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Meet Martha McGeehon

Today we’d like to introduce you to Martha McGeehon.

Hi Martha, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
On April 23, 2018, I became a mom of 2. Two beautiful little girls. Life was beautiful and chaotic but we were settling into life with a two-year-old and an infant. On April 14, 2018, just 16 weeks after we became a family of 4 our lives changed forever. I dropped Everly, the baby, off at the sitters and went to work, just as I had done for the last month. Then at 2:30 my phone rang it was the sitter. I thought “well this is odd she never calls me even when the kids are sick she usually just texts me” so I quickly answered the phone. All I heard over and over was “Martha, I am so sorry something has happened to the baby. She isn’t waking up! Martha, I am so sorry.” I quickly ran upstairs to the bedroom where Nick was and couldn’t speak. I just handed him the phone. Over the course of the next few minutes, we learned she was on her way to the ER. We grabbed our things, ran out the door and drove down the highway faster than we want to admit. We pulled up in front, Nick threw his keys at the valet and I ran to the desk inside. We had arrived before the ambulance and were escorted to a small room off the waiting room and left alone with no information. I kept repeating over and over in my head “she is going to be fine, the paramedics surely have gotten her to wake up.”

At this point– time became a blur and we really have no idea how long anything took– but after an initial conversation with a chaplain and a doctor who simply told us “your daughter is very sick” we were taken back to see her. As we walked down the hall the first thing I remember seeing was a police officer in tears and my heart began to sink. We turned the corner into her room. All I could see were the doctors and nurses working on her and the top of her head but my heart knew right then she was gone. Within moments of us arriving they made one last attempt to shock her heart before ending CPR and calling it. The doctors and nurses unhooked her from all the machines, wrapped her up and handed her to us and one by one left the room. We were once again alone, but this time there were no hopeful thoughts our baby girl was gone. Over the course of the next few days we learned that the sitter had put Everly down for her afternoon nap and she just never woke up. We walked out of the hospital shattered and broken. We had no idea how to navigate this journey of bereaved parents.

The days that followed were a blur with only bits and pieces of memories but slowly we began to piece together our new reality. We have found ways to honor our sweet Everly. Her pictures still hang on our walls, we created a butterfly garden in her memory in our yard and we talk about her often. On our first Thanksgiving without her we took breakfast to the first responders that were with her that day. On Christmas, we asked our friends and family to do an act of kindness in her name and send us notes and pictures. We filled her stocking with the letters and then opened them together over Christmas dinner. On her birthday we have cake and light a candle just for her.

We also quickly learned that our story was not unique. Far too many babies die before they should and the systems that we thought should be there to support us just didn’t exist. About 9 months after Everly died we met another couple, Ben and Lara Gilham, Jackson’s parents and learned the experience they had following the unexpected and tragic death of their son was very similar. Both of us left the hospital with no real support or resources to help guide our journey and put the pieces of our lives back together. After a few late night discussions, we decided it didn’t have to be this way. We could be the change and offer the resources and support that we so desperately needed and couldn’t find so together we founded Just Enduring: Living and Loving After Child Loss. Our mission is to provide grief support to families and those who are close to the families who suffer the tragic death of a child. The organization is still young but through our website, we are already able to provide families with resources to guide them in the early days of grief as well as along the way and we have been able to connect parents in an effort to minimize the isolation and loneliness that being a bereaved parent brings.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
We received our official 501c3 status in February of 2020 with big dreams to hit the ground running with our programming. We all know what happened shortly after that so we have had to pivot some with how we connect parents together. We had originally envisioned parents connecting over dinner or at events and instead we are doing much more connecting via zoom or email. We have been able to use this time to really focus on our website development and the resources we can offer families.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I think what sets Just Enduring apart from other bereaved parent organizations is two things. 1 we really want our website to be a “one stop shop” so to speak both for parents and those that care about bereaved parents. While you can certainly find resources of planning a funeral or information on grief with a simple google search our goal is to make it as easily accessible as possible in one place. The days and weeks that follow the death of your child are incredibly difficult to navigate and we want to make that just a little easier by offering as many resources in one place as we possibly can. The other thing that sets us apart is our “A Parent Like You” program. This is our program where we match bereaved parents with parents who have experienced a similar loss or are walking their grief journey on a similar timeline. Being a bereaved parent is extremely lonely and this program gives newly bereaved families at least one connection who truly understands what they are going through and can be a source of hope and empathy.

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Danielle Beck

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