Share holds 20th Remembering service

WHEELING – Share is an organization no parents wishes they ever need the services of.

But for those that do, there is no group more in tune, empathetic and able to provide the type of assistance that only those who’ve walked the lonely road before them can provide.

Originating in 1977, Share is an organization that provides pregnancy and infant loss support to grieving families and friends throughout the country, serving nearly 20,000 people yearly.

Tuesday at Oglebay Park, Share Upper Ohio Valley will be holding its 20th Remembering, an annual memorial service.

The service takes place at 7 p.m. at the memorial garden next to the side entrance to the Mansion Museum.

“It gives parents and family members the opportunity to remember the name and lives of their children that may have been born prematurely and died, or were stillborn or were miscarried,” said Evalyn Long, the facilitator for Share Upper Ohio Valley.

“Whatever the life experience, it gives you a chance to remember.”

The remembering is just a small part of what the Share group does for its members.

Twice a month, Share hosts a meeting. Generally, they take place on the first and third Tuesday of the month from 7-9 p.m.

Like most support groups, there is no cost and people come as they please. No one has to speak, only give a first name so that others can get to know you.

Not everyone talks, but most do. After a few meetings, new families find it easier to open up after they’ve learned they are surrounded by people walking through the same kind of grief they are.

“Everyone has suffered that kind of pain,” Long said. “They know how fragile you are.

“There is a saying that ‘When our parents die, we lose part of our past. When our partner, spouse dies, we lose part of our present. When our children die, we lose part of our futures and that makes it extra difficult’.”

Share is not just for women. There are more than a few dads at the meetings, although Long said it’s taken a while for more men to become involved in share.

Hailing from Hershey, Pa., Long noted there seemed to be a cultural roadblock for men in this area of communal grieving and sharing.

“There’s a definite male role in the culture here,” Long said, noting that men are not expected, or even encouraged, to share their feelings or open up, rather opting to internalize the pain and give the appearance of staying strong amidst the storm.

But Share is for moms, dads, grandparents and even siblings.

Long explained that there are special sessions for children who can talk with her without their parents standing over their shoulders. They color, they draw and they talk about their experiences.

Long admits that even for the youngest of children, they know that something is wrong; something is amiss.

“Even a one-year-old knows that something is different in their family,” Long said. “You’ll notice their emotional changes. They want to sleep more or be held more.

“All children will react differently depending on their stage of development.

“But even with the adults, we’re all at different stages on the path of grief. Each person is trying to be happy and move toward some sense of resolvement.”

For a parent or family member to even begin to move on with their lives following the death of a child, Long believes they need at least one full year before taking those initial first steps.

They have to get through that first Christmas, that first Thanksgiving, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day.

Still, the silent grief moving forward can still be a problem for even those who have finally made their peace with what has happened.

That’s the part that Long wishes more people would be able to understand better.

“Sometimes people don’t realize that silent grief can come on. It can happen a year later, five years, 10 years,” Long said. “Maybe at a Christmas Eve service. It may be triggered by the smell of baby powder, the sight of a young family holding their baby or even a song that comes on the radio.

“It’s sudden and unexpected and a lot of people are not prepared for this and it takes them completely off guard.”

Another aspect that has helped has been the establishment of hospital-based share programs locally at six area hospitals: Wheeling Hospital, East Ohio Regional and Ohio Valley Medical Center, Weirton Medical Center, Reynolds Memorial Hospital in Glen Dale and Fairmont General Hospital in Marion County, W.Va.

“There are now bereavement groups based in the hospitals that have packets and forms, information and people available to reach out to these people at such a difficult time.

“When I came (to the Ohio Valley) there were none. Now there are six and it’s such a big help for those families.”