Bevely's Story: Part Four

Many people who suffer unexpected tragedy turn to generosity and giving back as a way of making meaning in their experience. Though many years had passed, I was thrilled to see Bevely at Empty Arms’ 10 year anniversary celebration last May. With her, she had her two little boys and together they made a quilt square and decorated rocks for Jelyna. During that time, we started talking and she told me that she was really interested in giving back and helping other people. I was so glad –  a bilingual woman, Bevely had so much to offer, especially as we began to make our move towards expanding to Baystate. Here, Bev talks about what it’s been like for her to turn her grief into a mission of helping others.

For years, ever since Jelyna passed, I wanted to do something but I didn’t know how or what. So I started going to some of your Empty Arms events, and reconnecting with you – it felt like a calling. And then the opportunity just came up – it felt like it was meant to be. It was the right time, I felt ready. Years ago, I wouldn’t have been ready. Unless I had the support, maybe that would have made me ready. I just want to give back.

The first time I went to a mother’s house and spoke to her it felt weird, but I had to remember: we are women, I’m here to support her. I wanted her to feel what I would have wanted somebody to do for me when Jelyna passed. I let that weird feeling go away, I got up, and I hugged her. She just cried and cried. And I cried with her.

Yes, it brings up memories, but it feels good to be there for somebody and show them that they’re not alone. It brings memories back but it’s in exchange for feeling good while doing something for somebody else.  It’s being able to bring someone else something that you didn’t have.

I told her it’s okay to cry, breaking that silence and that barrier – it’s okay that you feel like this, and I was honest with her – this is how you’re going to feel for a while and it’s okay – I didn’t know what I was going to feel and what it was okay to feel. It seemed like everyone expected me to be over it and I needed her to know that you don’t just get over it. It’s rude to expect someone to get over it – that’s not how you comfort them. You have to accept that they’re going to feel it for years to come.

You’re never the same person after a traumatic event. There’s no such thing as your old self, you have to learn to live with what just happened to you. Even family members who mean well don’t understand – they go on with their lives. For us, we have to almost build a new path – we can’t go on the same path anymore. So helping people, it’ sad – but it’s so rewarding to me, it makes me feel good. Now it’s been 12 years, so of course I’m still sad and I’ll still cry, but it’s easier for me to be a better support. And to show other people that you will get through it with time. You heal.

When I supported the most recent mother, I said look: I know how you feel, it will get better but it will never go away. You’ll always have that little part of you –  it will never be filled. It’s OK – years from now, you keep her memory alive, and it’s OK if you cry. Just because it’s been 5, 10 years it’s still a loss, you’ll still remember that person. You’ll function, like you’re supposed to- but it doesn’t mean it’s not OK to mourn. Others will move on with their lives, but they don’t realize the impact this has on somebody. It’s true – you’ll always mourn your baby.

That mother was talking about the baby’s stuff, and how hard it was to think about getting rid of stuff – I was like DON’T. If you want to hold onto it, you can! Make a box and hold onto it! And her family expected her to get rid of everything, and I helped her to know she could keep things. I said, get a box, create something and hang it on the wall – you don’t have to hide her, you don’t have to hide her stuff. She really liked that, I think. She was explaining how she had the baby’s name up and her son had asked her to leave it – I said, then leave it! She’s a part of your family, she’ll always be your daughter, always be the sister. I was encouraging her to let people see the baby. And a lot of people need that encouragement because society teaches us to hide people after they die. When you have a child and you lose them, your feelings don’t go out the window. She’s always going to be part of your family so keep her part of your family. Keep her alive somehow. That’s what I try to do.

I understand how this works, because I didn’t know how to do this.  I needed advice and guidance – I would never have known what to do except for the things people told me I could do. That’s why I think Empty Arms is such an awesome and amazing group. The awareness is not there in the general public, there is no other support, Where are these women going to get the support and the OK and know what they can and can’t do? I wish I had the support at the time. And now I’m happy to help and support it in any way, and want to continue to be involved in as many ways as I can!

