Episode 24 - Compassionate Care and Dignified Decisions for Grieving Families with Rebekah Beresford
Join us for a conversation with Rebekah Beresford about how she found hope and healing after a traumatic experience delivering her stillborn daughter, Eliana, at a hospital. She was not offered to hold or see her daughter and later realized that Eliana's ashes were taken as medical waste to a landfill.
Through her story of deep pain and sorrow, Rebekah shares why offering compassionate care and dignified decisions at the hospital is crucial for grieving families to have peace in their grieving journey. She shares practical advice for nurses and points them to pursue bereavement training through the organization Rachel's gift. Rebekah speaks to grieving moms about how Jesus' light can overcome the darkness of grief and trauma.
In this episode, we discussed:
What is hospital disposition and why are babies being taken to landfills?
The importance of bereavement training for nurses
Why offering dignified decisions should be the standard of care at hospitals
The victory of Jesus and how He will redeem and restore our pain
How do we find justice in devastating experiences?
God's presence in pain and how to feel Him when He feels far away
How God loves us so personally and how much He loves our babies
Rachel's gift organization and what they offer to hospitals
Why there must be a distinction between human life and trash
Serving others and being a voice for our babies in Heaven
Full transcript below.
Each episode has a special Hope Guide that you can download by clicking the button below. It is packed with hope-filled resources and extra information from the episode!
Discussion / Application Questions (leave your answers below in the comments!)
Rebekah shares that she felt abandoned by God in the midst of her traumatic loss and initial months of grieving. However, later on, she asked Him to reveal where He was in those tragic moments, and she began to feel His presence. In what moments do you need to ask God: "Where were You?" Spend some time writing about your hardest moments and seeking Him for answers.
Losing a baby is a traumatic experience whether your story is similar to Rebekah's or not. It's common to experience PTSD symptoms after losing a baby. What symptoms have you endured and has anyone validated your grief and loss? Spend some time acknowledging your pain below.
Ashley shares that true justice will happen because God is just and Jesus is coming back. We will be with our babies for eternity. How does that hope comfort you now in the middle of your sorrow? Write out a prayer clinging to the hope that Jesus will one day wipe away your tears and resurrect your baby.
Graphics to share on social media or pin on Pinterest!
MEET OUR GUEST
Rebekah Beresford is married to Montana and is a mother to three children: two on earth and one in Heaven. Rebekah lives with her family in Kentucky.
Rebekah discovered Bridget’s Cradles in her search for bereavement resources after the loss of her daughter, Eliana Rose, in May of 2019. Rebekah has partnered with the organization, Rachel's Gift, to spread awareness about bereavement training and care.
Connect with Rachel's Gift:
CRADLED IN HOPE PODCAST
New episodes will be shared on the 1st and 15th of every month. Don't miss a single episode...subscribe wherever you podcast!
Please also leave a review to help spread the message of hope with other grieving mommas!
MEET OUR HOST
Ashley Opliger is the Executive Director of Bridget's Cradles, a nonprofit organization based in Wichita, Kansas that donates cradles to over 1,250 hospitals in all 50 states and comforts over 26,000 bereaved families a year.
Ashley is married to Matt and they have three children: Bridget (in Heaven), and two sons. She is a follower of Christ who desires to share the hope of Heaven with families grieving the loss of a baby.
Connect with Ashley:
Follow Bridget’s Cradles:
Follow Cradled in Hope Podcast:
JOIN OUR CRADLED IN HOPE COMMUNITY FOR GRIEVING MOMS
Episode 24: Compassionate Care and Dignified Decisions for Grieving Families
with Rebekah Beresford
Ashley Opliger: [00:00:00] You’re listening to the Cradled in Hope Podcast on the Edifi Podcast Network. I’m your host, Ashley Opliger. I’m a wife, mom, and follower of Christ who founded Bridget’s Cradles, a nonprofit ministry in memory of my daughter, Bridget, who was stillborn at 24 weeks.
Cradled in Hope is a Gospel-focused podcast for grieving moms to find comfort, hope, and healing after the loss of a baby. We want this to be a safe place for your broken heart to land.
Here, we are going to trust God’s promise to heal our hearts, restore our joy, and use our grief for good. With faith in Jesus and eyes fixed on Heaven, we do not have to grieve without hope. We believe that Jesus cradles us in hope while He cradles our babies in Heaven.
Welcome to the Cradled in Hope Podcast.
Ashley Opliger: [00:51:24] Our guest today is a dear friend I've been looking forward to you meeting. Her name is Rebekah Beresford and she is married to her husband, Montana, and a mother to three children, two on earth and one in Heaven.
Rebekah lives with her family in South Central Kentucky. She discovered Bridget’s Cradles in her search for bereavement resources after the loss of her daughter, Eliana Rose, in May of 2019. Rebekah is passionate about spreading awareness pertaining to bereavement training and care specifically in the area of hospital disposition.
This episode is for both grieving moms and for hospital staff and nurses to listen to, because her story is powerful and important for all of us. After enduring a traumatic experience at the hospital and a disrespectful burial in a landfill for her daughter, Rebekah’s heart is tender for grieving families and desires to see a change in bereavement care for families who have lost a baby.
I've been blessed to become friends with Rebekah. You'll hear our story later in the episode. She attends our Hope Online support groups and I also had the honor to meet her in person while I was in Nashville this past March. Although she has been through so much trauma and pain, she is just the sweetest person you'll ever meet and has such a heart for the Lord. I can't wait for you to make a new friend in her. Let's welcome Rebekah.
Ashley Opliger: [00:02:18] Welcome, Rebekah. Thank you so much for being here.
Rebekah Beresford: [00:02:21] Thank you, Ashley. I'm happy to be here with you today.
Ashley Opliger: [00:02:25] Well, we have a lot to talk about today. This has just been so heavy on my heart all week, knowing that we were going to have this conversation today, because it is such a burden on my heart that your story and your daughter's story has impacted my life.
