Neonatal memorial service for grieving parents held every October: Special ceremonies include butterfly release, music, prayer

HARLINGEN / BROWNSVILLE — Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen and Valley Baptist-Brownsville hold annual memorial services for parents who are experiencing loss of a child through miscarriage, stillbirth or newborn death each October.

At Valley Baptist-Harlingen, the memorial service is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 12, at 6 p.m. in the Magnolia Grille near the East Tower entrance. For those wishing to attend the memorial service at Valley Baptist-Brownsville, the service will be Tuesday, Oct. 25, at 6 p.m. in the historic Herminio and Francisca E. de Yturria Chapel, located behind the main hospital tower in the administration building located at 1040 West Jefferson at Central Boulevard in Brownsville.

Chaplain George Colόn Jr. of Valley Baptist-Brownsville said the memorial services are important tools to strengthen bonds with grieving members of the communities both facilities serve.

“A mother who attended one of these services once told me that she was grateful that others remembered her grief and were willing to share in it,” he said. “That really strikes me to this day. She described us as a positive resource of support in our community – and was grateful that we are here for those who are experiencing something so sad and hurtful in a parent’s life. We remember our community and we want to encourage them through hope and always remind them that they do not suffer alone.”

Chaplain Joe Jaime of Valley Baptist-Harlingen said events like the neonatal memorial service play a key role in the grieving process.

“It brings validation and affirmation that life was real, even for a brief moment, for these mothers who have experienced a pregnancy,” he said.

The services include a special “flower ceremony,” in which parents and other family members are invited to come forward to place white flowers on a heart-shaped wreath in remembrance of the child they lost.

Following the ceremony, the services move outside at each location, where in Harlingen, families release butterflies in memory of their loved ones who passed away. In Brownsville, family members will release pink and blue balloons in honor of those they cherish.

“This is an especially memorable – and hopefully healing – part of the service,” Jaime said. “The older children delight in holding the butterflies and the parents often photograph the colorful monarchs as they perch on top of flowers outside the hospital before they fly off.”

The services are ecumenical, with members of all faiths welcome to attend. In Brownsville, Dr. Carmen Rocco, Pediatrician, will serve as the keynote speaker, and the service will also include a reading by Father Eusebio Martinez of the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville in memory of the deceased (in English and Spanish); Scripture readings, and prayers.

During the Harlingen service, Jaime will serve as the keynote speaker, while Labor & Delivery RN Leighann Villines will provide a reading. Music will be provided Dr. Oscar Hernandez and Mallory McLain.

In addition to the annual memorial services, Valley Baptist provides local residents access to a wide array of support groups throughout the year. These support groups are free and open to the public and include a bereavement support group for parents who have lost a baby; a “Compassionate Friends Support Group” for parents who have lost an older child (no matter the age of the child); and a support group for those who are grieving the loss of a spouse, family member, or adult friend.

For more information on the memorial services at Valley Baptist-Harlingen and Valley Baptist-Brownsville, or any of the support groups, please contact the Valley Baptist Pastoral Services Department in Harlingen at (956) 389-1194, or e-mail PastoralServices@ValleyBaptist.net; and in Brownsville at (956) 689-5426, or e-mail george.colonjr@ValleyBaptist.net.