Bevely's Story: Part Three

Knowing Empty Arms is there is something that Pioneer Valley families can return to again and again. While there are many families who use Empty Arms daily or weekly in the beginning, some only cross paths with us briefly, and yet our impact can still be significant. I often share this story with the people who are training to become peer companions to remind them that we can never measure our impact by how often we see a family return:

Many years ago, I was called to Cooley Dickinson to visit a family who had delivered their baby girl at just shy of 18 weeks. They had requested my presence, but when I entered the room, which was filled with siblings, loving family members, grandparents and friends, I was met mostly with stares. When I offered the menu of what Empty Arms could offer in terms of support, the mother very politely thanked me for coming and let me know that she’d call me if she needed anything. I left, thinking that the visit had been a failure, and worrying that I’d invaded their privacy. The next day, I returned and took photos and did tiny hand and foot casts of their tiny baby. The mother sent me a lovely text thanking me for those mementos, and I never heard from her again… until about 14 months later. That’s when I received a lovely note sharing with me the news of their new baby girl, born healthy and robust, and thanking me for all that I had done. “You were there for us at such a hard time and you were such a source of support for us”, the mother wrote. Who, me? I couldn’t believe it. I felt like I hadn’t supported them at all. But what this mother pointed out is the power of knowing that the resource is there if you need it. She may not have called, but it brought her great comfort to know we were there. Our presence, even though it was brief, made a difference. I have always remembered this story.

In this blog post, Bevely will talk about the ways in which she returned to Empty Arms after years had passed. Many families have come back to us after years, and it’s a privilege for us to be there for their life journeys.

Carol: What do you think drew you back to get involved?

Bev: I should have never left, first of all! I was trying to figure things out on my own, but when I got pregnant with my first son, Jon Carlos (2009), I thought about going back, but I felt better about it and my husband was very supportive. When I got pregnant with the second one, Jovani, (2012), I was so scared and worried. I don’t know what happened – I was scared and worried, I started having memories, I felt the emptiness again. I remembered looking up Empty Arms and realizing you guys had classes for somebody like me –  I was like OMG – it was meant to be!

I remember reaching out. I only went to 2-3 but then I went into birth a month early. It helped me tremendously –  it made me feel like I had people supporting me through the pregnancy. Nobody understood me! My family was like, you already had a kid and you were fine, so what are you so worried about? It made me feel like I’m not crazy, it’s normal for me to be feeling like this, and it’s OK. I went into labor early,  because I was having complications, everything was fine. He was just really colicky! It was the hardest thing ever.

Even after him it was hard –  because at a certain age, newborn age, with the hat on, both boys looked like Jelyna. So for both of them I went through a period where I was down, I’d cry and let it out. Especially the last one looked so much like her, it was so hard. For the first time ever, it was hard for family members. My sister saw what I saw and it was hard for her, too.

Honestly, when he was born, the pediatrician came in and told me that if it wasn’t for my doctor and her call, he wouldn’t be here today. I’m very intuitive, I think there was a reason I was so anxious. I didn’t feel like the doctors took me seriously – they thought I was anxious, but I was in labor. They had to give me a shot and stop my labor. The doctor had me come every single week. Every friday at my lunch break I had an ultrasound and a non-stress test.

That Friday, the ultrasound the lady did not like what she was seeing. When she got concerned, because he would not move, when she said we need to see the doctor, I can’t even describe how I felt. Then they said you’re having this baby today. I was crying and crying, I was so afraid. It’s funny because the doctor I avoided the whole pregnancy –  the one who told me about Jelyna – she was there to deliver my baby. She was scared, and I was scared. When he was born he had something wrapped around his leg (an amniotic band). The doctor at delivery said you have to commend your doctor for knowing he needed to come out. Imagine all that! I was a mess! But I knew something wasn’t right. People should listen to us women!

I’m so happy that new doctor came in and listened to me and took me seriously. If I hadn’t been getting checked every week, how would we have known? It helped going to those meetings because I was a mess to begin with! It made me not feel crazy. People, even the doctor, were like, you already had a healthy baby – what’s the problem? Why don’t people understand this?  I’m scared! I didn’t think there was a right or wrong to the situation. How dare people say that to people like us! That fear is always deep down in your mind whether you like it or not – it’s reality to us. It’s not a fear in our mind, it’s reality. This could happen.

Bevely's Story: Part Two

Coping with the early days and months can be the hardest part of loss. Often parents feel as if nobody understands, and that feeling of being misunderstood can prevent them from being present in their normal, daily routines even many months down the road. At Empty Arms, we’re able to structure for each family a network of support that feels right to them: whether that’s support groups, therapists, working with their family members, communicating with medical professionals, or setting up individual peer support. We have seen, over and over again, that when we offer families safe spaces to be present with their story, to honor their grief and move forward with healing at their own pace, they are much better off in other areas of their lives. It’s an honor to provide this space.

Carol:  What were the hardest parts in the beginning? What memories still stick with you?

