I am an nurse at the University of Michigan Women’s Hospital and had the pleasure of working along side of Kelly during a very difficult, but somehow incredibly beautiful loss last week. Kelly, you are an amazing doula and incredible human being. Prior to my interaction with Kelly, I (as well as many of the nurses I work with) had no idea there was even such a thing as a doula that specialized in perinatal loss and bereavement.
I was incredibly impressed by everything I experienced working with Kelly and left work feeling like I needed every nurse I worked with to have the opportunity to see that THIS is what a loss could (and should) look like. It didn’t have to be a horrible, sterile, and depressing environment. It could be filled with family, and support, and BIRTH PLANS!! Who knew?! It made so much sense! And yet, in all of the losses I have ever cared for, this is the only one I left work thinking, “wow, that was really beautiful.”
-Nicole Minghine BSN, RN
I have had the pleasure of working with Kelly and her team with our patients who suffer the tragic news of a perinatal loss. I cannot begin to tell you how wonderful this service is to our patients and staff. Kelly has a gift, one that we as nurses, are unable to comprehend to the actual depth that Kelly does to provide that insight and gift to our patients.
We as nurses, tend to want to “protect” the patient from that emotional pain. We take the baby to bathe him or her, and get handprints/footprints and such. All tasks to us, and we do so, to prevent the mother from going through that pain. What we learned through Kelly is that we did, in fact, albeit unintentional, rip those memories away from the mother. The only memories she will have. That only time she will bathe her baby….we stole that from them, out of the goodness of our hearts.
THAT is what Kelly can do that no one else can. She has been there…she can provide that insight and foresight to our patients. She can get the patient who doesn’t want to hold their deceased baby to understand that this is a beautiful moment, this is normal, and it is ok to hold your baby. She enlightens them of her own journey, how she felt. This bond she develops with them is a beautiful one, and it is so strong, that they look to her for guidance, and she gives them that gift.
There is no one like Kelly and her wonderful team. They give a gift, in those short hours, which will change the perception and images burned for a lifetime into the minds of these families.
Sonya Vukadinovich RNC-OB
Women’s Center Manager, ProMedica Defiance Regional Hospital
I have been working with Kelly Gerken and Sufficient Grace Ministries Perinatal Loss Support Program for the past few years, she has been providing bereavement training for our staff as well as new nurses coming hired into OB. The care and compassion she and her staff provide to our moms and their babies goes beyond exceptional. Kelly’s work is amazing and genuine, she and her staff go above and beyond the call of duty.
Kelly is selfless and puts the needs of others in front of her own, she cares deeply about every patient and baby she encounters. She cares for mothers and their babies who need support emotionally and physically in a way that bedside nurses cannot always provide. She ensures these families have the best birth possible, given the circumstances surrounding it. Providing comfort, compassion, and presence is embodied not only in Kelly, but her staff as well.
Because of the service she provides, families grieving the loss of their sweet baby can be comforted and cared for during their most vulnerable time. Kelly supports these families during their birth to ensure they have the best experience possible in the limited moments they have with their sweet babies.
Kelly’s presence is like no other, her life’s mission comes from her own heartbreak and sorrow; she embodies courage, strength and resilience. She is an amazing person with an amazing mission, and we, at ProMedica, are extremely blessed to have her care for our most precious babies and their wonderful families.
-Beth Bortz, MSN/Ed, RNC-EFM, Lead OB Educator
ProMedica Health System
I am a Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist who works with many families during a very vulnerable period in their life, pregnancy. Unfortunately not every pregnancy is “Hallmark” quality. In my profession, I am often the person who is giving very unfortunate news to an extremely excited family who were hopeful for the blissful pregnancy they had always dreamed for. When a family is given a life-limiting diagnosis for their unborn child, they have many extremely difficult decisions to face. Decisions no one should have to make. Decisions that you may not know how to make unless you are in that exact situation at that time. Many of my patients have used Sufficient Grace Ministries (SGM) to help guide them through their often difficult and emotional journey. Every single family that has been blessed to have used SGM have given nothing short of exceptional reviews. SGM provides so many valuable tangible and intangible resources to these families. They provide them with insight to some of the most difficult decisions and moments: what to expect when their baby is born, what to expect when their baby passes away, what to expect in the days/weeks/months/years beyond that time. These are often things that families wouldn’t have otherwise thought of, it provides them time to think rationally about how they would like that particular part of their journey to go – making their difficult journey as enjoyable and as “blissful” as they once had envisioned. At the time of delivery, an SGM support person is there to provide all the support the family needs. There are often things that may come up that the family wasn’t prepared for and the support person can assist them in thinking through it or offering suggestions. The support person also takes many candid pictures of the baby and his/her family in a very unobtrusive and respectful way. This allows the family to enjoy their limited time with their child but also with a lifetime supply of memories that they will cherish forever (often keepsakes they would never have thought to have taken themselves).
