February 21, 2011

Grieving with others

Jeremy and Mandy Hall hosting balloon release in honor of son.

LOGANSPORT — It’s been three years since Jeremy and Mandy Hall celebrated the birth and mourned the death of their first-born child.

Connor James Hall was born March 28, 2008. One hour after birth, the doctors said they couldn’t do any more to save him.

In order to remember Connor and offer a day of support to other grieving parents, Mandy and Jeremy are hosting a balloon release at 3 p.m. on March 27 at Little Turtle Waterway.

“Too many babies are lost each year,” Mandy wrote on her blog. “Too many babies go forgotten. Too many parents are left with an empty heart and a life full of grief.”

The couple want to extend an invitation to any parent who has dealt with the loss of a child, no matter how young or old.

Mandy thought it felt right to extend the invitation to all parents who have lost a child, whether a miscarriage, still birth, infant death, disease, trauma, or accident.

“A child should never leave this earth causing pain for his/her parents,” the blog says. “We want to make a day for all parents to come together and remember their precious babies/children.”

Mandy and Jeremy are asking parents who’ve lost a child to send the name and date of the loss. Parents will have the opportunity to write a message to their child on the balloon and release it.

There will be no charge for the balloons or to participate.

Family members and friends are also invited to attend for support, however only the parents of the loss child will receive a balloon to release.

So far, 20 parents have signed up. Mandy is unsure what to expect in numbers, but said she knows she wants more than 20 parents.

Mandy said gaining more people for a support system has been an important part of the couple’s healing journey.

The grieving process has been difficult for them. After Connor passed away, Mandy spent three months driving to Winamac to

meet with a counselor to deal with the pain.

She met a number of women who have helped her through the difficult moments. One of those is Robin Huffman, a teacher who

lost her son just a few months before Connor passed away.

Mandy also met DeAnna Suesz from Indianapolis through a support group on Suesz also experienced the loss of her

daughter through the same rare condition, known as Vasa Previa.

Suesz held a balloon release last spring in honor of her daughter.

Mandy attended the special event in support of her friend and the idea inspired her.

“I thought it would be neat to meet other women feeling your pain,” Mandy said.

Connor passed away from Vasa Previa. It occurs when one or more of the baby’s placental or umbilical blood vessels cross the entrance of the birth canal beneath the baby, according to the International Vasa Previa Foundation. When the baby is born, the vessels can tear and cause the baby to hemorrhage.

Mandy had what was known as a bi-lobe placenta and the umbilical cord was not connected properly to the placenta. Once the water breaks, the baby’s blood supply is gone.

The condition occurs in one out of 2,500 births and can be avoidable with a color Doppler ultrasound.

Since the birth and passing of Connor James, Mandy and Jeremy have been doing much better.

“She’s helping,” Mandy said, motioning to the couple’s 19-month-old daughter, Mia. “She’s been a huge help. She makes us wonder what he’d be like. She’s funny and brings smiles to our face.”

The couple is also expecting their second son on July 7, which is also Mia’s birthday.

While the couple try to do something each year for the remembrance of Connor, Mandy said it may not always be something public.

During the first anniversary, the Halls decided to organize and host Connor’s 5-kilometer run/walk at River Bluff Trail.

Mandy was amazed by the number of people who came out to participate and support the family. She estimated 250 to 300 people were in attendance.

Last year, Mandy made flower headbands and sold the items for profit. She wanted to raise money to help with Vasa Previa awareness. She raised between $400 and $500.

“This year isn’t about raising money,” Mandy said. “It’s about getting the community together and helping other parents grieve.”

Mandy said it’s also another day to remember Connor. She’s fears as years go by, others may forget.

“He’s still our son. He’s still part of our life. He’s shaped our family and has helped us remember the important things in life,” she said.

According to Mandy, losing a child in the past has been almost taboo. She feels like people believe you shouldn’t talk about the loss of a child.

“It’s almost opposite,” Mandy pointed out. “If you don’t talk about it, I think you forgot about him.”

Mandy hopes the balloon release will help other parents find someone else who has gone through a similar situation and build on to their support system.

• Denise Massie is a staff writer at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5151 or

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