Bev: Giving her back that second day – my family left and I had her all day with me. I didn’t know how to say – take her. How can you determine how you are ready? I should have just stayed with her until I left the hospital, but I felt like I was on a time limit. I felt rushed, like I had to give her back. So saying my goodbye, and letting them take her, that was the hardest thing. Then, going home to a house with all her stuff there, and still with a belly and no baby when I went home, reality struck. I don’t have a baby and I’m supposed to have a baby. I think it hit even harder when I got home. You go home empty, and you feel so empty and lost.

Carol: Did the people in your life understand?

Bev: Honestly I did not feel like anyone understood. I wanted to be alone, but I did not want to be alone at the same time. I remember talking on the phone every day, all day with my mother in Florida and occasionally my sisters. They were the only ones who comforted me, and all they did was listen! I needed them to listen. They did not know how I felt, so all I needed was for people to listen. Everyone else was saying, oh I’m sorry, oh I understand, but they did not know how I felt. But the nurses in the hospital, they referred me to a therapist, who used to work for Cooley, I contacted her. And I got the information about the meetings at Cooley Dickinson  (referring to Empty Arms).

I waited, and that’s my regret. I waited to get help, and when I finally went, I realized wow – now I feel I belong. Because I felt like these people truly understand how I feel. So if they say, I know how you feel  – it’s comforting because I know they truly feel that.

But I knew where to go when I needed help. It’s my culture – it’s how I grew up. It’s hard for me to express my feelings. Now I know it’s OK to seek help. I’m so glad Empty Arms was always there and never said no. I could come back every single time I needed Empty Arms. I’m grateful  – you guys helped me tremendously. You’ve made an indent in my life, just being there.

Carol: Do you think it would have made a difference if you had a companion?

Bev: I honestly truly believe that if Empty Arms had been there when I lost my baby and explained to me what was going on it would have made a huge difference with everything. I didn’t know anything  – I had never heard of a stillborn! I didn’t know anything about what I was supposed to do. If I had support with me it would have helped me to understand what I was going through. It took me such a long time to heal, and it was basically on my own. And then with the groups that I did go to, and the therapist, it made it okay to feel the way I felt. If I had support to say it was okay to feel those things, to guide me to recuperate, it would have made a big difference. You have this blow, and your sitting there broken and alone, and if I had the support that we give to everybody now –  it would have made a huge difference. I got depressed, I broke up with the baby’s father, I started drinking – I never drink – for almost a year, I drank every single day. With support I would have been completely different. I lived in Greenfield all by myself. After the funeral they were back to their lives, but I wasn’t. People go right back to their normal lives and don’t realize that I’m still not OK. And, my partner wasn’t supportive. He left me home and went back to work. That’s why I was calling my mom all day every day. I was alone. If I had somebody there to help me and support me, lives would have been different. I would have been able to heal quickly. It took many years, many years.

The way I started coping was telling my story again and again. It has helped me heal. I’m pretty good talking without crying now!

Bevely's Story: Part One

This is the first in a series of four pieces about Bevely Gonzalez. I met Bevely for the first time several years after the loss of her second daughter, Jelyna, who was stillborn in 2006. Over the years, Bevely kept disappearing, and then showing up. In 2012, at a Subsequent Choices meeting, there she was. Then again in 2017 at our 10 year anniversary party, we reconnected.

When we spoke at the party, Bevely was effusive about how important Empty Arms had been to her in her journey of healing. As she stood there, in the bright light of the party, her two young sons running around at her feet, I remembered the woman who had sat in the chair in the meetings years before. Here before me was a new version, one who remained deeply connected to her past, but who flourished in the present. Bev was a beautiful example of a person who had not just survived, but flourished after her loss.

Not two days later, I was buried in my office, deep in a search for the best way to develop meaningful services for Spanish speaking women who needed our services. Hospital interpreters would not even come close—if our goal was to offer a peer, the support needed to be offered by a peer. Suddenly, I thought of Bev. Could she help us out?

I emailed her the next day, cautiously suggesting that we might be looking for people to help to support others in Hampden county, and that we were specifically searching for bilingual support. Within minutes, an effusive, enthusiastic reply was in my inbox. Bev was in!

It has been beyond a pleasure to have  Bev join our team. She carries with her years of experience, a bright sense of humor, and a frank realism about the challenges that life can bring. This winter, I sat down with Bev and interviewed her, in the hopes of bringing her story to our community. It is a story of a mother who, determined not to be alone in her isolating journey of grief, sought out help again and again. And it is the story of that same mother who has been able to transform her own sadness into an energy that can help to hold others afloat in their darkest moments.