The value of this organization is beyond words. I have referred at least 3 or 4 families to SGM in the past 6 months and though the conversation regarding a perinatal hospital organization is often initially met with much reservation, the ultimate response in the end is overwhelmingly positive and beyond appreciative. This makes my heart happy; as a physician, we are ingrained to heal and protect patients. In these situations we often can not heal or “fix” the condition but if we can help “heal and protect” on an emotional level by allowing these families to know they are not alone on their journey, we have done our job. We as medical professionals can not do this without the help of this wonderful organization. As they often say “it takes a village”.
I can not give a higher recommendation for Kelly Gerken and her organization. They all are selfless, beautiful souls. They have given so much of their time and energy to help so many families through a difficult journey, and they have done this with such grace. Please feel free to contact me should you have any questions or concerns regarding this recommendation.
-Elizabeth Moore, DO
As a labor and delivery nurse I have called upon their services twice for full term losses. The support and care they give to the families in their time of tremendous loss is astounding. I will use them again!
Families Served by SGM
“When my son passed away in December of 2018, I did not know what to expect. I was afraid my experience as a new mother would be tainted because I wouldn’t have proper time with him. Although after his passing, we were offered a Caring Cradle which allowed our son to physically be in our room with us until we were discharged. This cradle gave me the chance to bond with my child and mourn his loss at the same time. It gave me such a comfort & reassurance throughout the nights we stayed and helped the father of my child and I to cope. It allowed time for family members to meet him, and for many pictures. I felt as if we got to experience more than expected with my son and I now couldn’t imagine going without it. Even though our time was short, it was precious and every extra minute I was able to spend with him was a blessing. The memories and emotions formed during that time are everlasting, and I am extremely grateful this resource was available to my family and I. To Kelly (from Sufficient Grace) Kelly, we would just like to send an extra special thank you to you! You captured some of our favorite moments of our lives and they are such beautiful pictures. We cannot express it enough. Our teddy bear has been so comforting for us and we are just so grateful to have all the little mementos. It was such an important part of our healing process and honestly I don’t think we would be as well off as we are without it! You are so amazing and one day I hope I can leave a lasting effect on others’ lives as you do.”
-Emmanuella Donald, Jamai’s Mommy
“On November 12, 2017 my baby girl, Arya, was born silently into the world. She was absolutely perfect. Arya suffered from a fatal defect called anencephaly Thankfully I had my amazing coworkers, family, and an amazing ministry, Sufficient Grace, who stood behind me and helped to celebrate my girl. When I first told my son about his sister’s condition he was so upset, but eventually he understood and had peace in knowing she would be with the Lord. Throughout my pregnancy, Arya continued to fight and was so strong. I would lay in bed and tell her how much she was loved and wanted. I would pray over her and just ask God to please allow me more time with my little one. Then at 27 weeks I stopped feeling her move. I went to the hospital just to make sure she was okay but they told me she no longer had a heartbeat. I was devastated but thankful God had given me that long to bond with her. Her delivery was so peaceful and I got to spend three days in the hospital with her thanks to the Cuddle Cot that was borrowed from Sufficient Grace Ministry. Thanks to them I was able to make memories with my daughter as well as be a mama to her in the ways I knew how even though she had went to be with God. Had I not had the support that I did through her journey I don’t know that I would be in the same place I am today. They helped get me to a peaceful and hopeful state despite my hurt and heartache. I don’t regret my decision for life. To show my daughter unconditional love and to show my son that all life is important no matter the diagnosis. I hope Arya’s story can help someone else facing this heartbreaking time to know they aren’t alone and that choosing life leaves no regret.”
-Brittany Lacourse, Arya’s Mommy
Kelly Gerken of Sufficient Grace Ministries — the service that their ministry provides families in such an unthinkable time is truly amazing. ProMedica is beyond lucky to have SGM as a partner for infant loss/neonatal loss.
I just wanted to write and say thank you for everything over the past few weeks. Our family has felt so loved and remembered as we have walked through this journey. Your story has encouraged me and provided a beacon of hope in such a dark time. Every detail from the first meeting, to bracelets, to the bears that were provided for us felt so intentional and so valuable to us. We were so thankful for Ashli and Melissa and the hours they put in with us and the love, care and attention they provided. All of it was so noticed and just what our hearts needed for the births of our boys. So from the bottom of my heart I just wanted to say thank you.
SGM was a saving grace when I learned I had an ectopic pregnancy . Sasha was so amazing and has continued to be. I’m so thankful we got to see our little girl.
