Thrive by IU Health

October 25, 2023

Creating a Safe Space for Life’s Greatest Grief

IU Health Arnett Hospital

Creating a Safe Space for Life’s Greatest Grief

The pediatric bereavement team at IU Health Arnett Hospital thought they were just planning a memorial event. But one idea led to another, and the result is a memorial garden in Lafayette where families, caregivers and community members can go to remember little ones gone too soon.

Team members Olivia Rauschenbach, certified child life specialist; Mollie Henderson, certified child life specialist; and Melissa Glaze, RN, labor and delivery bereavement coordinator, reached out to longtime philanthropic supporter Richelle Peterson to ask for help with the event.

“Anytime you have something to support that has to do with kids, I’ll look at it,” said Peterson, owner and president of Richelle in a Handbasket. She supported having an event, but also had an idea for something more permanent: a garden.

“I just got on the phone and started calling and emailing people,” Peterson said. “It’s amazing when you ask, a lot of people will step up. We have a great community.”

One of the first people to answer Peterson’s call was her friend and fellow IU Health Foundation donor Trey Rohrman, Director of Indiana Operations at Rohrman Automotive Group.

“Once I understood what the pediatric bereavement team did, it was easy to get behind it,” Rohrman said.

The team--which supports families when they experience pregnancy, infant or child loss--offers resources, memorabilia when requested and available, and emotional care. In addition to bereavement support, the program helps children and families cope with illness and injury through play and developmentally appropriate education, managing stressors related to hospitalization, and overall emotional support in the medical environment.

“We loved the idea of having a space for loved ones to visit, if that would be comforting for them,” said Rauschenbach.

Next, Peterson reached out to a friend at Lafayette Parks and Recreation to find a space. It donated a small area near the entrance to Columbian Park Zoo. The parks department was already managing the space, so it just required some additional landscape design and ongoing maintenance.

“Columbian Park is the hub for greater Lafayette families,” Rohrman said. “You can’t pick a more accessible, well-maintained and safe space for families to enjoy an afternoon.”

The pediatric memorial garden was dedicated on September 18 as a beautiful space for local families to grieve and celebrate life. Peterson, Rohrman and other donors gathered to put the finishing touches on the installation and sign a memorial plaque.

“More than anything else, I think it matters that it’s in the public eye,” Peterson said. “I never want to imagine losing a child. I can’t pretend to understand one cell of what these families have been through. But as a parent and a grandparent, there’s no way I can’t support them.”

“We are so grateful for the generous donors who helped us create a space dedicated to families in our community who have experienced the loss of a child,” said Rauschenbach. “We hope that when families visit or see this space as they are walking in Columbian Park, they feel supported and cared for.”

To support community initiatives in west-central Indiana, contact IU Health Foundation Philanthropy Director Ashley Pleasant at 317.264.9438 or visit the IU Health Foundation website.