Ashley Friel on finding strength after losing a child
Updated: Mar 27, 2019
Tell us about your life-changing loss:
In September of 2011, my husband and I lost our first child, Chloe, at 38 weeks gestation. She was stillborn. We left the hospital with a memory box instead of our baby. We were devastated and heartbroken but kept our faith strong.
How did you find strength after losing a child?
A couple months after losing Chloe, I became a volunteer for NILMDTS (Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep)- a national non-profit organization that has volunteer photographers who come in and take pictures for families who have lost a child in utero or shortly after birth. The black and white picture below is of Chloe the day we lost her.
I am not a photographer but was more of a liaison for these families to contact a photographer. It made me feel as if I was doing this for Chloe- in her memory.
Share with us how you became inspired from such a devastating loss:
A month or so into volunteering, I received a phone call from a friend from high school who just so happened to be a labor and delivery nurse at the hospital where I had Chloe. She was calling to ask me if I could find a photographer for a family who just got the devastating news that their child was no longer with us. After finding a photographer, we started talking about Chloe and how much I hated Chloe wasn't with us, but how appreciative I was of the memory box we received upon leaving the hospital. While my friend shared that she was happy it gave me comfort, she then told me that they weren't sure how long they would be able to provide the boxes because they were running low on supplies. I told her not to worry- I would find a way.
Tell us how Wings for Chloe was created to honor your daughter:
During the time we lost Chloe, we had family and friends continue to help us grieve for many weeks. A couple of my friends and I thought about helping the hospital- in Chloe's name- and came up with the idea to make the memory boxes. We gave our first set of memory boxes to Caromont Health in Gastonia.
With the help of some very generous people, Wings for Chloe, Inc. was born in 2012. Wings for Chloe, Inc. helps families who have lost children either in utero or shortly after birth and up to two years. We provide a memory box and/or support through our support group that meets the second Thursday of each month at 8pm.
Wings for Chloe has spread its wings beyond the Carolinas!
Since starting, we have given almost 1000 memory boxes to local hospitals, as well as to individuals who aren't local. The boxes are free to the families who have suffered a loss of a child. We have shipped well over 100 boxes all around the country from California to New York to Georgia. Locally, we supply Caromont Health, Cleveland Regional, Catawba Valley, and CMC Main.
The Memory Boxes.
Each box is different but contains a baby blanket, hat, a keepsake frame, and any other gracious items that our wonderful volunteers provide to us. Each box would not be possible if it were not for our wonderful volunteers. Most of the blankets are hand knitted or crocheted by some very talented people.
What support does Wings for Chloe offer to grieving families?
We also offer support through our support group, which is made possible through our wonderful certified councilor. Currently, our support group is held on the second Thursday of every month at 8pm on The Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support Group of Gaston County group page on Facebook. To see what is posted by others, you have to be a member of the page. Many of our members will post if they are having a rough day or week, and we will be there for support.
Wings for Chloe is a Carolina based charity. Any bigger goals?
Our goal is to have Wings for Chloe, Inc. become national charity. All of our funds come from donations and we are grateful for each one of our board members, volunteers and donors. We hope to provide memory boxes for grieving families at every hospital in North and South Carolina- and eventually nationwide. We also hope to one day provide aid for alleviating the very real and unexpected financial burdens of families coping with loss: funeral costs, hospital bills, etc.
Tell us about your family now:
My husband and I now have two rainbow babies (a rainbow baby is a baby that is born after a loss (God's promise). In our family picture above, you can see that Chloe is always with us.
How can people get involved with Wings for Chloe?
If anyone wants to make a donation or wants to volunteer, they can contact us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or find us on Facebook and Instagram (search Wings for Chloe, Inc.), or visit our website.