The Still Remembered Project

There are some things that people just do not talk about. Topics that people avoid because of discomfort.  Because they don’t know what to say. Because they aren’t really sure how to wrap their minds around what has happened.

Miscarriage, stillbirth, and the early loss of a child are situations that are undoubtedly near the top of that list of topics to avoid.  But for the women and families who have experienced such loss, the grief is very real and is often very lonely. Sometimes nobody (or only a very select few) knows. Other times different understanding of what has happened can lead to hurtful words or avoidance.

Even now, five and four years after losses that left our family reeling, I feel very hesitant to share our story. In some ways it doesn’t even feel like mine to tell, as it was my wife who experienced that loss within her body.  She was the one who had already begun to feel that physical and emotional connection with those tiny people who we would never have the chance to meet on this side of heaven. As sad as I felt, it was she who truly bore that pain of loss.

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But I guess that’s one of the things that make something like miscarriage so disorienting. We don’t always have the right terms to talk about it. We don’t know whose story it is. We don’t know who will listen and understand and care in a way that acknowledges the reality of the loss.

The Still Remembered Project gets this. The women who operate this new Pittsburgh organization understand the sympathy and support needed to help with healing a broken heart, because they have experienced it as well. It is because of her loss that Lauren McLean initially helped form a Christian-based support group for grieving families.

From this support group, a larger mission grew that seeks to offer comfort to grieving families in a number of different fashions. In fact, there are now six different projects to help families heal that come under the Still Remembered Project umbrella.

Still Supported – Still Supported is a monthly peer support group for women who have experienced the loss of a baby (at any gestational stage). It’s a place to share, or listen. An opportunity to be around others who have experienced something similar to you and can understand, at least in part, the loss that you are experiencing. Even if your loss was not recent, you are welcome to attend.

Still Missed – Still Missed focuses specifically on families who are experiencing a miscarriage. One way they do this is by placing care packages with local hospitals and OB offices that can be shared with women after they learn of their miscarriage. It is a small gift to let her know that she is not alone, and that there are people who care about her and the child that was lost.

Still Remembered Memory Boxes – These are provided as bereavement boxes for families after a stillbirth or the death of a newborn. Mothers who experienced a similar loss create the boxes, filling them with items they believe will help the family memorialize the lost child.

Still Family – The Still Family project recognizes that it isn’t always just the mother and father who are disoriented by the loss of a child in pregnancy. There is support available for all family members, but with a special focus on the siblings. When possible, the hospital will provide a sibling bag to families that includes some comforting items and a book titled “We were gonna have a baby, but We had an angel instead.”

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Still Together – Still Together is the community outreach portion of the Still Remembered Project.  Here they seek to partner with medical professionals, hospitals, and other organizations to provide advocacy, education, and awareness of the fact that 25% of women in the United States experience some form of infant loss.

Stitched with Love – Stitched with Love donates handmade knitted, crocheted, and sewn baby blankets to hospitals to be given to families with the belief that every baby, no matter how brief their life, should have a cozy blanket. And every family should have a handmade keepsake to help with remembering their child.Untitled design (8)Please refer to the Still Remembered Project website for greater details on all of these projects and more. There is a wide variety of ways that you can donate or volunteer your time in support of local bereaved families.  And if you or your family have experienced this sort of a loss, please reach out.  You will be welcomed and heard.

On a very personal level, I commend this group to you if you’re grieving this type of loss or know of somebody who is. Their sensitivity and genuine care was obvious in my interactions with them. Sometimes we want to grieve alone.  But at other times it’s helpful to share, and remember that you are not alone.

MAYA Organization

 

My wife and I first met Tomi Ward when we were considering adoption a few years ago. Ultimately that plan didn’t end up moving forward, but we did gain a friendship with Tomi and her family from the pursuit.  We’ve come to know Tomi as a devoted mother and tireless worker for the nonprofit that she founded in 2009, MAYA Organization.

Like many organizations that started small, the mission of the work that Tomi and her coworkers do at MAYA has changed over the years.  Originally, they focused on adoption and the needs of mothers who were considering placing a child for adoption.  While MAYA is still a full-service adoption agency, that mission has grown as they discovered new needs in the community.

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MAYA still focuses primarily on women and babies, but now their stated mission covers a bit more.  They seek to empower women to break the cycle of generational trauma by fostering the optimal physical and mental development of their children.  It’s a vision that sees holistic health as beginning in the womb and a belief that if women are supported through pregnancy and during that crucial first year of their child’s life, there is a much greater chance that both mother and baby will flourish going forward.

To do this, MAYA employs a number of professional counselors who operate in individual and group settings.  The counselors who work with individuals are trained in a variety of specializations and types of therapy.  The group classes focus on prenatal health and parenting instruction.  Moms who attend classes receive “MAYA Money”, which they can use to purchase baby clothes, diapers, car seats and other necessary accessories.  The intention of offering this incentive is to do all MAYA can to equip new Moms to care for their new children.

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MAYA has offices located on the Northside and in Swissvale, and recently started offering classes to Pittsburgh area refugee and immigrant communities.  They currently offer classes in Spanish, Nepali, and Swahili to women who might otherwise feel isolated and unsure of how to properly care for their new child as they acclimate to a new nation and culture.

Beyond this, MAYA has some access to work with women in the Hope Unit of the Allegheny County Jail thanks to a recent grant that they received.  A shockingly large percentage of incarcerated women have experienced trauma and never had access to mental health counseling.  MAYA hopes to play a positive role in the rehabilitation of these women as they work through a wide variety of issues that may have fostered an environment where bad decisions ultimately led to incarceration.

Even with all of this, MAYA Organization is still a full-service adoption agency; providing help to both women considering adoption and families who would like to adopt.  They are prepared to offer guidance on “where do I start” all the way to counseling that might be necessary for all parties once an adoption is finalized (and everything in between).

How You Can Help

MAYA’s greatest needs at the moment are financial.  The current state budget wrangling has left MAYA (and hundreds of other Pennsylvania organizations) unsure of how to plan for the short and long-term.  If you’d consider donating, they are in the midst of a campaign that will match your giving.

Additionally, MAYA’s mission would benefit from spreading the word about what they do. They exist to help women and families heal. If you know of anyone who might benefit from their services, please point them in the right direction.  They will receive professional, compassionate care.

For more information including how to contact, give to, or learn more about MAYA, please visit their website and reach out directly.