When the Unthinkable Happens: Providing Bereavement Support for Expectant Parents

Published: Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Pregnancy is usually a happy time to anticipate a new addition to the family. But that’s not always the case. When parents are faced with unexpected news about their baby, bereavement support is now available through Northeast Georgia Medical Center.

While it’s something that no parent wants to consider, each year, thousands of parents nationwide receive a life-limiting or fatal diagnosis for their child, either during pregnancy or immediately after birth.

In the setting of the hospital, often surrounded by other parents with healthy newborns, parents can feel alone and overwhelmed by their grief. That’s where Northeast Georgia Medical Center’s (NGMC) Bereavement and Family Support Coordinator can step in to help.

Mandy Reichert, the coordinator, is a certified grief counselor with a background in nursing. In her role for Women’s & Children’s Services, she provides emotional and physical support for mothers and families who are dealing with the realities of an unexpected and life-altering diagnosis.

This includes helping families plan for the end of life, as well as creating items of remembrance for their child, such as hand and foot molds, hats, blankets, and Heartbeat Bears.

“When this position was created, I combined two positions—nursing and chaplaincy,” Reichert says. “I felt very called to chaplaincy, but at my core, I am a nurse. I felt that the two could be combined, and we were successfully able to do that in the creation of this role. One of the advantages of this role is that I have the medical knowledge that I can fit into that medical circle and help patients understand what the physicians are trying to communicate to them. Often I’ll go with the physician to deliver that particularly difficult news.”

In addition to providing hands-on support to grieving families, Reichert also helps train staff in Women & Children’s Services and other roles within the hospital about the grieving process and how to support and help parents during this time.

It’s a support system that’s proven invaluable for families seeking care through NGMC.

“This position has been critical for the nursing staff, physicians, parents, and families of infants they have lost or who have a terminal diagnosis at birth. Physicians call Mandy to let her know when a patient is coming in that needs her assistance,” says Mary Lou Wilson, Women’s Service Line Administrator. “The funds provided by donors to the NGHS Foundation make it possible to provide this much-needed service for our staff, patients, and families of Northeast Georgia.”

Interested in supporting programs like this one? Make a gift today to the philanthropic efforts of the NGHS Foundation.