Facing Loss, Providing Hope :: Jocelyn Grace

“I’m sorry, but she is gone. There is no heartbeat.”

“Those words are stuck in my soul for the rest of my life. There are no words to describe what I was feeling in that moment. Complete shock and disbelief to start, but I felt like I was living someone else’s life. Then I realized I was getting ready to deliver my 28-week-old baby girl,” Danielle Harris (of Springfield) stated as she recounted the loss of her daughter in 2017.

Shortly after the diagnosis, Danielle went into labor on Valentine’s Day. A call was made to On Angels’ Wings (OAW), an organization focused on providing free photography and support for families who child has a terminal risk diagnosis. Photographer and Vice President, Jennifer Snider arrived at the hospital to document the birth of Danielle’s daughter.

“Most of my labor is a blur but I do remember someone asking if someone could come in and take pictures of my sweet baby girl,” Danielle recalls “I agreed.  On February 14, 2017 our forever Valentine, Jocelyn Grace Harris, was born. She was 2 pounds, 12 ounces and 16 inches long. She was so beautiful and perfect.”

Danielle says the photographer’s presence was helpful in those difficult moments. “Jennifer was there shortly after her birth and took the only photos I will ever have to remember my baby girl. She took time out of her evening on Valentine’s Day to bless our family,” she says.  “I was very out of it and in complete shock at the time that I didn’t know what to do but she was so gentle and kind, guiding my husband and I through the worst day of our lives.”

In addition to providing photographs, OAW makes it a top priority to help its recipient families cope with the struggles that come with a child that is sick or the loss of a child. The organization sends birthday gifts to recipient children every year, as well as annual loss memorial gifts to families. OAW also provides yearly events and gatherings for its recipients.

“Throughout the next few weeks and months we would receive gifts of support from OAW which meant the world to us during our time of deep grief,” Danielle says.

Pregnancy after loss – a rainbow baby –  can create unforeseen emotional struggles for families.  Exclusive to families who received OAW services when their child passed, the organization offers free maternity and newborn pictures for their first rainbow baby.

“In May of the same year I was surprised to find out we were expecting again which opened a whole new avenue of grief and emotion as well as nerves,” Danielle recalls. “At 18 weeks we found out we had some major complications with our rainbow baby girl and OAW jumped right in to help. They set up a 3D ultrasound and gave us gifts for our children to hear their baby sister’s heartbeat. They helped so much in a very hard time.”

The Harris family welcomed Adalyn Grace Harris into the world on December 19, 2017.  The birth involved some complications, causing Adalyn to be rushed to the NICU.  OAW continued to stay in contact with the family throughout their hospital stay, providing support as needed.

“On Angels’ Wings has been there for every step of the way,” Danielle says. “They provided us maternity pictures, newborn pictures, notes of encouragement, a network to other grieving families and so much more. Nothing will take the pain of losing a child away. But having people who reach out to you at some of your darkest moments has meant the world to me. They will forever be in our hearts.”

Since its inception in 2013, On Angels’ Wings has provided over 600 families with priceless memories, currently averaging 200 families served a year.  Services are predominantly provided in Springfield and St. Louis, Missouri with opportunities for growth in Joplin, Rolla, Kansas City, Cape Girardeau and surrounding rural towns in Southwest Missouri.

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