And I feel so strongly that your story is powerful, and is going to bring about healing and bring about change. And this conversation is so important and I'm really looking forward to you sharing your story and bringing to light everything that you've walked through. And so I would love for you to introduce yourself and share Eliana's story with us.
Rebekah Beresford: [00:03:07] Yeah, thank you. And I want to say that I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to share her story and be a voice for her. Just your response and kindness and compassion, it's another step I feel like towards healing and a balm on such a painful wound.
My name is Rebekah. I live in Kentucky in a small town, married to my husband, Montana. And I have two living boys. Cannon is four, and my son Cayden is 17 months, and we have a daughter Eliana in between the boys that is now in the arms of Jesus.
When we got pregnant with Eliana, my husband and I felt very strongly from the beginning that it was going to be a girl, but we didn't know yet. We hit the quote-unquote “safe mark” at 12 weeks. And I was very naive to what I knew miscarriage to be.
I thought, “Now that we're past the safe point, there's nothing to really be too afraid of,” but at 13 and a half weeks, I started bleeding. We rushed to the ER, it was revealed that I had a subchorionic hemorrhage that was very large. After all the ultrasounds and exams, they said that I had a 50% chance of miscarrying but to just go home; if the bleeding subsided, that was a good sign, but if I continued to bleed, then it would result in miscarriage.
And so my husband didn't let me lift a finger for a week. He made sure I was on bed rest. He stayed home from work. We felt very hopeful all week. I felt that God was going to heal me and everything was going to be great. And the bleeding had stopped, there was no sign of any worry.
And exactly seven days later, I started having really bad cramps all throughout the night, I actually couldn't sit down or even lay down. And so I kept telling myself, “Everything's fine.” I was praying. And it got to the point in early morning where I had to wake up my husband and tell him, “I've got to go to the ER.”
And I went in, they actually removed two very large blood clots from my cervix, and the doctor told me that's what was causing my pain. But she said I wasn't in labor. They did an ultrasound. They said my baby was happy and kicking, which made me so relieved.
I was still in immense pain, so they gave me a medication I wasn't familiar with. I didn't know it at the time, but it was a sedative. And so once I took it, I started feeling very relaxed right away and very, almost like loopy. And so my grandma drove me home and the doctor had told me before we left, “If you start bleeding or the pain comes back, then you need to come back in. But for now, everything is good. You can go home and rest.”
And I wasn't home for longer than 15 minutes and the pain came back so strong. I can't even describe the amount of pain. I crawled to the recliner and I called for my husband to come in immediately. I threw up and I started feeling like I might pass a blood clot again. So I went to stand up and my water broke, and he rushed me to the hospital.
It was only a 10-minute ride and I had soaked through a beach towel with blood. And honestly, on the way to the hospital, I was still thinking that we were going to come back from this, that God could do anything. And I had no doubt He was going to heal me. Looking back in retrospect, I know it was like emotional whiplash.
And so we get to the hospital, they get me into a triage room right away. I couldn't talk or speak because I was just in so much pain. I was trying to concentrate on not passing out because I didn't want to miss what was going to happen, but it was just so painful. And I was begging them to give me something for the pain.
They had to get an IV started, so that took a little bit, and then there was a nurse that stuck me in the leg with morphine. And the doctor said, “I think that you're having a miscarriage. You need to lay back so I can do an ultrasound and see.” She did the ultrasound. She said that the baby was no longer in my uterus and I needed to lay back and push because they were in the birth canal.
She's asked me to give one push and I'll try to be brief because this is graphic, just for a warning if anyone has small children around. I pushed, and I remember her grabbing a tool, and she reached in and just started grabbing and pulling. And she said that the baby had been decapitated, and she started describing parts she was pulling out. And my husband asked her to stop, because him watching me go through that was very traumatic. And so there was so much going on in the room.
And then while this was happening, we could hear laughter from, I don't know if it was a break room or another room, but it just felt like a nightmare. There was this loud laughter while we were going through the most painful moment of our lives. After she had pulled as much as she could out, she leaned forward and said, “It looks like it was a boy,” and she left the room.
I just started crying, because we hadn't found out the gender until then. And my husband said that they put the body in a bucket on top of a trash can. And the doctor and the nurse left the room and we were still just trying to catch our breath. I was still sitting on the table in so much blood, and our nurse came in and said that we needed to sign paperwork.
And we were really just so shocked and I wasn't in any state to read anything. I had been put on so many medications at that point, and so I asked her what this was. And she said that this was paperwork to do with the remains. And she said, “You basically have two options.” She held up two fingers and said, “You can either send the baby to pathology and maybe find out why this happened, or you can send the baby to a funeral home and pay for services.”
And we just sat there blank. We asked her, “What do we do? We don't know what to do in this situation.” And we said, “What do people do?” Because we had never considered something like that before. Losing our baby, that wasn't on our radar.
And so she said, “Well, I've never had anyone send a baby to a funeral home under 20 weeks, but if you send the baby to pathology, you could maybe find out why this happened.”
And in that moment, we felt like maybe she was right, like that would bring us the most peace, because it was such a whiplash of emotions. Everything was fine and then all of a sudden, we were just in this really horrific delivery. So in that moment, we felt, “Okay, maybe she's right. Pathology’s the best option.”
And after that, I had to go up and have a D&C for my placenta and I had to be awake for that. And so when I was getting the spinal block for this D&C, it was just so surreal. As I was laying there, I had these hot tears streaming down my face because my husband couldn't be in there with me. I was all alone and no one had recognized that we had lost our baby. No one had said, “I'm sorry for your loss. I'm sorry you're going through this.”
It just felt like I was being shifted into all these different procedures. And then when I was being wheeled out, the nurse asked me if I wanted to be wheeled out the side door, and I didn't understand why she said that or suggested that. I was thinking, “My husband is pulling out front for me.”
