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Parents grieve loss of their children through giving to others

Experiences with infant loss gave these parents special insight to what grieving families need.

A group of people pose with care bags in a hospital

The winter holidays are a reminder for some families in our community of the loved ones who cannot celebrate with them this year. Recognizing the difficulty others face during the grieving process, several families recently donated comfort items to the Garland Birthing Center at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital

The labor of love from Tracy and Shannon Armes, of Wilsons, stems from the stillbirth of their daughter, Skylar Jean Armes. Over six years, their fundraising and donation efforts with Skylar’s Love Mission have grown to support many hospitals as well as first responders. In the memory of Skylar, the Armes family gave baby hats for Christmas, comfort hearts as a special keepsake for families experiencing loss, and 40 comfort care gift bags for adults and children mourning a loved one as well as families with kids in the emergency room. Donna Orange, of Blackstone, and the Richmond-based organization From the Heart Stitchers crocheted baby hats as part of the donation. 

Courtney Clough, of White Marsh, has had two babies pass away, Thomas and Adrian. She is the founder and president of the nonprofit Project 11, named after the 11 hours in labor and the 11 hours she and her husband had with Thomas in December 2018. Their mission is showing God's love and turning their pain into purpose by providing care packages to improve the quality of time parents have with their baby after experiencing a second trimester miscarriage. Clough donated 12 Thomas Cradles to the Garland Birthing Center, a product Project 11 is in the process of patenting. It was created to hold an infant, adding stability to their delicate skin, and keeps them hydrated as a preservation method. Also included in the care packages were crocheted swaddles for families to use with the Thomas cradle and take home as a keepsake. It is Clough’s prayer that these care packages can provide a little comfort during an impossibly difficult time.      

Clinical Coordinator Sarah Carlton said she was in tears hearing Clough’s story. She’s grateful for the support because, sadly, other foundations that previously donated items to CMH patients have struggled financially to continue. 

“It amazes me how much good both of these sweet families are doing out of such tragic losses,” Carlton said. “The world needs more humans like them, and the Garland Birthing Center is so grateful and blessed to have crossed paths with them. The difference they are making in the lives of our patients who experience loss is unspeakable.”

Having both been through traumatic circumstances of infant loss, the Armes family and Clough know what it feels like, and they don’t want others to go through it alone. Visit Skylar’s Love Mission Facebook page and the Project 11 website for more information.