Families who have lost babies during pregnancy or infancy may have very different ways of grieving, but a local group wants them to know they have one thing in common: they are not alone.
Share of the Upper Ohio Valley, a pregnancy and infant loss support group, is marking its 20th year serving local families and will hold its annual Remembering Ceremony for families at 7 p.m. Tuesday in a small garden next to the Mansion Museum at Oglebay Park, Wheeling. It is a quiet time to honor and reflect upon little ones who passed through this world briefly but touched many lives along the way.
The ceremony is open to any family member or friend who has experienced this type of loss, said Amy Dobkin of Wheeling, who received support through Share after her son, Jacob, died during open-heart surgery at 8 days old in 2008.
Marshall County natives Amy and Bob Dobkin, now of Wheeling, take a stroll with their 2-year-old son, Ben. Their first son, Jacob, died during open-heart surgery when he was 8 days old. The couple sought and received invaluable support from Share of the Upper Ohio Valley.
"(Share) was incredibly helpful for me and my husband," said Dobkin, who said she and husband Bob initially talked to facilitator Evalyn Long of Wheeling privately but eventually met in a group setting with other families who also were grieving. Group meetings are optional.
"At our first Share meetings, I think we just cried. At least that's what I did." Eventually, the group helped the Dobkins discover their "new normal," Amy said. The couple has another son, Ben, who is 2.
Share is part of a national organization with the primary purpose of helping parents and families deal with their grief and attain emotional, spiritual, physical and social healing. The national website, www.nationalshare.org, provides information about grief not only for parents, but also for grandparents, siblings and friends.
Families in need of support, no matter when they suffered their loss, may call Evalyn Long with Share at 304-242-1916 or 717-433-7480.
Long started the local Share chapter 20 years ago when she worked as a labor and delivery nurse at Wheeling Hospital. A unit receptionist mentioned the need, and Long, who had experienced such a loss personally, agreed.
Long organized a coalition that included clergy, health care professionals, a funeral director and parents, who set the group's mission and direction. She continues to serve as the Share facilitator, taking initial calls from grieving parents and providing information, resources and face-to-face meetings as needed or requested. She also instituted bereavement programs at several area hospitals with birth facilities, providing training to staff and Share brochures to hand out to grieving families.
The Remembering Ceremony is held each year in October during National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, set by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. Long worked with Oglebay Park officials to set up a small garden beside the mansion with a small plaque that reads: "Our little ones will never be forgotten." Long is seeking to erect a permanent memorial in the form of a sculpture of a child nestled on a hand, for which the group has received permission for one-time reproduction. The work has not yet been commissioned because she is seeking a location and funding. Donations can be made to Share of the Upper Ohio Valley, c/o Evalyn Long, 10 Lenox Ave., Wheeling, WV 26003.