- Associated Press - Sunday, January 29, 2017

LOGANSPORT, Ind. (AP) - His name was Griffin Huffman.

Nine years ago this month, he passed away at Riley Hospital for Children. He was 3 months old. His mother, Robin Huffman, struggled to cope. It seemed as if no one in her circle understood the depth of the grief she was feeling.

A little over two months later, the pain was still so strong, she wasn’t able to attend the visitation for an acquaintance who had just lost her newborn, too.

“I remember, you told me how you drove up to the funeral home and you couldn’t go in,” Mandy Hall said to Huffman recently.

Huffman nodded. “It was too raw for me to go,” she said.

The two knew each other through work - not well, but enough to know about Griffin and about Hall’s infant son, Connor. And one evening, they were both dining at Pizza Hut in Logansport when they both looked up.

“We just kind of locked eyes … she hugged me, and I cried,” Hall recalled. Later, at work, Hall brought a gift for Huffman.

“It was like, she just knew,” Huffman said.

That was the beginning of a friendship that grew to include several other bereaved mothers in the Cass County area who all sought solace and support from the only other people they believed could understand what they’ve been through.

THE SQUAD

Once a month, the “Mob Squad” - mothers of “baby angels” - gather to chat over dinner or crafts. Some of them don’t talk much. Others make jokes or tell stories. Some bring their “rainbow babies,” infants born after they’d lost a child.

They all have different stories, they said. Hall carried Connor to full term, but at his birth discovered a previously undiagnosed condition that ended his life after about an hour. Holly Felker’s son, Ezekiel, was stillborn about four months before his due date. Doctors could not diagnose why.

“I did everything they told me to do,” Felker recalled. “I was committed to being in that hospital bed for the next three months. And I made it 36 hours.”

Earlier, her friend Hollie Brown had lost a daughter, Emma, because of a heart defect so complicated “it couldn’t even be medically defined.” Emma lived for 48 hours, Brown said.

Brown began hanging out with Huffman, Hall and a few other women, seeking support.

Hall and Huffman had decided about four years ago to seek out other bereaved mothers and offer their support. Eventually, a group of five or six started getting together each month. They printed a brochure telling their stories and inviting more mothers to join them.

Huffman said bereaved mothers, like herself, “can go on existing, or you can go on living. I had a husband I needed to live for. If I wanted to have more children - I needed to go on living.”

And it helps, she said, to have others to help work through the grief.

“Four months out, everyone has gone on living,” she said. “You haven’t. That’s when you need it most.”

MAKING IT TOGETHER

Months after Felker’s son Ezekiel passed away, Brown invited her to visit the Mob Squad gathering.

“Holly was very hesitant though,” Brown recalled. “She was like, I’m not going to some support group.”

Felker agreed. “When you’ve lost a child, there are people who know - they act differently,” she said. “I didn’t want to come to a group that was going to be about death and sadness.”

And while the bond between the women is a bond born out of loss, they also bond over the common struggles they face. A big one is wrestling with matters of faith after bereavement.

“I didn’t want to pray,” Felker said. “It took me a good six months.”

And she’s still not fully reconciled, not “completely out of the hole,” Felker added. She’s not alone - to this day, Hall struggles to recite the Lord’s Prayer at Mass because of its close association with Connor.

Still, they and others said their Christian faith has played an important part in working through their grief.

“We’ve all come to the realization that we’ll see them again,” Huffman said.

They’ve also grown to celebrate what they had, not just grieve their loss.

CHERISHED MEMORIES

Huffman cherishes the legacy Griffin has had through annual blood drives at Columbia Elementary School, where Huffman teaches. Hall also helps at the blood drives.

Griffin has saved over a thousand lives,” Hall said.

Hall’s two sons, 7-year-old Cooper and 5-year-old Mason, know of their older brother Connor. “They talk about him all the time,” Hall said.

Brown’s family has learned that their daughter Emma’s impact spread farther than they imagined. “We got emails from people we didn’t even know, saying, we went back to church because of you,” Brown said.

Several of the women have teddy bears custom made in memory of their “baby angels.” The bears weigh the same as their infants’ weight at death or birth, depending on the circumstances, and take months to be made and delivered after they’re ordered - almost like an infant, the women said.

“As soon as I got him out of the box, it was instantly - you just put him on your hip,” Hall said of her “Connor-bear,” which has a Purdue logo sewn onto its chest.

And as far as these women are concerned, it’s OK if their friends don’t know what to say when their “baby angels’ ” birthdays roll around. It’s enough that they acknowledge them, they said.

“People need to know more than anything, we don’t want them to be forgotten,” Felker said of their “baby angels.”

“They were here, and they changed every part of us.”

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Source: (Logansport) Pharos-Tribune, https://bit.ly/2jeJji9

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Information from: Pharos-Tribune, https://www.pharostribune.com


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