At 39 weeks pregnant, Crystal was excited her baby would soon be born. She was looking forward to all the hopes and dreams she had for her daughter. On December 20, 2014, Crystal delivered Avrey, a perfect angelic baby girl. Avrey was stillborn. Crystal was devastated and confused, not knowing “what’s next”.
Shortly after Christmas, Crystal received a pamphlet in her mailbox. It was information about Bereaved Families of Ontario – Midwestern Region (BFO-MR). They had a group for parents grieving the death of an infant. Crystal decided to make the call and understand what this group was about – she was hopeful this would help her with her grief, so she registered for the spring session.
I never experienced anything like it in my life
As soon as she came to group Crystal felt connected. The room was full of parents who understood each other. There was no judgement.
“You say what you want to say and support is offered,” says Crystal. “I never experienced anything like it in my life. We would share our stories, our thoughts and our feelings. It was very real. They were all so similar. It was a group of beautiful people who just got it.”
The peer support group gave each parent a chance to talk, share, and be where they were at that given moment. It gave them a place to let the healing begin.
It grounded me, gave me purpose
“I really don’t know where I would be right now without BFO. It grounded me and gave me purpose. I learned how to develop coping skills in the group. I found out a lot about myself,” says Crystal.
Group supports members in ways that help them recognize how they are feeling is completely normal. “It was such a safe place, with so much guidance from facilitators and group members. It gave me hope.”
Crystal said her experience in the group, listening and watching facilitators navigate group and helping each of the members feel safe and supported and to heal was inspiring. “By the third week of group I realized I wanted to give back. I knew I wanted to be a facilitator after watching them and feeling their empathy.” Crystal took the facilitator training with BFO-MR and is now an active facilitator. She knows this is another piece of her grief journey but also an opportunity to help others in Avrey’s honour.
“My world was spiraling”
Before Crystal participated in group, she says, “my world was spiraling, and BFO-MR gave me a space to focus and find new hope. I get to feel love as well as give love to those around me.” She made new friends who share a special bond and feels “blessed” that she continues to maintain those connections. Crystal continues to celebrate Avrey’s birthday with family and friends. There is balloons and cake, and a time for her second daughter to remember and honour Avrey.
“I am still her mom and she is still a part of me.”
Changed my life
The death of a child is devastating. “All the plans and dreams are gone out the window,” says Crystal. But she knows Avrey will be a part of her forever. As she continues to move forward, with good days and bad days, she knows she will continue to be active in BFO-MR, currently as facilitator, but her role may change, and she is ready to embrace what comes next. “Without Bereaved Families of Ontario, I don’t know where I would be today. It changed my life. It gave me a new purpose.”