West Virginia Perinatal Loss Guidelines for Care & Legal PaperworkWest Virginia Perinatal
Loss Guidelines for Care
& Legal Paperwork

Funding for the development of the Bereavement Care and Reporting Guidelines was provided by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources and the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission. Our sincerest appreciation for the support of this project that will assist professional staff in caring for bereaved families.

The West Virginia Perinatal Partnership would like to thank the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Office of Maternal, Child and Family Health Director, Christina Mullins and Denise Smith, Director, Perinatal Programs.

For questions or to set up Nursing or Physician Grand Rounds staff education contact:

Alexandra French
Cabell Huntington Hospital
Huntington, WV 25705
Mother-Baby Unit
Mary Beth Stewart
Co-chair, Bereavement Team
Outreach Education Director,
WV Perinatal Partnership


West Virginia Perinatal Partnership Bereavement Team

Elizabeth R. Cohen, LICSW
Perinatal Loss Coordinator
OBGYN Mental Health and Wellness
(304) 598-6868

Alexandra French, RN, LCCE
Co-chair Bereavement Team
Cabell Huntington Hospital

Christy Orndorff BSN, CHPPN, CPLC
Pediatric Supportive Care Nurse Coordinator
WVU Medicine Children’s

Jerica Wesley, PhD, LOC, ALPS, NCC, CCTP
Assistant Professor, Counseling
Marshall University Minority Health Institute
Summer Hepler RN, BSN
Bereavement Coordinator
Greenbrier Valley Medical Center
Leigh Belin BSN, RN
Clinical Supervisor, Labor & Delivery
United Hospital Center WVU Medicine


Dear Colleagues,
When parents experience the loss of a child whether by miscarriage, stillbirth, or early perinatal loss, they begin the long process of bereavement. At first, the experience can produce a myriad of feelings: shock, numbness, denial, and disbelief. Other emotions begin to emerge such as guilt, anger, loneliness, despair, sadness and regret. The loss of a child affects siblings, family, healthcare providers and community.

A bereavement program offers support for parents, siblings, grandparents, extended family, community, and healthcare staff, which often begins before death and continues well beyond discharge. Bereavement support includes counseling, spiritual care, supportive presence, silence and active listening, as well as validation and reassurance. This involves assisting with the difficult end-of-life decisions including: goal setting; pain and symptom management; disposition of the body; identifying support systems and community resources; legacy building and memory making.

Legacy building is about giving meaning to life and living. You can help families preserve these experiences by offering heirloom photography, hand/footprints, and plaster and clay molds of hands and feet, charm impressions, etc. Photographs (when appropriate) are one of the most precious and tangible mementos for a family. These tangible reminders show the love and bond that was produced and shared with their baby regardless of the sometimes brief arc of life. These portraits will last for generations, and will honor and remember a life that is forever loved and cherished. Prints, molds, and charms not only provide lasting keepsakes, but for some families, the activity itself becomes a formative memory.

Support can continue beyond discharge through follow-up phone calls, personalized bereavement/sympathy cards, and support groups. It is important to remind every family they are not alone in the days, weeks, months and years to come. You can remain a resource for these families and/or help them to connect to resources in their home communities. Consider coordinating a yearly Service of Remembrance for families to come together to honor their child and celebrate life.

The following pages are meant to be a guide with suggestions and recommendations for supporting the families we serve across the state of WV, in hope of standardizing best practices when a loss has occurred.

WV Perinatal Partnership Bereavement Team

Table of Contents

Download the Individual Sections in the Table of Contents to the left.

SECTION 1: FAMILY CARE  – (Download Section 1)

Family Care Checklist
Postpartum Care
Breast Care
Sibling Care
Heirloom Photography
Post Mortem Care
Follow Up After Discharge
What To Say
What Not To Say

SECTION 2: GUIDELINES  – (Download Section 2)

Definitions & Classifications
IUFD (Intrauterine Fetal Demise)
Live Birth (Dies After Birth)
ITOP (Induced Termination of Pregnancy)
ITOP, Autopsy
Home Burial, Cremation
Funeral Assistance

SECTION 3: SAMPLE POLICY –  (Download Section 3)

Sample Policies

SECTION 4: FORMS –  (Download Section 4)

Referenced Forms

SECTION 5: RESOURCES – (Download Section 5)

Bereavement Tangible Memory Items
Bereavement Books/Pamphlets
Bereavement Child Loss Support Groups
Bereavement Organizations For Professional Resources & Support
Additional Contacts

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