(Madison, WI): The Hope, Understanding, Grief Support (HUGS) Program started in 2014 as a program to help families who are dealing with losing babies through miscarriage, stillbirth or infant death. Today, UnityPoint Health – Meriter volunteers visit with families to provide emotional support, creating keepsakes or resources to families.
All HUGS program volunteers have personally experienced child loss and attend an intensive grief support training program.
“Six and half years ago after the loss of my son, it was very important for me to get into a place where I could support others who are also going through this experience,” said Felicia Turner-Walton, a HUGS volunteer. “To know that there are other people that you can connect with you have experienced not the same, but similar experiences, and that you can see them get through it automatically creates a space for families to know that they too, can get through it.”
The HUGS program started as part of the Bereaved Parents of Madison group, and not only helps families navigate through the loss of a child but also helps families with pregnancy after a loss.
Clinic and hospital staff can reach an on-call volunteer to come to the patients bedside to offer grief support. Volunteer involvement is patient directed, volunteers can stop in briefly or offer longer visits as the family wishes. Volunteers can follow families for up to a year after loss.
HUGS volunteers bring keepsakes for both parents experiencing loss. For dads, they give a worry stone. For mothers, they bring a bracelet attached to a story of baby loss.
For more information on the HUGS program, resources and to become a volunteer – click here.