And when she did wheel me out front, there were all these mothers sitting there on the curb, in their wheelchairs, holding their newborn babies. And that was the first time that it hit me, “I'm not going home with my baby in my arms or in my belly.”
And the medication didn't wear off til the next morning but when I woke up, for weeks I woke up the same way, sobbing and devastated. I didn't realize until that next morning, I never held my baby. I never saw him, but we named him, because at this point we thought he was a boy.
I felt like I had to convince myself I was pregnant and I did have a loss, because no one said it. And so the lack of recognition was really difficult in those next few weeks.
Ashley Opliger: [00:11:28] Rebekah, I've heard your story several times now, as we've become closer friends and you’ve come to our support groups. Every single time my heart just breaks a million times over. The trauma that you went through, the pain, no one acknowledging that this was a baby that you were losing, and their disregard for the sanctity of life of your baby, it is so incredibly heartbreaking.
And I think that pregnancy loss in and of itself is painful and hard enough, but then to go through such a traumatic experience at the hospital and to be regarded in that way, I think made it so many times harder for you to walk through your grief journey after you left the hospital.
So would you talk about that, what your grief looked like in the days following leaving that hospital without your baby?
Rebekah Beresford: [00:12:20] It was really disorienting. I gave the hospital and the people who took care of me so much benefit of the doubt that I just trusted what happened was normal. And so I was trying to process and understand and just reconcile with: my baby was decapitated and dismembered.
That was honestly something I've wrestled with for not just weeks, it was months afterward. It kept me awake at night. It was like it was constantly going through my head. I thought maybe my body did something wrong or I did something wrong because that didn't feel normal to me.
And then where I had just seen the heartbeat two hours before I was pushing, I was lost in this train of thought of, “Did my baby feel anything?” And that was so troubling to me of not knowing of this horrific delivery of what my baby felt or didn't feel, and then not seeing them or holding them was so hard. It felt like I couldn't close this wound.
And so I started pursuing, “Maybe I just need to talk about it and hear from other people what their miscarriage was like.” And when I tried to talk to people or listen to people share about a miscarriage, especially if it was at the hospital, they had such compassionate care and there was nothing like the delivery of what I had. And if I tried to share, it would really push people away and make them uncomfortable, which made me feel even more isolated.
And the more stories I listened to of people getting to hold and see their baby made me angry. And so I started looking through my paperwork. Like, “Was this even an option for me?”
And there was not only by law and it was even listed on the paperwork that I was supposed to have been given a non-viable birth certificate, just to say they existed. And there was an entire bereavement checklist that was left completely blank.
And that first discovery was so devastating to me because as I was reading through my paperwork, not only the paperwork that I don't remember checking a box, that seeing where it said pathology and that the hospital was going to dispose, like it didn't register to me.
And so seeing that this was in the paperwork, but that there were options I was never told about, it made me so angry and feel so robbed. Honestly, it was like a huge punch in the stomach, because I felt like I thought that this was going to give me healing, looking at my paperwork and just seeing what happened, but it only made me more upset and feeling confused.
And I thought after the paperwork stuff, “Well, maybe I just need to find out where the hospital disposed of the remains. Maybe that will give me the healing that I'm looking for.” And when I called, it took me several departments to get to the right people.
And I finally got the supervisor of the pathology department and I explained to her I was a bereaved mom. I didn't know that I had the option or that there was an option for pathology and funeral services, I didn't know I was aware of that. And so I was calling her to see where the remains were taken, because I felt like maybe this would give me some peace.
And she told me that my specimen had been incinerated with hundreds of other specimens, and that my waste had been taken away. And I felt like this was another punch in the stomach. I couldn't believe her words and how insensitive they were.
And I was just in tears and a tight throat. And I asked her to repeat that, but to use sensitive language, because this was my baby. And she was so put off, she said, “Well, we just don't get phone calls like this. I don't know what you want me to say. We just never get phone calls like this.”
And I told her I understood this was new for her, but that this was still my baby and it was very important to me to know where those ashes were taken. And she explained that it was going to take at least 48 hours to find out exactly where, that the company that they used has different locations that they take them to, and that she would call me back within 48 hours.
It took a week of me tracking her down. I think she was maybe avoiding my phone call. But I finally got a hold of her and left a message. She called me back and I was standing in the grocery store when she called me. I'll never forget when she gave me the address for a landfill of where my baby's ashes were taken.
And I just remember feeling like I would never have peace. The fact that my baby was not only treated with such lack of dignity and respect in the hospital, but then just thrown away, I felt like I'll never have peace with that. How do I move forward from that?
And so at that point, I started to go to counseling and it really helped to feel validated. The counselor, from the very first visit, told me, “You've been through trauma. You definitely have PTSD. There are a lot of layers here that we're going to go through,” but just validating that pain and trauma because I had felt so dismissed by the healthcare workers over me, the doctors, nurses.
Even my own OB-GYN was confused at my grief. And so to be validated by my counselor, I felt like this is the start of healing. I felt like there was a little bit of glimmer of hope.
And the very next week, I go to pick up my hospital records, because I felt I just wanted to have everything hard copy for my own records and everything. Then I sat in the car with my son in the back seat. I turned on some music so he could listen while I just started flipping through my paperwork. I didn't know what I was looking for, but I got to the pathology report and at the very top, you couldn't miss it, it was in bold. It said, “14-week-old female fetus.”
And I hit my face. I didn't think it was real. And I just started crying, and I called my husband. And he was at work and he started crying. We had been grieving for three and a half months at this point, a son, moments like my husband's first Father's Day after the loss and we wore blue for our son.
And then finding out that we had this little girl, and I don't know why it made it so different when I thought about the delivery, thinking of our baby girl going through that, it was all fresh again, but like a secondary loss.
And just thinking about all this unnecessary pain, because a loss is traumatic. I feel like anyone who loses a child at any stage, it's a trauma. And then to have all these added unnecessary oversights happen, it made it feel so overwhelming to try to move forward.
Ashley Opliger: [00:19:28] Oh, Rebekah, there's so many things that you said that I want to touch on. And going back to the phone calls to the hospital and the pathology director, first of all, I think you're so brave to make those phone calls.
I think that would be so incredibly difficult for a grieving mom to ask those questions of the hospital. And to hear the answers that you were given, and to find out that your baby was treated as medical waste. And essentially, for those who are listening, hospital disposition, which is the choice of a baby going to pathology and then for the hospital to take care of their remains, generally does mean that the baby is incinerated with other medical waste at the hospital.
And I just want to say, this is a trigger warning here, but that means amputated limbs, organs, tumors. This is where babies are going and this is so heartbreaking to me. For me in a ministry role and as a grieving mom, for me to find out that this is happening in hospitals across our country is devastating. And we're going to talk more about that.
And just to say, first of all, I'm so, so sorry, because no mom should ever have to hear the words, “Your baby's remains are in a landfill.” Like you said, how can you have peace with that? How can you find peace? And we know that you find peace in Jesus, because He's the only one that can provide true justice for what you went through.
But I want to say and preface this episode here, we are not here to try to point fingers to every hospital. Because this happened at one specific hospital doesn't mean it's not happening at other hospitals, but this doesn't change unless we tell these stories, unless we talk about what's happened.
And so as dark and as difficult as your story is, this needs to be brought into the light and we need to have these conversations, because we can't do better unless we know better. Nursing staff can't offer different decisions if they're not trained and educated on what's happening.
And so we want to go into that conversation soon, but will you skip forward to when you visited the landfill where Eliana was taken and the redeeming chapter of your story?
Rebekah Beresford: [00:21:53] Yes. We actually ended up moving out of state due to the mental anguish that came along with staying where we were. There were just so many triggers. And so we think God really just made an opportunity for us to get out pretty quickly. And it was two-and-a-half years later, so it was actually this past December that we decided to take a road trip and go see the landfill for the first time.
And honestly, I was not ready until this; God had been really doing so much healing in my heart to where I felt like this was the step I needed to take and to go see. And so the morning of going to the landfill, I was actually praying and thinking, “This is not where I want to go to see her, but at the end of the day, this is where my baby was taken and I never got to hold or see her. So to know I get to go be in that space is where her, on the earthly side, she was, that was a little exciting to me.
And I know that's probably hard to understand, but it was in a little over an hour from where we were staying, so we were driving and driving. Of course, with the landfill, it's kind of out in the country, but we were getting closer. And so there were some trees that were covering right before we got up there. And I was trying to look over and maybe just try to anticipate, “What am I going to see?”
And it was all of a sudden, it was all clear and it was off in the distance. And my heart is racing just thinking about it, because it was outside of a major city so it was the landfill that services a very large area. And it was this huge black mound. Everything was dark except the sky right above it. And there was just all this light. And even from this far away, you could just see so many birds swirling and flying around this huge mound.
And I told my husband, “This can't be it.” And we get up to the gate and we don't even know where to go. And there's this big line of trucks behind us with trailers of old mattresses and trash and garbage trucks just waiting to get in. So we pulled to the side and I was out of breath, just sobbing. And it was overwhelming.
But as a mercy, we spoke to a sanitation worker and we explained why we were there. And my husband had brought a bouquet of flowers he wanted to bring in honor of her, and the sanitation worker let us bring the bouquet of flowers up to the fence. And we stood at the fence and set the flowers there. And I took a couple pictures, because I go in my heart: “I don't want to remember this, but people need to see this because I don't want this to happen to anyone else.”
And the sanitation worker actually promised that he would walk the flowers up to the top at the end of the day for us, which was really special. He said that he had a daughter at home, a baby girl, and he actually had no idea that the trucks, that this specific company, that's what they were bringing here. And he was really sweet and promised to walk them up at the end of the day.
And we didn't stay very long, but I was quiet the whole way home, crying, and we didn't say a thing. But I remember I felt so confident coming here, and all the healing that you've done and feeling like this was going to be a good moving forward moment, but I felt so discouraged.
But then a few days later I was looking at the pictures on my phone that we took, and there's one of the bouquet of flowers sitting on the fence. And there's this very intentional, specific ray of light coming down onto the bouquet of flowers.
And I didn't actually realize that when we chose the name Eliana, we both knew that it meant God has answered me and God has heard me, but we didn't know that there was a secondary meaning, and her name means ray of light.
And when I saw that ray of light coming off to the bouquet of flowers, I looked it up and I was like, “Oh my goodness, this ray of light,” and God spoke to me. He was showing me that even in the midst of all this darkness, this gross, terrible place, He sees Eliana and His light will overcome this darkness. And He sees this tiny baby that nobody cared about, but He knows her. He knows her name. She bears His image and He was so merciful to show us that He sees her there. And that picture is just so precious to me.
And there's also another picture I have of, we did family pictures with our two boys back in November. And there's a picture of me walking, using my back and I'm holding Cayden on my side, and then Cannon is holding my hand on the other side of me. And there's this big, glowing light in between Cannon and me.
And I look at that picture as the birth order of my kids. And I feel like a lot of people would maybe say that's a coincidence, but you can't make that up. I know that God loves me so much, especially for my heart and the way that I receive love and the way that I feel special and thought of, that is something so specific to me.
And so I see so much beauty in that, and that God really is going to lift Eliana up and shine a light, and use her life as a light to expose so much darkness, because the light will overcome the darkness.
Ashley Opliger: [00:27:56] Absolutely. Those two pictures that you were talking about are so beautiful. And if it's okay with you, we'll share them in our blog post with your episode. And so if you're listening to this and you want to see those photos, we'll be sharing them on social media and on our blog posts.
But I remember on the day that you were visiting the landfill and I was texting you, the thing that God kept putting on my heart, I was so heavy for you thinking, “I cannot believe a mom is having to travel to a landfill to pay her respects to her daughter,” and I couldn't even imagine being in your shoes.
