Perinatal Bereavement


Regional Perinatal Bereavement Program Led by Virtua

The loss of a pregnancy or infant is an unthinkable tragedy for many families. With the proper support and comfort, they can begin to heal. Virtua's new Perinatal Bereavement Program seeks to provide education for caregivers and even greater support programs for families across the region who face a loss. Virtua Foundation partnered with caregivers and patients to understand what families want and need in the moments, days and weeks following a loss. With donor funds, the Perinatal Bereavement Program was created.

 In 2015, Ann Coyle, RN, was named manager of the Perinatal Bereavement Program. Coyle was a nurse in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Virtua Voorhees for three decades and facilitates the HOPING grief support group for families across the region who experience loss. In her new role, Coyle will expand Virtua’s existing bereavement services so they have greater impact and reach more families at Virtua and beyond.

Plans for the Perinatal Bereavement Program:

  • Offer infant bereavement support for parents who are patients at Virtua and other hospitals in our community.
  • Facilitate education and sensitivity training for Virtua healthcare teams and other regional healthcare providers that may have contact with a family who experiences loss.
  • Implement guidelines of the Autumn Joy Stillbirth Research and Dignity Act, new state legislation.
  • Develop a Perinatal Palliative Program that will support parents with infants diagnosed with ‘life-limiting’ conditions.

The HOPING Grief Support Group

The HOPING grief support group began in 1984 so families could help one another through their ‘new normal’ in their lives after perinatal loss. The support group continues to meet on the first and third Monday of every month at Virtua’s Barry Brown Health Education Center in Voorhees from 7pm – 9 pm.

The Right Support Makes All the Difference

Simone’s Story, as told by her mom, Branwen Ellis

On November 12, 2010, we lost our daughter Simone Marie. She was stillborn at 39 weeks during an emergency C-section at Virtua Memorial after an otherwise perfect pregnancy. Unbeknownst to us, Simone had cyst at her umbilical cord entry, and as a result of that cyst, pulmonary hypoplasia.

Instead of joyfully leaving the hospital with our newborn daughter, we left the hospital with empty arms, shattered dreams and broken hearts. The hospital staff was caring and kind to us in the days after our loss. But, looking back, they didn't have all of the resources available at that time to help my husband and me get the most out of our limited time with Simone.

In January of 2011, after the initial shock and numbness wore off, the enormity of our loss truly sank in. It was at that point that I knew that our private grief counseling sessions were not enough. I went back to the hospital bereavement packet and located the flyer regarding the HOPING support group. It was there where we found our incredible group facilitator, Ann Coyle, as well as many other parents who had experienced losses similar to ours.

For me, the support group is a place where my grief can be openly expressed as sorrow, black humor, rage, and irony without fear of repercussions from well-meaning family and friends. Oh the joy of being truly understood! To know that we were not crazy, that other moms (and some dads!) had the same thoughts as me was such validation and so comforting.

It was at HOPING where we bonded with other parents who held us through some of our darkest times. There was someone always there, telling me that I would get through the worst of it (I didn't believe them at first), that I would never be over it (so true!), and that I would never forget my baby. The friends we made there assured me that I would one day be able to integrate my grief and live again.

Even now, almost 5 years later, the HOPING support group is still as important to me as it was in the early stages of my grief.

In October of 2013, we were fortunate to be able welcome our rainbow, Alexandra Grace into our family. The connections we made at group helped me weather the daily emotional and mental challenges of trying to conceive after our loss, our subsequent pregnancy, and now parenting after a loss.

I believe that the HOPING group is not only a life boat for the recently bereaved, but an invaluable resource for life after the loss of a baby.

It is my hope that all of the hospitals within the Virtua system and the region can provide the best and consistent resources to help support grieving parents during their time of their loss. I don't want other parents to wish they had pictures or held their children longer or something else. No regrets.


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