Pregnancy losses spur Derry Township couple to lead support group
July 21, June 4 and Jan. 15 are the most difficult days of the year for Paige and Sean Green to get through.
Those are the respective dates when Paige Green delivered Sean Jr. in 2003, Jessica in 2004 and Issac in 2005 — all stillborn, in the second trimester.
“The grief never goes away,” she said. “When you first lose a child, you’re experiencing raw grief. It’s how am I going to get out of bed in the morning? Then you go through certain days when you don’t cry as much.
“Then you miss the milestones — their first steps, when they start school. You miss all of those, and that sticks with you forever.”
After Paige Green was diagnosed with a weak cervix and underwent an operation to correct it, the Derry Township couple welcomed a healthy son, Kristopher, now 7, in 2011. But the three anniversary dates of their earlier losses still take an emotional toll on the Greens.
They’ve channeled their sorrow into an effort to help others who have had a similar loss. They serve as co-leaders of the Pennsylvania chapter of the nonprofit The Tears Foundation, which is based in Washington state.
One way the organization provides support to grieving parents who have lost a baby is by contributing up to $500 toward the cost of cremation, burial or a grave marker for the child. Paige Green noted children who are dead at birth may be disposed of as “medical waste” unless the family asks to take the remains for cremation or burial.
“Parents don’t realize they have the option,” she said. “It’s a baby regardless of how far along you were when you lost it. You have every right to give it a proper burial.”
The state chapter also provides a comfort box of items that can help parents in the immediate aftermath of a newborn death. Paige Green explained gifted items include a stuffed animal for them to hold and “books tailored to the type of loss they’ve had. ‘The Invisible String’ talks about not having to see a person to love them.”
The Greens are seeking volunteer seamstresses to re-purpose ladies’ gowns, cutting them down and stitching them into smaller versions that can be used to dress the child for a burial or a memorial photo.
At the time of her stillbirths, Green had to search online to find others in a similar situation to talk to and leads for medical care and other services.
“It’s such a taboo subject that people don’t want to talk about it,” she said. “OK you had a loss. Move on. Forget.”
Instead, the Tears Foundation emphasizes letting grieving parents know they aren’t alone and helping them honor the memories of their lost children. According to the group, nearly one out of four women will experience a pregnancy or infant loss in a lifetime.
An average of eight people attend support group meetings for mothers and couples who have experienced the loss of a child that Paige Green leads on the third Tuesday of each month at Ravaila’s Restaurant in Blairsville.
“I’m at the point now where I’m in the remembrance part of my grief,” she said of her three stillborn children. “With everything I do with the Tears Foundation, it helps me keep their memory alive.”
Sean Green, 39, is organizing a separate program for fathers that would allow them to “just talk about everyday life” during outings.
“Dads do grieve a little differently than mothers,” he said. “Women will talk about their grief openly, guys not so much.
“You feel anger; you feel anxiety. You might be blaming yourself, and even worse yet, you might be blaming your significant other. A lot of dads will keep silent and just kill themselves with the emotions they’re feeling.”
The Pennsylvania chapter trains volunteers to reach out to parents who have experienced a loss and to offer them information about the support they can obtain through the Tears Foundation and other organizations. Paige also wants to coordinate the group’s efforts with area hospitals and social workers.
Since her stillbirth experiences, Paige Green has offered her services as a doula, a non-medical companion who helps families through the loss of a baby as well as successful pregnancies.
The Pennsylvania chapter of the Tears Foundation is planning events that raise awareness and funds for its programs while providing opportunities for parents to remember their lost children. Pine Ridge Park, east of Blairsville, is the setting for several activities.
On Saturday , Empty Chair photo sessions will allow families to obtain a portrait that represents the children who are missing from the picture. The photo can include a stuffed animal or other item of remembrance. Green was gifted a set of three hearts, each bearing the name of one of her stillborn children and equaling the baby’s weight at delivery.
On Sept. 21, the annual Rock and Walk, beginning at 1 p.m., includes remembrance ceremonies, children’s crafts and raffles. There is a $10 registration fee for participants, who seek sponsors and walk laps or rock in chairs. With 70 registered so far, Paige Green hopes this year’s event will raise $5,000 for the nonprofit.
Kristopher is preparing by making colorful butterfly shapes that will be displayed with others along the walking route. Each bears the name of one of the older siblings he never met.
“I love them,” he said. “They’re up in heaven.”
The Greens’ chapter is one of 25 Tears Foundation operations across the United States. There are five additional international chapters.
The couple hopes to establish a local Angel Of Hope Monument, where families can go to honor their lost children, and a Center for Child Loss, similar to one that is available in New Jersey, where bereaved families can receive compassionate support.
For more information, visit thetearsfoundation.org or contact Paige Green at 724-961-9489.
Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter .