/ nest /
1. A snug, comfortable, or cozy residence or situation.
2. A retreat, or place of habitual resort (aid or refuge).
I build nests. That’s not how I usually respond when people ask what work I do in my community but it’s accurate nonetheless. I learned how to construct nests the hard way. The kind of work you only know how to do by living through it. I walked through the pain and process that taught me instinctively how to build my own nest. When my son Stephen died, I began learning the art of nest making. At sixteen weeks pregnant, it was disorienting to find myself “nesting” after he died. I learned that I needed a safe place to rest my weary heart and process my grief. I needed a place where I could speak his name and find comfort from those who have gone before me on this grief journey. I wanted others to share their experiences with me as I navigated my loss. I found this kind of support in nests such as my faith community, family, and local hospital support group. And so, I have been building nests ever since. In that time, I have helped hundreds of other families build their nests or help build nests for those they love.
I currently work with a health system that cares for loss patients daily. I help others build their nests of support by coordinating support groups. Healing Hearts support group meets monthly at two separate hospitals and is intended for pregnancy and infant loss support. The PALS support group meets monthly for women who are pregnant after a loss. Pregnancy, after your baby dies, can be both terrifying and wonderous. It is out of these groups that a new level of support and nesting has now grown. We call it Kindred Hearts. Kindred Hearts are specially trained volunteers who deploy to our family birthing center when a baby dies. We connect with the family and the staff caring for them. We help provide support of all kinds. Volunteers help with memory making, footprints, and clay molds. We give bears, blankets, and books to the family in grief. We help provide options for burial, financial help, and most importantly, the presence of someone who has been there. It’s in this capacity that I first worked with a NILMDTS photographer. Knowing that these families only have mere hours or brief days to fit memories for a lifetime, photographs are very meaningful.
The first time I worked alongside a NILMDTS photographer, she showed me how to construct a literal nest for the baby she was photographing. It was something to behold as she tenderly took the hospital receiving blankets and created a snug and soft little pod. She then covered it with the lovely donated blanket given to the grieving family and nestled that baby inside. This nest gave the tiny body support and a comfortable place to rest. Meanwhile, the family watched as the photographer lovingly took pictures that anyone could proudly display. I know I’m not the only one who builds nests for others. I am so very grateful for physicians, nurses, doulas, chaplains, bereavement coordinators, social workers, faith leaders, photographers, and so many more who come alongside us in our grief and help us build our nests. Because I believe we all need a safe, comfort-filled space where we can retreat and find the help we need in our time of grief.