Helping people grieve the loss of an infant
Last updated 5/5/2023 at 4:57pm
Losing a baby is a heart-wrenching event that often leaves grieving parents feeling alone. That was Alissa and James Cowan's experience after having a miscarriage six years ago. Their sense of isolation left Alissa feeling numb and unsure about who could relate to or understand her pain.
Last April, Alissa started a nonprofit called I Am Seen. With her husband James' constant support, she wanted to bring a voice to the silent grief of pregnancy and infant loss.
"We offer Care Boxes to moms who have lost their little ones through miscarriage, abortion, still birth, or early infant death," she said.
I Am Seen offers a Facebook support group and will host the second annual event called "Seen Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance." Alissa is always open to talking with anyone needing a knowing and caring person to talk to about losing a baby.
"We're starting a conversation where people can relate and be heard," she said. " Our mission is to break the silence and let people realize they're not alone and not the only one this has happened to... even when it feels that way. We try to wrap around that support, shoulder up, and be there to listen."
Alissa doesn't see I Am Seen as a political or religious organization. Her efforts focus on helping people navigate the loss, whether they are the parents, extended family, or friends. Sometimes not knowing what to say can result in comments that do more harm than good.
"People try to compare loss, but grief is grief. Each person's situation is just as real and impactful as the next person's grief," said Alissa.
Last October, I Am Seen held the first Seen Remembrance day, where attendees and presenters shared stories, validated families, and supported those who suffered the loss of their little ones.
"During the event, my husband read baby names aloud, which can be so affirming for the parents. My husband spoke at the event to help other men who may be grieving in different but just as profound ways," Alissa said.
I Am Seen was created to bring a voice to the conversation about the kind of loss that comes from losing a child while also building a community of people who've struggled through it.
"We offer the Care Boxes as a way to offer resources and tools to help grieving parents through the sense of loss that will never fully go away. Being together in person at the Remembrance Day helps people realize how many others share their loss," said Alissa.
The Cowans are pleased that St. Charles Hospital now has Care Boxes available for those who have lost a child.
"That's where we experienced our loss, and at the time there were no resources offered to us as we left the ER empty-handed and in shock," Alissa recalled. "It felt like it all came full circle when they told me they gave out the first box to a grieving couple. We know it can't take away all the pain, but it says you are not alone; you are seen and there is support and other people who understand."
Founding I Am Seen has helped with the Cowans' healing process. Several years after losing their child named Micah, Alissa was crying out to God because she was confused about the idea that God brings good to his children.
"I was asking what is the good in any of this. I challenged God because I was angry and hurt and broken," she said. "Then this idea just plopped in that I could bring the concept of I Am Seen to Central Oregon. The Bible says 'You have seen my sorrow and grief.' That's how we chose that scripture. Now I see that I can be there for someone else, so they don't have to do it alone. Even though James and I experienced a lonely, isolating journey, we could make sure that didn't happen to others in our community. We can all remember together. It doesn't matter how long ago people have experienced the loss. Remembering with them is still valuable and often needed. You're never completely over it. We had seventy people at the first Seen Remembrance and we've given out over two hundred boxes with links to our support group page."
By starting the nonprofit, Alissa's perspective has changed.
"I see that this is the good that came out of the grief. It's the beauty out of the ashes. Now I can help other women, men, and families and walk their journey with them," she said.
The Seen – Pregnancy Loss Remembrance Day is on October 15.
For support after losing a child, Alissa recommends the I Am Seen Facebook page, http://www.Facebook.com/SeenFamily, and GriefShare. There is a local GriefShare group. See http://www.griefshare.org/groups and search by area code.
For pregnancy loss support, free ultrasounds, and resources for dads and moms, contact Pregnancy Resource Centers of Central Oregon, http://www.prcco.org/resources-and-help/pregnancy-loss/.