But I kept thinking about the hope that we have in Jesus and how on this side of Heaven there's nothing that anyone can do. The hospital can't make it right. There's nothing anyone can do to make what happened to you right. And as horrible and dark as that landfill was, we know when Jesus comes back and makes the New Heaven and the New Earth, there will be no more landfills. And He is going to raise up ashes back into bodies, resurrected bodies that will live forever and ever.
And so I think of it, knowing there is no place on this earth that our babies could be buried at or disposed of that God can't come in and make right and resurrect and bring beauty and wholeness. And so evil, I would say, and the brokenness of this world has won temporarily in this situation, but we know Jesus has defeated the enemy and that victory is coming and that justice eventually will happen.
And so would you talk about that hope, because you shared you were bitter, you were angry, who wouldn't be in your situation, walking through what you went through? How did God turn your heart to start finding peace, to start seeing the hope, to turn a corner in your grief and be able to see the light?
Rebekah Beresford: [00:29:58] Yeah, I think of that verse in Genesis, “What you meant against me for evil, God is going to use for the good,” or, “for the saving of many lives”, essentially. And that verse was something I really clung onto because at first I had gotten some really unsolicited, terrible advice from someone who I was really looking up to, to possibly be my mentor.
And she had shared with me that, well, if I had been serving and tithing more regularly that this wouldn't have happened to me and God would have given me the desires of my heart. And I know that she meant good intentions with that and she didn't mean to harm me, but in a very raw wound, that put me in a really dark place.
And it did make me, even though I knew that wasn't God's character to my core, I knew He didn't take away people's babies to teach people lessons, that was not His character, it planted seeds of, “You did something to deserve this.” And I really wrestled with that.
And honestly, while I was wrestling with God, and even though I knew He didn't do this to me, but I struggled with that He allowed it to happen to me. And I don't mean to say this lightly because it's not a light thing. A loss is so painful and traumatic in and of itself, but I just felt like: “I didn't just lose my baby, but You allowed my baby to be ripped apart while I was sitting there listening to it, having to wonder if she ever went through pain, and then just thrown away like garbage and then taken away to a landfill.” I really wrestled with that.
And there were things that I was either going to lean into and really trust and believe God about, or I was going to walk away. And when I look back, and this is something that honestly gave me confidence, the enemy knew so specifically how, what was going to test my faith.
It wasn't just losing my baby through miscarriage. It had to have been this way to really actually make me question God's goodness, because He had been so tangible and so steadfast in my life that it took something this terrible and what felt like so tailored to my weaknesses and my insecurities to actually question if God was good, because I didn't feel Him in the delivery room.
I felt so abandoned by Him. I had always been able to feel His presence in my life and feel His peace. And I just felt like, “Where were You? Where are you? Because I don't feel or see You anywhere.” And it was just blow after blow.
But I mentioned it before, He's so personal in the way that He loves us. And even though I felt like I couldn't talk to Him or cry out to Him very much in the months after that, He continued to pursue me. He continued to woo my heart and show me that He was there and He was weeping with me. He wasn't gone. He was silent because He was crying right along beside me.
And random strangers giving me flowers at the grocery store, these things that would happen on my very worst days when I was having panic attacks, or people coming up to me and asking if they could pray for me, just the ways that He wooed me back to Him, even though I was doubting Him and angry with Him. It's so undeserving, the way that He loves us.
I think trauma can blind us sometimes to seeing where God was, because it's so opposite of what He intended for us. It's not supposed to be this way. But He's so faithful when we ask Him, “Will you show me where You were?” Because He's a gentleman, He's not going to force Himself on us.
And so I did exactly that. I asked Him, “Where were You here? Where were You in this moment? Where were You,” in the specific moments of where I felt abandoned by Him. And He's been faithful to reveal only the details that He could orchestrate. And the things that I view or viewed as the most painful, I now see as mercies, if that makes any sense.
Ashley Opliger: [00:34:16] We hope you are enjoying this episode so far. We want to take a quick break to tell you about some resources our ministry provides to grieving moms.
On our website, bridgetscradles.com, you can find hope-filled resources on grieving and healing including memorial ideas, quotes & Scripture, featured stories, and recommended books and other organizations. We share ideas on how to navigate difficult days such as due dates, Heaven Days, and holidays.
In addition, every month I lead Christ-centered support groups for bereaved moms called Hope Gatherings, both in-person and online. You can find a list of upcoming dates and sign up for our next support group on our website.
Lastly, we would love for you to connect with us on Facebook and Instagram. You can find us on these three pages: @bridgetscradles, @cradledinhope, and my personal page @ashleyopliger. You can also join our private Cradled in Hope Facebook group for grieving moms to find community. We would be honored to hear your baby’s story and be praying for you by name. Now let’s get back to our episode.
Ashley Opliger: [00:35:28] You said something to the effect that God was weeping with you. And I think we so often forget that pregnancy loss and infant loss breaks His heart. This is His creation, our bodies, our wombs, this is where He chose to create life, but He was the One knitting and creating life. And one of my favorite verses is James 1:18 says, “... and we, out of all creation, became His prized possession.”
And so we know humans are His prized possession out of everything He created. He created the Heavens, the earth, the galaxies, the stars, the planets, the birds, the animals, everything, but humans are His prized possession. And so to understand that when a family loses a baby, that breaks His heart just like it breaks our heart.
And when a baby is discarded in this way and shown no value, because our babies are made in His image that is heartbreaking to him. He has to be weeping. And I can't imagine how hard that is for Him to watch on His throne looking down on earth, but He knows the day is coming when He's going to right every wrong.
And something I've been reflecting on recently is when people ask, ”How can you believe in a good God that allows suffering and allows these bad things to happen?”
We're assuming that God allows it but then does nothing about it. But He is a God of justice. He is a just and good God, so He is going to one day punish evil and redeem everything that was broken and restore this earth and resurrect our babies and our lives when we pass away, unless Jesus comes back first, which is a real possibility.