Thank you, Bevely, for offering yourself so unconditionally to the woman and families who have benefitted so deeply from your support. Empty Arms is grateful to have you as part of our team, and it’s my hope that your words, which will be shared in four parts over the next few weeks, will touch lives as you personally demonstrate the power of friendship and community in the face of a very difficult experience. - Carol

Post #1: Bevely’s story.

It was 2006, and my daughter Elyssa was only five years old, just shy of six. I just remember, we were very excited, we had planned for our new baby and we were looking forward to her. Then, I got into a minor fender bender – someone hit us from behind. I didn’t pay any mind to it, we went to the hospital and checked her and she was fine. Then, two weeks later, I noticed that she wasn’t moving anymore, and it felt like my stomach had gone down. I remember calling the doctor and asking about it, telling them that things looked smaller and that I hadn’t felt her move. They told me the normal things, she’s probably growing, and it’s up to you if you want to come in or not. So I waited until my appointment.

It was a nice, energetic Northampton doctor, she didn’t have any concerns. And I was there like so concerned, so concerned, so concerned! She almost let me go without checking the heartbeat. But I asked her, and she got the doppler, and she was looking, and looking, and looking. She got nothing, so she put me in the other room to check with ultrasound. I just started crying, because deep down inside I knew something was wrong. I didn’t want to look at the ultrasound, because when I did glance at it nothing was moving, and I knew it was bad. I looked at her face, and I knew something was terribly wrong. She went from being so happy and energetic to being flushed and her eyes were watery, she couldn’t even talk. There was silence –  which felt like for a long time. It was very silent, nobody spoke.

Finally, she cleared her throat and with a voice where you could tell she wanted to cry, her voice was cracky, she said, “I’m terribly concerned, is there any way you call  someone to come be with you? I don’t want you driving. I need a doctor to come and look at this, and I need the ultrasound technician to come in.”

I had to wait an hour. She closed everything up and said to call someone to be with me. I tried to call the father, but my aunt and my sister were nearby, so they came and picked me up. It was horrible because I was crying, but they were saying “Everything is going to be okay.” They didn’t understand how I felt, and how I knew something was wrong. They were so ignorant to the situation – they didn’t know what was going on and they wanted to think I was overreacting. And that made me cry more, and I remember yelling at them, saying, “You’re not understanding, there’s something wrong!” I made them bring me back to the office.

I was on the phone, trying to call the father. I got ahold of a different aunt, who had to drive to my house to pick the father up to bring him to Northampton. I called my mom, I was crying, I called my best friend. I was non-stop crying, I knew deep down inside something was wrong. That hour seemed forever. So I waited, and when the baby’s father came, they brought us into the room. The ultrasound tech was there and she did another ultrasound. She didn’t say anything, and told me the doctor would talk to me. They took me into another room, then the doctor came in and told me there was no longer a heartbeat.

It was a long wait to find out something that I already knew.

I was shocked, confused. I’d’ never heard of a stillborn before, I didn’t know that was possible. I wondered, how would they would get her out of me? The doctor told me I’d go to the hospital and they’d induce me, and I was like what!! I’m going to do what? She told me I could go home to take it all in, or go straight to the hospital. I felt like she was crazy – why would I want to go home? I was so scared!

So we went straight to the hospital, and I sat around for hours crying. I’ve never cried so much in my life. Nurse after nurse was coming in trying to speak to me, trying to make me feel better, trying to relate to me. At this point, I just didn’t care. I wanted to be alone.

When the doctor came in and started prepping me, I realized I had already started going into labor. I had my grandmother and another aunt and my uncle come and visit me. They were supporting me, and talking to me. My mom was in Florida so she couldn’t support me. The baby’s father didn’t say nothing – he was in shock, too, so we didn’t say much. I felt pressure  while we were talking, so I said go get the doctor – and she was coming out.

So she just came out – and it was so shocking at first, they put her on top of me, and I was so scared. You don’t know what to expect. I realized she looked so much like a perfect little baby – I wondered what could have gone wrong? I held her for a while, and then I called my sister and told my sister to bring my daughter Elyssa in so she could meet her. She came, I let her hold her. It was very emotional. We just cried a lot. My grandma held her, she cried so much I thought she was going to have a heart attack. My aunt held her, I had support there with me. It was just hard. I remember holding her for hours, and looking at her, at her hands and her feet, trying to figure out who she looked like. I remember I was exhausted. I was so drained. I just told the nurse to take her – I didn’t want them to take her, but I was so physically and mentally exhausted that I told them to take her.

