It’s something you can understand only if you’ve gone through it.
Bethany and Andy Nix know all too well the feeling that is left when you lose a child. The Gainesville couple lost their son Joshua last year in September.
“He wouldn’t have had kidneys when he was born, which is a fatal birth defect,” said Bethany, who is a school counselor for Mount Vernon Exploratory School.
No less than 10 people, including nurses, doctors and other people in their lives gave them Angela Ewers number to call. Ewers is the pastoral grief counselor in charge of Rock Goodbye Angel, an organization that helps families suffering from pregnancy and infant loss.
The Nixes knew their son would die when he was born at their week 21 check-up, but decided to carry to full-term.
“There was never a choice for us,” 36-year-old Bethany said.
After they made their decision, it was a waiting game filled with fear and anxiety-ridden days. Ewers was there the day Bethany gave birth and was able to help the Nixes in their darkest hour.
“I don’t think I would be able to stand up without her help,” Bethany said. “She knew how to handle everything … God just sent her to us.”
Now, every year in Joshua’s name, Bethany’s in-laws give a monetary gift to make sure other families receive the help their daughter-in-law was given.
“(Ewers’) presence is so important, and it was so important to us,” Bethany said. “So we just wanted other people to have that (experience).”
She said the organization was instrumental in getting them back on their feet.
“It really does help you make it through,” she said. “That conversation just needs to be had. It’s not something to be ashamed of.”
Bethany is now a member of the group, which meets twice a month, as well as another group of people. That group is dedicated to people who have lost a baby but are pregnant again.
“They are called rainbow babies,” said Bethany, who is 36 weeks pregnant with a boy. Once a month, the group gets together to celebrate the baby coming after the storm.
According to her and Ewers, one in four women suffer a loss during pregnancy or infancy.
“It’s crazy that it is that much,” Bethany said.
The Rock Goodbye Angel group takes this money, as well as any donations people can give, and puts together memory boxes for people to take home with them from the hospital.
“It’s a great organization,” Bethany said.
For families who have lost an infant, the organization does a few things. First of all, they offer help, which can be just someone to talk to or therapy.
“We teach people how to grieve this unique loss,” Ewers said. “You don’t know how to grieve the future (they didn’t have).”
She said it’s important for these people to have that therapy, to make sure someone is there for them in that darkest hour.
They also provide memory boxes for families. Member Tonya Dispain collects the boxes and the journals inside, and the Nixes’ money goes toward providing the families with a lamb stuffed animal.
“It’s really a community effort,” Ewers said.
A small or large blanket is also included inside, depending on how big the baby was at the time of its death. There is also an awareness ribbon in pink and blue tones attached to a bracelet, which is given to the mother.
It takes longer for some to go through the boxes than others.
“Some people take four, six, eight months or up to a year,” Ewers said. “They try to hold it back, but it’s better if they grieve.”
However, without fail, if Ewers can get to them, they always come back to her for help.
“We want these people to know there’s a group for you,” Ewers said. “We don’t ever want anyone to leave without something in their arms.”
The group acts as a liaison between the hospital and the families, but doesn’t receive any financial assistance from anyone.
“We are welcome to all and any donations to make sure all parents have (access),” Ewers said.
Every year, the organization holds a Mother’s Day tea and an event for Father’s Day, for which they rely on donations.