But I just think that we have to lean in to His heart to know He is a Father who loves us. He created us, He created our babies. He loves us, and He loves our babies more than we love our babies because He's their Creator. And so I love that you said that, and that allows you to understand His heart when you're in the middle of this heartbreaking experience.
And so I want to go back now and how you said in the beginning in your story that there was this bereavement checklist and there were all these resources available at the hospital, but nothing was checked. They didn't follow the protocol.
And the reason that you and I met was because our cradles were available at the hospital and they were not offered to you, so obviously that breaks my heart a million times over, because our mission is to comfort and provide these cradles that are supposed to bring so much healing and allow families to love on their baby and bond with their baby the way that I was able to.
And that brought me so much healing, even though it was such a heartbreaking day. And so it breaks my heart that we sent these cradles and they were there at the hospital, but you did not get to have one for Eliana.
And so would you share how we connected, and through our friendship how you got connected to Rachel's Gift, and where you see your story moving now in connection with these two organizations?
Rebekah Beresford: [00:38:51] Yes. I actually found Bridget’s Cradles on Pinterest. So this was two years after, from when we had lost Eliana, and it had been on my heart to make a donation to an organization that was specific to miscarriage, but in the second trimester.
And so I was looking around on Pinterest and I found your cradles and I thought, “Wow, this is so amazing. Can you imagine if we would have had this?” I was crying, looking at the cradles. This was such a beautiful gift for families and I wanted to make a donation in honor of Eliana. And I was really excited about this.
And I went and I saw that you had a hospital list, and my stomach sank, because at this point there were so many failures that we had discovered that I almost expected the name of the hospital to be on your list. But I was still hopeful that maybe it wasn't and maybe I could make a request that they could be at this hospital.
And when I went and I saw the list, I saw it was on there. And then that's when I sent an email to Bridget’s Cradles to see if this hospital was receiving them at the time of our loss, and they were.
And you actually reached out to me by text, and I was so surprised that you personally reached out to me, but I was so grateful, because there had been so many people that I had shared my story with at that point, in hopes that they would care or that they, I don't know, would be able to help me in some way.
And you just personally reached out to me and validated that this was painful and I should have gotten a cradle. And you let me pick one out, which was so special because even though I didn't get to hold Eliana in this cradle, having something for her in her size, in her memory, was just so special to me.
And since then you have been such an encouragement and supporter in letting me know that you're praying for me and thinking about me. And you always call her by name, which I feel like sometimes a lot of people can feel uncomfortable calling babies who are gone by their names. And you've just truly made me believe that you are in this with me. It's been such a special gift to me.
And so I started listening to your podcast, which has been so cathartic and healing to hear not only you talk and the posture that you have towards all of these moms, you just create such a safe place for all these broken hearts to land for the few minutes while they listen to you interview someone and give their story, but also share so vulnerably your own story.
And it's through your podcasts that I heard Rachel's Gift the organization. And I cry in almost every podcast episode I listen to that you do, but this one was, it was like angry crying almost, because it was anger, but also gratitude that there was an organization that existed that filled in all of the gaps that I thought I was going to have to create some organization that would do all these things, it's already in movement and in existence.
And if the nurses, I feel like, would have had the training that Rachel's Gift provides, I feel like we wouldn't be where we are. And this organization, it bridges not only the lack of bereavement care that I feel like nurses are receiving, but it's so intentional with the care that they provide and the education, that they not only teach all the different stages that nurses can really step in and be a guide to these families, but also it helps them utilize all these resources, and in a way that's not extra work for them, but it actually alleviates the stress.
So I sat in on one of these trainings, it was four hours long and it was incredible the way that Lori Beth spoke with these nurses and all of the options that they have for families, to leave the families feeling informed and comforted. And it doesn't change the fact that they lost their baby, but it gives them a lot of comfort and it postures them to have the best healing journey that they could instead of leaving with regrets and trauma.
Ashley Opliger: [00:43:17] Absolutely. Rebekah, thank you so much for all of the kind things that you said about me and Bridget’s Cradles. I want you to know it's my honor to know you.
And regarding you reaching out over the website, it was the Holy Spirit for sure. When I got your message, I just knew I needed to reach out to you immediately by text and get to know more of your story.
But I think what has drawn me to you so much is just that you are seeking these answers and all of this because you don't want another family to experience what you have gone through. You're letting your pain fuel your compassion for other families and wanting to bring about change. And so I just have a special part in my heart for you.
And in the episode that you're referring to with Rachel's Gift, I think it was Episode Seven. I actually shared your story briefly in that episode anonymously. And then from there we got you connected to Rachel's Gift. Then you got to meet Lori Beth in person.
And then a week later, I was in Nashville and you live in Kentucky, and so you drove down and we got to have dinner, and then you stayed at our Airbnb and we got to have a slumber party with you. And it was just so sweet to get to meet you, because I felt like I've known you for a long time because we've grown this friendship through Bridget’s Cradles and you've been coming to our online support groups.
You've been such an encouragement to me and it's been a blessing to walk this journey with you. And then for Lori Beth and I to come alongside you with our organizations and share Eliana's story so that we can use our resources and influence to make sure this doesn't happen to someone else, because I know this story is probably very hard for some moms to listen to right now.
I've cried so many tears, hearing your story. And it's hard to listen to, but if we don't talk about what's happening and how hard this is, how will it ever change? And all of these moms that are walking through this, they're going to be left in the dark and they're going to be isolated, and they're going to feel the way you felt, and we don't want that to happen.
And so let's focus now, if it's okay, there’s probably nurses listening as well as grieving moms listening. And so I would like for you to take a few moments to address nurses that are listening. Aside from getting in touch with Rachel's Gift and having Bridget’s Cradles on hand, what can they do to ensure this is not the outcome for families, that this isn't the experience.
They obviously can't change the outcome sometimes of loss, but they can change the patient experience. So what is your advice to a nurse that’s listening?