I passed out for a while. And then the next day, I remember getting up and I had family come visit –  another uncle, and the baby’s other grandmother. I still felt the same. I was crying and crying all day, and one of the nurses realized I had more family from afar coming to visit. She asked me if I wanted to see the baby again. I was so shocked – I didn’t realize I could see her again. So I said yes, and they brought her back. She looked different to me, though. She looked even more like a normal baby. It was weird. She was wrapped in a blanket, with a hat on. My daughter came again. Even my nieces came.

I remember the priest coming and I remember asking, what do I do? Do I baptize her? He said no, we don’t have to –  she wasn’t born into sin – she is a pure angel. He said the church would pay for the funeral costs, which made me cry, I was so grateful for their help. I was so naive – I didn’t know I would be planning a funeral. I was in so much shock. Shock is the only word to describe it.

Every March comes by and you feel the sadness – but you just keep trooping through it. It’s been 12 years, but it’s still there. I tell people all the time – my oldest is going to be 18 – I would’ve had a little 12 year old as well. I work with kids now, there are a lot of girls who are like 11, they randomly give me hugs and I can’t help but think, wow, I would’ve had somebody around this age doing that. I’ve been fine all month, then some old friends brought it up. My friend was crying, and I was OK. She just kept wanting to talk about it, so then we all got emotional! She told me that she had a miscarriage, and how hard it was. So it was therapeutic for her, and for me to support her...

Bev’s story will continue in the next post.

Coming up in 2016!

Thanks to everyone who came out for our Holiday Social! As always, we are grateful to have such an amazing community. Here are some new things for 2016 and a recap of the end of 2015. What you'll find below:

  • Empty Arms is searching for new support group facilitators. Apply!
  • New location for our Miscarriage and Subsequent Choices Support Groups
  • Carol's powerful blog on survival
  • Plus, updates on our November Trainings, Donation Campaign, and our new Strategic Plan

    Carol, Beth, Lexi and the Empty Arms Team

NEW IN 2016

Searching for NEW Support Group Facilitators
Have you ever thought about facilitating an Empty Arms Support Group? We are looking for new co-facilitators and substitute facilitators!

The motto of Empty Arms is “You are never alone.” That statement is a critical part of who we are as an organization. We know that being alone after the loss of a baby is unbearable, and companionship is essential at times of vulnerability. Our facilitators must not only lead support groups, but also work to build community within our support groups spaces and follow up with families throughout their grief journey.

As our support group model is focused on peer-based support, we strongly encourage those who have suffered the death of a baby through pregnancy loss, stillbirth, or early infancy to apply. Facilitators must be based in the Pioneer Valley. We strongly encourage people of color, women, LGBQ, and trans* people to apply.

As this is our first time hiring new facilitators, we ask that you are patient with our process. Please send a short cover letter explaining your background and interest to Beth at by February 15, 2016. If you have any questions, please email Beth, and she will get back to you shortly. 

NEW Location for Subsequent Choices and Miscarriage Support Groups
We’re excited to announce a new location for our Subsequent Choices and Miscarriage 
Support Groups! Cafe Evolution is a cozy vegan coffeehouse and community meeting space in Florence, a village of Northampton. The cafe itself will be closed to the public during our meeting, so we'll be able to relax on their comfy seating, drink tea, and connect confidentially in this beautiful space. (There is free parking in the lot in front of the entrance, as well as street parking on Main Street.)

Star, the owner of Cafe Evolution, himself knows the pain of losing a child: His beloved son Jesse was born 20 years ago and lived 19 days. Starr believes deeply in the healing power of art and music. He has created the film SALMONBOY and several albums in Jesse's honor.

The Miscarriage Support Group meets the second Wednesday of each month from 7-9 pm. The Subsequent Choices Support Group meets the third Tuesday of each month from 7-9 pm. If you’re interested in joining, please email Lexi Walters Wright at before January 19th.

Bereavement Support Group continues to meet the fourth Wednesday of each month from 7-9 pm at the Baystate Outpatient Center Community Room, 325 B King Street, Northampton, MA. The next meeting is Wednesday, January 27th.

Being alive, afterwards.
In case you missed it, here’s a powerful new blog post on survival. Carol wrote this the year after Charlotte's birth, when she found writing in the third person to be the easiest way to tell her story.

