Beth and Jamie’s Story

In 2016, Beth Horst and Jamie Pepper became members of a club that no one wants to belong to, the heart-breaking fellowship of parents who’ve lost a child.

After their son Elliott died during delivery in 2016, the couple found the unexpected shock and grief overwhelming.

“Simple things like going to the grocery store felt impossible,” Beth says. “I had experienced quite a bit of loss and grief in my life—I’d actually been widowed previously. But to lose a child was something else.”

On top of the pain, the couple felt “like we were on an island,” surrounded by people who, however well-meaning, couldn’t really understand their pain.

A safe, supportive environment
Beth found herself searching for information, “for stories, life experiences, and coping strategies. I wanted to know how other people in this horrible club were managing their grief.”

The couple learned about Bereaved Families of Ontario – Midwestern Region (BFO-MR) through the hospital social worker and attended Living with Loss and a group for parents grieving the death of an infant.

Here was a safe and supportive environment where they could begin to process their grief and share their story with people who truly understood.

“So many points of each couples’ story differed, but our feelings and processes were quite similar,” Beth says. “Holding to the idea that the grief for one’s child is unlike any other grief was an important and unifying distinction.”

In addition, group members were introduced to concepts like delayed grief, which is prevalent in partners who put aside their own pain to focus on the mother’s physical and mental health. As a result, when delayed grief hit Jamie later in the year, he felt better prepared to deal with it.

The shared experiences in the group also prepared Beth and Jamie to move forward with a second pregnancy. They weren’t alone; four of the five couples in the group now have new babies. And the friendships that developed in the group remain strong.

Overcoming isolation
Eighteen months after they first came to BFO-MR, Jamie and Beth returned. But this time, they were looking for ways to give back.

Jamie is now a infant loss group facilitator. It’s challenging to be in that space again, he says.

“In the third week of group couples share their experiences and their stories are extremely heavy. I expect I won’t be able to hold my head very high that week.”

But despite the pain, facilitating was something he needed to do. Very few men lead groups and he feels it’s important to offer a father’s perspective.

While Beth considered facilitating, as a new mother and a professional singer with an unpredictable work schedule, that wasn’t feasible. Instead, she decided to share her talents through a benefit concert which raised $3,000 for BFO-MR.

“We sang music that we thought the community would enjoy. A lot of it had themes of birth and love and death and it was challenging. But it was special, too.”

Through their contributions, Beth and Jamie hope to help other grieving parents overcome the sense of isolation they once felt.

“Death is still a taboo subject in our culture,” Beth says. “We want our experience to be made a little bit more open and available to others. We want to make it a tiny bit easier for another couple.”