Rebekah Beresford: [00:46:05] Right. Well, I feel like now that it's hard to un-know what you know. So now that more nurses are being exposed and aware that what hospital disposition is, because even when I sat in on this one training for Rachel's Gift, none of the nurses in the room knew that hospital disposition was a landfill.
And so if you are a nurse that's hearing that for the first time. I think the best thing is to lean into that and understanding for all of your patients from here on out to encourage them and to know for yourself what all the options are for them. Because when they're in those shell shock moments of their grief, they're not thinking. They're not reading. They're listening just to what you're telling them and guiding them through.
And so knowing for yourself that the choice is a landfill or 15 other options that different funeral services offer with different organizations that'll help pay for it.
There's financial options. There are so many beautiful resources that Rachel's Gift actually teaches the nurses how to utilize, so that a landfill or hospital disposition is really the last option.
If that's their choice and they are fully informed, that's what that is, then let them make that choice. But to make an uninformed choice and then to later go and want to find out exactly where their baby is, like I did, it's an unnecessary pain that no one should have to carry.
And honestly, I don't know how I would do it without the hope that we have in Jesus, knowing that He will redeem this one day. That truly has been the most healing and hopeful thing I have to cling onto.
Ashley Opliger: [00:47:58] And I want to say to all of our nurses listening, I want you to know, as the leader of Bridget’s Cradles, how much I respect you and how much I honor you. I know that you came into the nursing profession because you have a heart to take care of people and to love on people. And the purpose of this episode is not to shame nurses and hospitals across the country, that’s far from our hearts. So please hear us on that.
And Rebekah and I have had many Zoom calls aside from this interview, talking about our heart for this episode. We know that when nurses are giving parents these options, they most likely don't even know what the hospital disposition actually means and where the remains go after pathology.
And so for a nurse that's listening, I would suggest asking questions because there are some hospitals, including some of our local hospitals, that do have other options, that the hospital has a special burial site for babies. They do a special service at intervals throughout the year.
And so there are hospitals that do have other options, but I think it's important for you to know what those options are and trace back all of the options to figure out where is the baby actually finally being laid to rest, because that's important for a grieving family.
And we don't want families to have any regrets or further trauma from a decision that they made when they're in shock and their whole world has been turned upside down. And so I would say asking questions and becoming informed and educated about how to go about this.
So we partner with Lori Beth at Rachel's Gift and they use our cradles and donate our cradles to the hospitals they serve. And Lori Beth shared with me that at one particular hospital, the year before they came in and did education and training with the nurses, that hospital had 72 hospital dispositions.
But then the year after they came in and did a full staff training on bereavement care and dignified decisions and compassionate care, the next year was only eight. Only eight people chose that as an option because the conversations that the nurses were having with the parents, the way they were describing the options that they had was very different from before. And the parents then could make an informed decision about what was going to happen with their baby.
And so I think education and training is so important. And so please hear us when we say we just want to bring this to light so that questions can start being asked and that change can happen and parents can be better supported through that journey.
Now I want to shift gears to the bereaved moms who are listening because Rebekah and I have prayed a lot over this episode, because one of our fears has been that this could be triggering to a mom who walked a similar road and is now questioning, “Is my baby in a landfill? Where is my baby? What happened?”
And maybe you didn't ask the questions after the fact and made all the phone calls like Rebekah has. And so we were praying over this because we don't want this episode to cause further grief and further trauma to your story. But as we were praying about it, we just know we can't make anything better if we don't talk about this and we don't bring this to light, just like Eliana's name means.
And so Rebekah, would you share your heart for the moms who are listening, who are starting to have questions, concerns, by some of the things that we've talked about? What would you say? Where's the hope in this, if this is coming to light for them after the fact?
Rebekah Beresford: [00:51:50] Yes. I think the hardest thing that I struggled with at first was feeling like as a mom, you want to protect your kids, and so feeling like I had some kind of responsibility with that.
But God has really healed me and shown me that even though this is where her earthly remains are, we know, all of us who believe in the hope of Jesus, that's not where her soul is.
And even though it's so hard because here in our flesh and on earth to come to terms with the fact that maybe that really did happen to your baby, but to have a Heaven mindset of knowing that it's so temporary, and the best thing that we can do to honor our babies and continue to mother them, even though they're not in our arms, the way that I mother Eliana is to nurture and protect her memory, and that means speaking up for her because she didn't have a voice.
And so I could lean into what would so easily be depression and anxiety and bitterness, because I'm so angry that this happened to my tiny, precious baby, or I could choose hope, and choosing hope that if I speak up and share her story, that this light is going to overcome this super dark thing that's happening that not a lot of people are aware of.
And I believe that in sharing what happened to her is going to shine that light on that darkness. And if we can drag that out into the light, and if you are someone who feels like maybe this is a part of your story too, to not get lost in the bitterness and the hopelessness, because there is hope. Jesus is going to return. He is going to redeem this.
I do not believe everything happens for a reason. I believe that anything and everything that happens God can give purpose to. And so if you're someone that you feel like this has happened to, that there can be purpose from this and that speaking up about it because people don't know this is what's happening to these things.
Ashley Opliger: [00:54:02] I agree, Rebekah, I think finding purpose in pain is such a healing experience. It's a big part of my story and finding healing and starting Bridget’s Cradles and comforting other people with the same comfort we had received with the cradle.
And so I would encourage you, if you are in a dark, deep place of grief after losing a baby, whether you went through something as traumatic as what Rebekah went through, or if you had a similar story to mine or to anyone else's, we always say we do not want to compare grief to each other. We are all grieving moms who have lost a baby and have lost all of our hopes and our dreams for our baby.
And so whether you've lost a baby two weeks ago or two years ago, whether it was at eight weeks gestation or eight months, we want you to know that we are grieving with you, that we acknowledge your loss, that we are validating your feelings. And one of the best ways to move forward in hope and trusting Jesus is to follow Him and to serve others.
