Thrive by IU Health

Grieving mom finds comfort in support group

IU Health North Hospital

Grieving mom finds comfort in support group

When Ali Liphard lost her newborn, the grief was overwhelming. Now, she is healing through the help of IU Health North's bereavement coordinator.

By Emma Avila,, writer for IU Health's Indianapolis Suburban Region

Ali Liphard is preparing to bring new life into the world. She and her husband are expecting a baby girl in May. While they are excited to meet their child, Ali is still grieving the loss of her first daughter, Lily.

When Ali was pregnant last spring, she began feeling some discomfort around 21 weeks into the pregnancy. One night, while lying in bed, her water broke and she started having contractions. She went into pre-term labor at home.

“I never knew pre-term labor was a thing. I never knew this was something that happened,” she said.

By the time the ambulance arrived, Lily had already been born.

The two were rushed to IU Health North Hospital, but by that point, there was nothing anyone could do. Lily passed away that night, April 23, 2022.

Alie and husband with baby

Sarah Wenzel, a registered nurse and the bereavement coordinator at IU Health North, happened to be working the night Ali and Lily were brought to the hospital. The Emergency department team alerted Wenzel.

For parents who lose a baby, Wenzel prepares a box for them to help remember their child.

“We work hard to provide our bereaved families with precious mementos. These include photos, foot and handprints, cards, forget-me-not seeds, hats, diapers and outfits that the baby wore, ornaments, bracelets, teddy bears, books, a lock of hair and molds of the hands and feet,” Wenzel said.

Ali and her husband had a hard time looking at some of the things inside the box at first, but now the mementos are part of their healing process.

“It’s the greatest thing for my family to look at,” Ali said. “Another big thing that Sarah does is she calls every couple of months to check in on me. That’s really helped, to know that someone is still caring about me. She’s always been there and knows the right things to ask.”

Sarah Wenzel, registered nurse and bereavement coordinator
Sarah Wenzel, registered nurse and bereavement coordinator at IU Health North Hospital

“Patients are able to choose if they would like me to follow up with them or not,” Wenzel explained. “One of the biggest things I hear from patients when I am following up with them is that they would like the opportunity to meet other families in similar situations.”

Wenzel provides this during a Burial of the Ashes ceremony that occurs annually in October for babies lost prior to 20 weeks into the pregnancy and those who did not have private funerals. However, she wanted to create an event for all the hospital’s bereaved families. Knowing that the holidays can be a tough time for these patients, she decided to create a holiday event.

“All of the bereaved families from the past year were invited and came together to create ornaments to honor their angel babies. We hung the ornaments on a tree in the lobby of IU Health North to remember our babies lost too soon,” Wenzel said. “Many of the patients who attended reported that they enjoyed just being in the presence of others who have gone through a similar experience, and it helped them to not feel so alone.”

Ali was one of those patients.

“The holiday event I went to with Sarah helped me work through a lot of emotions,” she said. “Seeing people have little ones there, decorating ornaments, they were openly talking about the child they lost. I thought that was really nice.”

Lily ornament

Wenzel also facilitates a bereavement support group through the hospital called Seasons. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the group met in person, but has since held meetings online. However, Wenzel is working to reformat the group’s structure to meet in person again.

“When the group is re-opened, information will be posted on IU Health North's website regarding the meetings. There is a full list of all local bereavement support groups, included in a resource folder, given to patients who experience a loss here in the hospital,” Wenzel explained.

Ali has used some of the resources Wenzel provided and looks forward to meeting the Seasons support group in person in the future.

For now, she and her husband visit Lily at the cemetery while simultaneously preparing for their next child. She hopes sharing her story will help others learn that there are resources for parents who have gone through a similar experience to hers.

“If people feel ready and comfortable to share what happened, I feel like it helps others heal. Know that you’re not alone,” she said.

Wenzel agrees, but stresses that everyone’s journey is different.

“Understand that everyone grieves differently and that is okay. Tackle your own grief one day at a time and do what feels right to you in the moment.”

Related Services