Pushing On: Support for Moms After Pregnancy Loss
When Patricia Wright, Ph.D., R.N., submitted her research proposal on women’s experiences of pregnancy loss to the Institutional Review Board for the Protection of Human Subjects (IRB) at The University of Scranton, she expected suggestions for revisions and questions about the protocol. She also expected to be able to answer those questions. However, when she was asked to name local pregnancy loss support resources that could be offered to the participants, she realized that she simply couldn’t answer the inquiry because there weren’t any local support groups or organizations dedicated to helping women through pregnancy loss. This insight provided her with an opportunity to use her research to make a difference in the community.
No stranger to grief
As a clinician, Dr. Wright chose to work as a hospice nurse, caring for patients who were terminally ill and providing support for their families who would soon be without them. In her 15 years of hospice work, she mastered many techniques to ease physical suffering for her patients. For Dr. Wright, the most difficult part of hospice work was supporting families who were preparing to lose a loved one because their grief involved deep existential suffering. She hoped to discover ways to provide better support for grieving families and decided to make bereavement research her life’s work.
Throughout her hospice career, Dr. Wright worked with many mothers who had lost adult children, which helped develop her interest in maternal bereavement. In her doctoral program, she conducted research on women’s experiences of pregnancy loss and found that women often experienced shock, disbelief, self-blame and profound sadness. The grief that ensues after pregnancy loss is, in some cases, emotionally devastating and all-consuming. This type of grief doesn’t just go away; it reemerges on special days like the anniversary of the loss, holidays and other special days like Mother’s Day.
The women in Dr. Wright’s study felt that people didn’t understand the ongoing nature of their pain, and they felt pressure to move on too soon. When they did reach out to talk with others about their grief, they were sometimes disappointed by the comments people made such as, “you can try again,” or “at least you didn’t have time to get to know the baby.” Comments like these, although mostly made by well-meaning people, minimized the pain that the women felt and caused them to feel further isolated from others. The women explained that other women who had experienced pregnancy loss understood their pain better than anyone else, and were often very helpful in offering useful advice and support. Although numerous pregnancy loss support groups are available across the country, no such group was offered in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area.
Meeting a need
With the help of a generous collaborative grant offered jointly by The University of Scranton and Marywood University, faculty members from both institutions were able to partner with staff from the Commonwealth Home Health and Hospice of Lackawanna County to start a pregnancy loss support group in Scranton. The group, guided by the “Pushing On Theory of Maternal Perinatal Bereavement” that Dr. Wright developed in her research, is named “Pushing On: Support for Moms after Pregnancy Loss.” The five facilitators work diligently to organize the group, which meets on the third Wednesday of each month at Regional Hospital of Scranton. The group has been meeting for more than a year and continues to provide a safe and supportive atmosphere for grieving mothers. Since the group started it has served 20 women. The support group has a website (www.pushingon.org) and a Facebook page (Pushing On: Support for Moms) designed to reach out to those who may be searching for help.
Dr. Wright was selected as a “Northeast Woman” for her work and has been trying to advance community awareness about the problems facing women who have experienced pregnancy loss by writing a guest column for The Scranton Times-Tribune. She is a certified hospice and palliative nurse, certified nurse educator, and a board-certified adult health clinical nurse specialist.