2015 RECAP

November Training Report Back
Empty Arms teamed up with Holyoke Medical Center last November to offer a professional training titled, "Shaping the Journey of Bereaved Parents in the Birth Place." We had nearly 50 participants from local hospitals and across New England. Carol offered the 4-hour training, which sought to help professionals consider their own potential to create a positive impact when helping families through pregnancy and infant loss. Participants left with not just a list of things to say and do to help families endure the death of a baby, but also with a keen understanding of the societal norms under which we operate during everyday life, and how we often have to step outside of these norms when a baby dies. It was incredible to see so many professionals valuing our work and taking the time to focus on how to deliver the best care possible.

Here is a note of appreciation from one of the trainings --
"Thank you Carol for doing such an outstanding job. I've been doing bereavement work for 35 years or more, have attended numerous trainings and done bereavement counseling and therapy with hundreds of people. but nothing has ever moved me to the depths this experience moved me. Your generosity of so freely sharing your resources and insights was also much appreciated. "

2015 Holiday Giving
Thank you to everyone who participated in our 2015 Individual Giving Donation Campaign! Empty Arms received over $8,000 in donations from over 130 different donors. Wow.

We are ever so grateful for your support! Many of you shared our Facebook posts, emailed friends and family, and even donated yourself -- THANK YOU. Each year, our giving campaign is a humbling experience, and we are reminded of the incredible power of this amazing community. Thank you for all that you do. And no, it's never too late to donate.

NEW Strategic Plan for 2015 to 2018
In October, the Empty Arms' Board approved our first-ever strategic plan! For everyone who participated in the process, THANK YOU. Here are the results.

Tell us what you think! Email Beth at with any questions or ideas. We’d love to hear from you.

How We Preserve What Was Lost

Hope in the Rough: Surviving Miscarriage & Challenges Conceiving
By Charlotte Capogna-Amias

I have been thinking about miscarriage and the ways we remember and honor what was lost. Maybe heading into the winter months is spurring this for me as I contemplate ways to hold onto life as we head into the season that is free of green growth and fresh abundance. For me, it was important to have some ritual or marker of a time and experience that will forever be important to me and my family- the months in which I was pregnant. I did this by planting some pale rose colored perennial coreopsis flowers in our garden around the time our baby was due to be born. My family and I went to our favorite perennial farm and spent a long while mulling over all the plant options until we settled on the coreopsis. We wanted something that was hardy and would last our long New England winters and come back year after year to remind us of what would have been our second child (my first pregnancy).  

So I am wondering, for those who would like to share, what are the special ways you have honored your pregnancy and child?  


When I attended my first Empty Arms support group I was so moved by the facilitator asking us, with an eager, loving air, about our pregnancies. She wanted to hear all the details we wanted to share- the pleasant and unpleasant ways our bodies changed, the excitement, the nervousness, the process of conceiving. It was so validating to have someone honestly want to hear about an experience that it felt taboo to discuss. I still feel, nine months later, that some people get uncomfortable when I even utter the words “when I was pregnant” as if it’s a period that should be left unnamed, forgotten.  

So with this, I encourage you to share what has been your way of remembering and honoring that important time, experience and soul that was a part of your life, if even briefly. You can leave a comment under this post or email me privately at  I hope to develop an essay about this and all names will be left anonymous.

Thank you dear community.
With love and support,

Fall Newsletter!

Fall can be one of the hardest times. The start of September is always a time of transition, the weather shifts, the smell of wetness on the earth, and the beginning of the seasons changing again. For many of us, September is a constant reminder of the child who is not here with us, not heading to their first day of school, or riding on the big yellow school bus.

If you find yourself faltering, or in need of support, please remember that you are not alone. Our support groups are at the ready to be there for you, and Carol, Lexi and our other companions, are always here.

Support Groups
Here’s a reminder of our regular, monthly support groups.

  • Miscarriage Support Group meets the second Wednesday of the month from 7-9 pm at Owl and Raven in Northampton, MA.
  • Bereavement Support Group meets the fourth Wednesday of the month from 7-9 pm at the Baystate Outpatient Center Community Room in Northampton, MA.
  • Subsequent Choices Support Group is on hiatus at the moment. Carol and Lexi will facilitate a new group starting in November.

    * Please stay tuned to scheduling changes in November and December due to the winter holidays. Changes will be posted on our Facebook page, and blog.

Events and Fundraising
Alexandria's Ice Cream Social
In July, Krystal and Larry Barnes hosted an ice cream social in honor of their daughter, Alexandria. The event was a huge success, and raised over $500 to support Empty Arms’ program and services. Thank you, Krystal and Larry -- and thank you to our community!