The next hours blurred into the next day when a c-section was planned. I was referred to SGM through a friend. Nicole talked with us the night before and was present throughout the day of our delivery. SMG provided services and support that I would not have gotten otherwise. Photography, cuddle cot, foot prints, information, support group and the list goes on.
Because of SMG and Nicole I got to mother my precious daughter. I got to bath her. Take care of her. Provider her with tender love that I would not have given her otherwise. SGM is an invaluable service for our communities and the families they provide for.
They are a gift from God.”
The initial ultrasound showed a small bleed, but a healthy baby with a slightly elevated fetal HR in the 190s. I was elated that there was a heartbeat but a little concerned with how high it was. I was still having terrible cramping, abdominal pain and the bleeding was getting worse. My heart rate and temp were also elevated and my BP was decreasing. My parents ended up going to my house to watch our son so that my husband could come in.
A physician was in my room evaluating to rule out appendicitis and was pressing on my belly. I felt a “pop” in my belly and was immediately concerned. I went to sit up in bed and fluid rushed out. I told them my water had broken and they told me to calm down, we didn’t know that for sure. A few minutes later, the baby was born at 11 weeks 2 days. I was hysterical and inconsolable. We had lost our baby. I was very sick and spent the next couple days in the hospital. I posted to my facebook friends asking for prayers and I was not handling the loss very well. A friend asked if she could reach out to Nicole with SGM and I said yes.
Nicole came to visit me in the hospital and brought lots of keepsakes like a memory box, tea, feminine essentials, a teddy bear, and various written materials. I can’t put into words how helpful Nicole was. She helped make our baby’s memory real and helped get me through an incredibly dark time. We had done Counsyl testing and found out a few days later that we had a little girl. We buried our baby in a special place and she is forever in our hearts. I am forever grateful to Nicole for her help and compassion.”
“March 21, 2019 will forever be etched in our hearts and memories.Camri Faith was our little surprise and our 4th child. On this date we went to the ultrasound visit hoping that the baby would cooperate and we would know what we were having. We were so excited we had 2 of our 3 children with us so they could see their new sister or brother. We instead were struck with the words “ I’m sorry but there is no heartbeat or blood flow.”
The next few hours were a blur. I was admitted to the hospital and induced to endure the labor of my precious baby that was already in heaven with our Lord.
I delivered her on March 22nd after 10 hours of labor.
That day is the day we met Nicole Fortune with SGM. We had no idea what we were doing. Who knows how to plan and deal with the death of your baby?
Nicole was the answer to our prayers in this very, very dark time. She sat with us, cried with us and it was someone who knew first hand what we were experiencing.
She and the photographer took our little girl and dressed her and took amazing photos for us to have and cherish.
SGM is a ministry truly from God, our Father. No one can endure this tragic loss without the help of those who know what it’s like to lose a baby and can support you through the process. My husband and I were clueless as to what needed done and Nicole stepped in and took care of our every need. From taking care of Camri to calling the funeral home to come and get her.
No words can ever express how truly blessed we were by this ministry and they love they provided us. No other ministry deserves the support as much as SGM.
This grief is brutal and I pray every day that no other mommy and daddy’s have to endure this bone crushing grief but unfortunately, there are many that do. To have this ministry is a gift from God to see loss families through.
Thank you SGM and specifically Nicole! We love you and you will forever be a part of our hearts.”
“I wish no one had the need to know what Sufficient Grace Ministries is and what they do. I, like many others, learned about SGM during the darkest time of my life.
On April 6, 2018, I heard the four worst words of my life, ” Sorry, there’s no heartbeat.” This was also the day I learned about SGM, and I am blessed I was connected with this organization.
On April 9, 2018, I delivered my 20 week baby boy, Henry Jaxon. This was also the day I met Nicole Fortune, our comfort doula from SGM. Nicole was there for our every need, she called the funeral home for us to find out our options, she answered questions we had, and if she didn’t know she found out, she made sure they ordered me a dinner tray so I could eat after delivery. Thanks to Nicole, my baby got a bath, he was placed in a handmade wrap, he got handprints and footprints, we both received matching bracelets and bears, and beautiful pictures taken by Jen Miller. Most importantly, thanks to SGM, I received time with my baby. My baby’s skin was deteriorating quickly and thanks to the cooling cot, I was able to keep him with me in my hospital room until the next day, when I was discharged and the funeral home came and picked up my baby.
We are forever grateful for everything SGM did for me and my family. Sufficient Grace Ministries changed my story for the better, and I hope they will continue to do so for other families in similar situations. I believe my husband said it best when he told Nicole, ‘ Thank you for providing dignity in our son’s death.'”
