SAIL group offers support to grieving families

By Maureen Smith
PEARL – When Abby Nelson moved from Hattiesburg to Pearl, she brought a mission with her to comfort women suffering from infertility or the loss of a child. The effort is very personal to her since she went through it herself. “I feel like I have a purpose for my pain,” said Nelson.
“My husband Danny and I found out we were pregnant with twin boys in November of 2008,” she said. An ultrasound revealed a problem with one of the babies. Despite a trip to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for delivery and care, Daniel Kace only lived an hour on his birth day, June 22, 2009. His brother Cain was fine. “We had Cain so I didn’t have time to grieve or process. When he was about nine months old, it all hit me,” said Nelson.
She joined a group at her Hattiesburg church called Support for Adoption, Infertility and Loss (SAIL). “It gave me a place to talk about thing with someone who was like-minded,” she explained. The group is for any woman experiencing infertility, a miscarriage, the loss of a child at any stage of life or going through the process of adoption. “God was at the center of the group, and that’s what I loved about it.”
“When we moved to Jackson this past June we joined St. Jude, the parish where I grew up and I knew I wanted to bring the group with me,” Nelson said. She spoke with her pastor, Father Jeffrey Waldrep, and he was very supportive.
“People don’t realize sometimes what a sensitive wound people are carrying around,” said Father Waldrep. “When you lose a child what you carry around is more than just grief. It’s that uncertainty – particularly if you don’t have another child – the pain of the reality of all the ‘what ifs,’ the loss of possibility,” he said. “This group lets people know that someone cares, not just in the immediate aftermath, but in the long-term. It lets people process those feelings,” added Father Waldrep. He said when a child dies, the family is often inundated with care right after the incident, but as time goes by, the family may still need an outlet for grief.
One group member, who wished to remain anonymous, agreed. She started attending in January after losing twins in Dec., 21 weeks into her pregnancy. Father Waldrep visited the couple in the hospital and told them about the group. “Your family and friends try to make you feel better, and they are very sincere, but they can’t help you sometimes,” she said. “The world will give you about a month and then they want you to go back to normal,” she said. Attending the meetings “lets you be yourself and feel what you are feeling,” said the woman. “I can talk to them about things I might not want to talk about to other people,” she added.
Parishioners at St. Jude helped SAIL put together memory boxes with a baby blanket, booties, a cross, a candle, a prayer book and contact information for the SAIL group. Nelson approached local hospitals and doctors herself to ask them to give the boxes to families who lose babies.
The group member said she appreciates the boxes because she ended up making her own box after she lost her babies. “I came home from the hospital and spread all this stuff on the kitchen table – the nurses had given us footprints and baby blankets and other things – and I thought, I want to keep this, but I just can’t look at it right now.” She had a box of her own and put her treasured baby items into it.
SAIL is faith-based, but the group welcomes any woman, regardless of her religious affiliation. “This is a good place for us to share our stories without being judged,” said Nelson. The group uses a book about grief and faith called “Holding on to Hope.”
Kathryn Bridges and Kelli McCloskey run the group in Hattiesburg that Nelson first attended. Bridges lost her son the day before her due date. “The main reason it was important to me is I had several friends and acquaintances who reached out to me who had gone through something similar. It helped me tremendously,” said Bridges. She prayed about what to do next and decided to become involved as a SAIL group leader. Her group coordinates a balloon release in honor of the national day devoted to stillborn and miscarriage awareness and hosts a prayer service in December for families who have lost babies.
SAIL has a closed facebook group and an email in addition to the in-person meetings. To find out more about the meetings email