Empty Arms is hosting two fundraising events in October. Please mark your calendars!

1. Trivia Night 2015!
We’ll be having our first ever Trivia Night at the Holyoke Canoe Club on Saturday, October 10th starting at 6:30 pm. 

How it works: You rally your friends and family, and sign up for a table for ten. (Or, you can sign up individually, and we can find a fabulous table for you). Each table brings its own lavish feast (including adult beverages) to enjoy. Your table attempts to answer as many questions as possible. You win more honor and glory than you can possibly imagine (if you win, that is).

If you’re local, please join us! We promise it will be a wonderful evening of fun. For more information, email our event coordinator and Charlotte Amelia’s dad, Greg Reynolds at

2. Family Portrait Fundraiser
We’ll be hosting our THIRD annual Family Photo Day on Saturday, October 17th. This is always a favorite event, and we’re incredibly grateful to the talented and amazing, Erin Long (mama of baby Birdie) of Erin Long Photography.  Erin will be offering 10 minute mini-shoots, and will donate a significant portion of her discounted price to Empty Arms. If you are interested, please email Beth at, and she will send you more information.

New Blog Posts
Over the summer, we started two monthly blog series, and the response has been incredible. We’re continually grateful that Sara Barry (Henry’s mama; writing about early infant loss) and Charlotte Capogna-Amias (Mummy to her dear child, due August 24, 2015; writing about miscarriage, and challenges conceiving) share their stories, reflections and inner thoughts with us each month.

We are also opening up our blog to our community through our “Meet the Family” blog series. If you are interested in participating, or just simply find yourself wanting to share a poem, a story, a moment, please reach out. We want the blog to be an open space for our community. If you’d like to share a post or just have more questions, please email Beth at

Upcoming Fall Training
We’re hosting our two fall trainings for health care providers on November 17th and 18th.  Please save the dates!

November 17th from 4 pm - 8 pm (light supper will be served) 
November 18th from 8 am - 12 pm (breakfast snacks will be served)

Holyoke Medical Center, 575 Beech Street, Holyoke,  MA 01040 (Auxiliary Conference Room)

To register, or for any questions, email Carol at

About the Training
As healthcare providers, we often struggle with the “right” way to interact with families when their babies have died or are expected to die. Our apprehension can be our greatest stumbling block entering into situations of loss.           

In this training, we will look closely at the grief journey a family walks after the death of a baby and the ways in which the birth experience and the time a family spends with their baby shapes the road that will follow.

In this presentation, our speaker will look to spin our perspective on working with the bereaved to see that we hold a unique power to turn a very negative event into what can ultimately be a cherished memory. We will discuss the ways in which we present information and options to families at the time of loss and learn a myriad of strategies for helping families make the choices that are best for them at that time.      

The presentation will offer space for audience participation and will feature a panel of bereaved parents to offer their own unique perspectives.        

About our Speaker
Carol McMurrich, BA, EdM, founded Empty Arms Bereavement Support in 2007, nearly four years after the death during labor of her daughter Charlotte. A sociologist and educator by training, after her loss Ms McMurrich became passionate about the creation of community surrounding pregnancy and infant loss in a society that marginalizes death to an astounding degree. Empty Arms Bereavement Support was founded on the principles of first and foremost serving the families of the Pioneer Valley whose babies have died during pregnancy or after birth, and secondly providing the support to caregivers who will be instrumental in those families experiences of loss.

Says McMurrich, “Grief is a constant evolution for all people, but for parents whose babies have died their grief rests on a foundation which is the brief window of opportunity they have to experience their pregnancy, their birth, and their baby. Care providers are often the only knowledgeable people present who are able to carefully help families shape this foundation, at a time when families are often deeply in shock and unaware of the lasting effects of the decisions they will make.”

McMurrich’s professional trainings are based upon her own extensive training with Share, Pregnancy and Infant Loss, Inc, her own research, and her eight years of work with hundreds of bereaved families across Western Massachusetts and beyond.

As always, check our Facebook page for current updates and support group information.


