussing at length) our shared love of all things home improvement we move on to the power of nature. Going for walks and finding ways to recognize Bennett’s life as well as her body’s connection to him? These things provide much needed comfort.
Every night when Justin and Savannah kiss their son Myles goodnight, they stop by the urn that contains Bennett’s ashes and kiss him goodnight too. Make no mistake, Bennett is part of their family. He is remembered and celebrated. He is loved.
A Note From Us
And perhaps it’s that human connection that binds us through physical elements like milk, where his food went on to nourish others that is so momentous and moving. We are humbled that Bennett and Savannah shared this loving gift and that we could be the conduit to help other families and fragile babies.
Donating milk after losing a beloved pregnancy or infant is not right for everyone. That said, many find meaning and comfort in knowing their milk can save the life of another precious child. To learn more, about becoming a bereaved milk donor, simply click here.