Please note: This post includes a first-hand account of pregnancy and infant loss. The words and photos on this page may be a trigger for parents who have experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss.
When Brandon Drouillard’s daughter died three days after she was born, he felt lost.
“The grief of losing Hannah Grace was overwhelming,” says the Peterborough resident, whose daughter died of a pulmonary hemorrhage in hospital. “I didn’t know how to help myself or where to turn.”
Flash forward two years and Brandon is in a different place. He and his wife Sarah found support available through the Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) Network, part of Sunnybrook’s DAN Women & Babies Program. And he’s just started a role as a PAIL educator, using his lived experience to shape the care that health-care professionals will provide to other families.
“Being able to share your story with those who care for grieving families is really impactful. Little things, like having a nurse or doctor ask your baby’s name, is incredibly validating for a parent. Those working in health care want to know what’s helpful to say and do during a time when you, as the patient, may be feeling several emotions including sadness, anger and guilt.”
Brandon co-facilitates full day educational sessions called Compassionate Care Workshops, that are offered province-wide for health-care professionals, and shares details about his experience with loss intersecting with the health-care system. He says attendees are appreciative of his perspective as he’s not the childbearing partner, and his thoughts about how to engage with all members of a family in a meaningful way.
Connecting parents with the right supports is something he touches on in the sessions. In addition to the peer support he received with the PAIL Network, Brandon has received support from the social workers at Mount Sinai Hospital, where Hannah Grace was born, who in turn connected him with a local social worker in Peterborough. He’s also seeing a therapist and practices deep breathing and meditation.
He says PAIL’s new campaign, #UnsilenceTheConversation, is helping to raise awareness with some tools about how to communicate a loss. “Pregnancy loss and infant death are not natural. Many people, including health-care professionals, are understandably uncomfortable. But silence can be worse than saying the wrong thing. Talking about your loss and validating that loss is so important. Health-care professionals play a critical role in supporting the expected range of emotions felt after a loss.”
Please visit the PAIL Network for more information on the supports available for families.