And so thank you, Rebekah, for reminding us of that hope and that call on our lives to carry out the Great Commission that Jesus has given us. So as we close, do you have any final words to talk about a solution on how our culture, our hospitals in general, how can we do better in validating human life?
Rebekah Beresford: [00:55:27] I think that the fact that there are hospitals, that they only store their human life in a dignified way where they do the ceremonies a couple of times a year and the burials, and invite families and parents. There are hospitals that are doing that, but most of the hospitals, in my experience and from my understanding, have hospital disposition as a landfill. I believe the standard should be that of the hospitals that are treating human life in a dignified way.
To me, it's the only solution because even if a parent is confused or signs something, their baby was still treated in a dignified way. There has to be distinction for how we dispose of human life and of garbage. I don't believe that's my truth. I believe that's infallible Truth. We bear the image of God.
And I don't think that any other moral compass exists and can justify, “Well why would you dispose of human life differently than garbage?” The only truth to me that comes from is God's Word and that we bear His image, and so there must be distinction. And I think that's in us innately as people who love people. And if you have a child or if you've ever lost a child, you understand that in its entirety.
But yes, I believe the standard should be all human life treated in a dignified way. And there should be a separate location for where human lives are laid to rest and where garbage is taken on a daily basis. That should be so separate and no grieving family should ever, when wishing to visit their child's remains, have to come to a landfill.
Ashley Opliger: [00:57:12] I know Rebekah, I just long for the day that Jesus comes back and makes this all right. And I know He is going to, but in the meantime, He works through the body of Christ and through the church.
And so we don't just want to sit here and wait for Him to come back and make things right. We want to be vessels for Him and be His hands and feet, and do what we can to ensure that we are taking care of His precious creation, the most vulnerable babies.
And I know we've talked about this as a conversation for another day, but our culture of not validating human life at conception, that does play a big factor in all of this. That's for another day and for us to unpack, but I want to end this conversation with hope, knowing this was a hard conversation, and this is not the end of the conversation.
Hopefully this is just the beginning, for nurses to start having conversations, brave moms start having conversations and other faith-based organizations like Bridget’s Cradles and Rachel's Gift, which we have been partnering and talking about your story.
And you’re collaborating with Rachel's Gift to do an impact video for them, that Rachel's Gift is going to share your story and all of their training. And we're going to share the video too. And so there's so many beautiful things that God's working and bringing to light. But would you close us in prayer?
Rebekah Beresford: [00:58:41] All right.
Dear God, we just thank You for this time together. I want to thank You for Bridget’s life and Eliana's life, Lord, and how You've so intricately woven our daughters’ stories together, Lord, and Ashley and I into each other's lives.
Lord, I want to ask that You would be the healing balm on the hearts of all of the grieving parents that are listening to this episode. Lord, I ask that the things that were maybe so difficult to hear and things that they have already started to wrestle with, or have strong emotions about, Lord, I ask that You let what resonate on their hearts be hope and the hope that we have in You.
And this is coming from someone who has been in the depths of trauma, where it feels like it's the only thing you can think about. It's so overwhelming, Lord, but You have stepped into those dark places. You have provided healing. And I ask that right now for every listener who is going through the deep hurt, the deep heartache, I ask that You would be the healing balm on their hearts, Jesus.
I ask that You would help give the women who may have gone through this experience and feel like they need to speak up. I ask that You would give them boldness and confidence, Lord, and I ask that You would shine Your light into the dark places of what's allowing this to even happen.
Lord, I just want to thank You in advance for the victory that Your light is going to have in these dark places. I thank You that Your Name is over death, it's over trauma, it's over all of the things that make this life here on earth so painful. I thank You that You came so that we can have abundant life even after loss, that joy can take place of despair.
Lord, I thank You that Your peace can come into our hearts where anxiety can seem to reign. And I thank You for the opportunity to share Eliana’s story, Lord, for Your glory. And I ask that You would continue to heal the hearts of all of those who are listening. We thank You so much. It’s in Jesus’ Name we pray. Amen.
Ashley Opliger: [01:00:54] Thank you, Rebekah, so much for being here and for sharing your story.
Rebekah Beresford: [01:00:56] Thank you.
Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss new episodes when they release on the 1st and 15th of every month. You can also find this episode’s show notes and a full transcript on our website at bridgetscradles.com/podcast.
There you can also download a free PDF for each episode, called the Hope Guide, which is filled with notes, Scripture, links, discussion questions, and so much more. Be sure to leave your email address so that we can keep you updated on podcast episodes, upcoming support groups, and other hope-filled resources.
If you’re interested in volunteering or donating to Bridget’s Cradles in memory of a baby in Heaven, you can find information on our website on how you can get involved and spread hope to other grieving families.
One way you can help is by leaving a review of this podcast on iTunes [or the Apple Podcasts app]. Consider the minute of your time as a way YOU can personally share the hope that you’ve found here with another mom whose heart is broken and needs healing.
Thank you so much for listening and sharing. Until next time, we will be praying for you. And remember, as Jesus cradles our babies in Heaven, He cradles us in hope. Though we may grieve, we do not grieve without hope.
Cradled in Hope is part of the Edifi Podcast Network, a collection of faith-inspiring podcasts on Edifi, the world’s most powerful Christian podcasting app. To listen to Cradled in Hope and find other podcasts by leading Christian voices, download the Edifi app in the Apple and Google Play stores or online at edifi.app. Thank you so much for listening.
#cradledinhope #cradledinhopepodcast #bridgetscradles #christianpodcast #christianpodcasters #christianpodcasts #pregnancyloss #infantloss #babyloss #miscarriage #miscarriagematters #infantlosssupport #grievingprocess #stillbirthawareness #pregnancylossawareness #grievingmother #infantlossawareness #miscarriagesupport #iam1in4 #1in4 #stillbornstillloved #pregnancyandinfantlossawareness #stillborn #stillbirth #griefjourney #miscarriageawareness #lifeafterloss