Navigating the Everyday

By Lindsey Rothschild

Going in for a coffee at a local cafe, I was relieved to see that the counter person was a stranger. Then the woman entered who had served me breakfast on a different day, a day when I was pregnant, ravenous and picky about food. I had ordered a huge breakfast and talked to her about being pregnant. Today, I saw her and sunk down in a high-backed armchair. Would she ask how the pregnancy is going? Would she look at me perplexed and ask me, "weren't you pregnant?" or would she figure she didn't remember the timing quite right and ask me "what did you have?" I couldn't bear any of that. Then I went to our CSA to pickup our farm share. I hid my body from the owner of the farm who always has her baby slung to her hip. Wouldn't she wonder where my belly went? Then I dodged all the mom's w/ babes picking up their shares. They used to make me happy. "Soon, I'll be like them," I used to think. Then I thought I recognized a man from the Support Group, so I smiled and said, hi. I'm not really sure if it was him or not. I need to get my haircut but can't face my hairdresser... guess I'll find a new one.

My neighbor across the street from my new home came over to introduce herself. She was friendly, beautiful and pregnant. I was panicky and cagey. Had another neighbor told her about our loss? Would she acknowledge it? She didn't. How do I not acknowledge it? When meeting someone new, it seems like a critical piece of information as to who I am... why I'm sad and distant and have a tendency to stare off into space. But, she's pregnant with rosy cheeks and optimism; it seemed too cruel to stand in front of her as living proof that pregnancies don't always end with a a baby. So, I smiled, a close-mouthed, polite smile and said it was nice to meet her. That's all.

More than ten years along...

Some thoughts from Carol... 

Several years ago, I was chatting after a fourth Wednesday support group meeting with a mother whose loss had occurred several months prior. It was a warm evening, with a sweet smelling spring breeze and a clear sky full of stars. The meeting had been full of heavy moments, but rather than producing a feeling of sadness upon leaving we felt lightened. Being surrounded by the familiarity of loss can be so comforting, when we're used to being the only person in the room who knows that this feels like. This wise, tender mom, who was herself still in the trenches, regarded me and asked, "Who supports you, Carol? Do you have people who are further down the road, like you are?" I looked at her with amazement, feeling honored and blessed that in her most tender moment, as raw as the days still were for her, she had the ability to wonder about me. I answered her honestly. "There is no one," I said, but I gain so much from all of you. And it's true. But I've come back to this again and again: what is it like to be so far away from my daughter's birth and death? Where does she live in my heart, and in my world, right now? These are questions I often ponder on my own, but every now and then I read something that helps to ground me in the place where I now stand. 

For the past few days, my mind has wandered continually to an article I read on Huffington Post entitled, "The Other Quiet Mom". The author, Nancy Davis Johnson, beautifully captures what grief has felt like over a decade down the road for me. Charlotte appears to me every day, with the sound of my own breath, with a familiar scent, with the sound of a child's laughter. She is all around me in the life I've built since she came and went. She is the foundation of the family I have built since she died. She was the child who made me a mother, yet I only mother other children in her wake: four beautiful souls I am so blessed to have. Yet, every day, there are moments where I am "the quiet mom". The moments where I have to calculate how to answer someone's question, where I have to consider whether or not to weigh my opinion. As my children grow older I feel connections to their world and disconnections, as I am still forever changed by Charlotte's passing. 

I am a "regular" mom now, no longer defined by my grief. There was a long period of time-- perhaps five, or six, or even seven years for which I truly believed that my grief would always define me. It doesn't anymore, but I still feel how it affects me. Grief isn't a living creature inside me anymore. Instead, it's just left footprints, and scars. I can feel how it has changed me as a person. I can remember its intensity, its ferocity, its anger. I can remember the nights where I wanted to throw open the front door and run away from this life, but I don't feel that desperation anymore. I can live in a settled place, understanding that while my life unfolded in a way I would never have chosen, I have only the future ahead. I am the "quiet" mom at times, but behind that veil, I feel blessed by the ways in which I've been forced to consider the exquisite value of my living children's lives. I may not always feel like the other moms across the table, because I am grateful for my child's very life in a way that thankfully most of them cannot understand. 

About our Bereavement Support Group room change...

At Empty Arms, we always aim to offer families the support they need in the best way possible. Sometimes, it's really hard to return to the place where your baby has died for support. We have heard this many times over the years, but lately we've been hearing it more. Coming to the hospital was feeling hard for folks, and we heard this loud and clear.

While we're grateful to Cooley Dickinson for continually offering us space to meet, at this point it makes more sense for the comfort of those coming to meetings to find a more neutral space. Baystate has a new outpatient center on King Street in Northampton, with a shiny new community room they are happy to let us use. So, for the foreseeable future, we will be meeting there. Our meeting time will be bumped to 7:15 PM to allow us to have a representative at the conference room at Cooley in case somebody comes there to meet.

Thanks so much for understanding as we work to meet everyone's needs as best we can!