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updated: 6/9/2018 6:59 PM

Butterfly release provides fellowship for grieving parents

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  • Brad Bilotta of Buffalo Grove helps his 10-year-old son Braden and 7-year-old daughter Caelen release a painted lady butterfly at Northwest Community Hospital's annual event honoring the memory of babies who died.

      Brad Bilotta of Buffalo Grove helps his 10-year-old son Braden and 7-year-old daughter Caelen release a painted lady butterfly at Northwest Community Hospital's annual event honoring the memory of babies who died.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Families who've lost babies attend the 15th annual Northwest Community Hospital Renew Through Sharing butterfly release Saturday to celebrate the memory of the children.

      Families who've lost babies attend the 15th annual Northwest Community Hospital Renew Through Sharing butterfly release Saturday to celebrate the memory of the children.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
 

Inside each tiny purple envelope is the delicate embodiment of a life never lived.

A butterfly is in there, representing the memory of a child whose parents have never forgotten all the hopes and dreams they imagined for a son or daughter they will never know.

Gently and tenderly the envelopes are unsealed, and the butterflies are coaxed from the comforts of these paper wombs.

They emerge to tears frequently, spreading their wings then flitting away from hands that only held them for a short time.

For 15 years, Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights has staged this remembrance for babies who were stillborn, miscarried or didn't survive premature births with a butterfly release. It falls sometime between Mother's Day and Father's Day each year because "that's usually the hardest time for these parents," explained Perinatal Palliative Care Coordinator Jill Kottmeier.

In the midst of this sadness though, there is fellowship. These parents coalesce in their grief.

"It is a sad event and you do get emotional, but that's good because you get to remember your child with everyone else here who understands what you've gone through," said Kelly Gurvis of Mundelein. "There is something to having a shared experience that helps in the coping."

A butterfly release is held each year at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights that allows parents of babies who were stillborn, miscarried or succumbed after a premature birth to gather, reflect and grieve together.
  A butterfly release is held each year at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights that allows parents of babies who were stillborn, miscarried or succumbed after a premature birth to gather, reflect and grieve together. - Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

Gurvis' son, Liam Anthony, was born several months premature in November 2016 at Northwest Community. He weighed just 1 pound. It would be more than a day before Gurvis could see him again. Liam survived another two. Gurvis wears his ashes in a butterfly-shaped pendant on a necklace that drapes down just far enough to rest over her heart.

Twice a year, the hospital hosts gatherings for parents whose babies have died. Officials preach the power of grieving together.

"This isn't something that goes away; it's something you incorporate into your life," said hospital chaplain Janet Frystak.

In 2005, Carrie Piccolo was days away from becoming a mom, but the Rolling Meadows woman woke up one December morning and didn't feel the baby girl inside her moving anymore. She was rushed to Northwest Community Hospital. A week from her due date, Piccolo's daughter Giovannia was stillborn.

She and her husband, Vince, have been attending the hospital's remembrance events ever since. For the last 10 years, the couple has brought their son Vinny and daughter Isabelle -- who were born after Giovannia's death -- with them.

The event is flooded with the laughter, crying or general cacophony of children. In fact, many of the butterflies are released by the would-be younger siblings of those being honored.

"It's important for us and our kids to be here for these days," Carrie Piccolo said. "She's still part of my life, she's part of our lives, even though she's not here."

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