From the Hearts of Families Who Received Dreams of You Comfort Resources
I am still inspired by your ministry and will always be grateful as a recipient of a Dreams of You Memory Package. It was special for you to have added special touches of Josiah’s life. his life lives on in the memories of all those that met him…Keep on keeping on with the gift God has given you to minister to women. God bless you.
~ Lisa, Virginia
The nurses at St. Luke’s gave us the memory book you made. Thank you so much, Kelly…You will never know how much we appreciate this. At a time of great sorrow and pain, I have found great comfort in knowing that others care…the book you made reflects this. May you always know your kindness towards strangers at a time of great sadness, is a powerful and comforting thing.
~ Erica, Ohio
I ordered a memory book from you a few weeks ago. I just wanted to say thank you so much…I love it. It’s absolutely perfect and something that we’ll cherish forever.
~ Janelle, Ohio
The book is beautiful and we will treasure it forever. The kindness of strangers has been a wonderful blessing through our tragic loss. May God bless you and the work you do.
I received both the Dreams of You memory book and the Comfort Bear from Kelly. I felt very blessed to receive such wonderful keepsakes. I sleep with the comfort bear every night and hold it tight. Holding the bear makes me think about my daughter before I go to sleep and in some way I feel like I am giving her a hug. I am so thankful that Kelly created her memory book. The pages and cover are so beautiful and of better quality than a tiny memory book I already had. It is a wonderful book to write down the memories of my daughter to remember her. I am grateful that Kelly provides both of these to grieving parents.
~ Holly, Ohio
Sufficient Grace Ministries has been a true blessing to me. It showers women with compassion. I came across this ministry shortly after the loss of my precious son, Isaiah. I have really been able to thoroughly dig deep into every detail of my loss.
I have found hope through Kelly’s words. I can feel the love that she displays on the pages of her blog. She has a real love for people, and continually encourages others through her faith in our God. I believe that God has placed His hand on Sufficient Grace Ministries, and is pouring blessings upon it. Kelly is fulfilling her calling. I will continue to follow this ministry, because of the truth that this ministry is built on….. God’s Sufficient Grace.
Thank you Kelly. For your time, love and heart.
Thank you so much for sending me the Comfort Bear, and Dreams of You book. The tears were just rolling down when I opened the box(es), they are beautiful. I cannot express enough thanks. The poems/scripture are so comforting and perfect.
~ Ramona, Canada
Thank you so much for sending me the things for my daughter!! I really love the bracelets and the book…Thank you again for your wonderful ministry!!!
I just wanted to thank you for your ministry. And the package you sent my friend. I messaged her to let her know it was coming.. We had an exchange on FB today, she said I could share it:
“Got my package Saturday night – felt like the earth shook a bit. It was EXACTLY what I needed.”
And, when I asked if I could share, she elaborated some:
“PLEASE do! I have a little box to put Bodhi’s things in but he hardly has any things, and that box just makes me cry that it’s so empty. The book is EXACTLY what I needed – we have tons of things for him – maybe not onesies or pictures of him, but wishes, dreams, regrets… REAL things that don’t go in boxes. The bear is so touching too. He’s been sitting on our bed between our pillows and will probably stay there a long time. “
~ Kathryn, Washington
I just wanted to thank you for this website (and your blog) I can see that God is using your experiences to reach people like me who are hurting and it’s a blessing to know that there are others out there who know the depth of this grief.
I received the bear and books today. I was so surprised at how beautiful they were! Thank you so much…What a wonderful legacy your mother left in the making of the bears…Thank you so very much for laying at Jesus feet and letting your life be used in such a worthy manner.
I was very thankful to have received your memory book from the hospital…Your words and poems in that book have comforted me so much. Thank you.
~ Danielle, Ohio
The grief is something so much more than I ever imagined it to be. I just wanted to thank you for sharing your stories and analogies. The one about being in the ocean learning to swim, is really so true…I am just trying to keep my head up above the waves. You have offered hope, some days the one thing that gets me through, is reminding myself that others have walked and are currently walking this journey.
First off I want to say thank you a million times. I received the package this morning, and it has brightened my whole day. I did not even expect it until I was running out of the door to go re-fill my prescription when I almost stumbled over it. I was almost confused at first it being so big! My bf thought I was crazy, he said I looked like I was 5 again on Christmas morning:) I was very exited. I love everything! The bear is perfect, and the Memory Book even better. I almost don’t want to write in it because it is so perfect!
….Again, Thank you Kelly. You have fulfilled one of my dreams for my child. And I feel blessed to have received a gift in your children’s memory, I know my child will be welcomed into the arms of yours. Thank you again.