After stillborn delivery, South Elgin woman moved to help others

 
 
Updated 11/9/2018 6:22 PM
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  • Kelsey Funk, 28, of South Elgin delivered a stillborn baby boy, Nio, in October 2017 and recently formed the group "Peace through Pain" to help other women through trauma. She is pictured here with her daughter Luna Segura, 3, her son Nio's urn, and one of the "love bags" the group donates.

      Kelsey Funk, 28, of South Elgin delivered a stillborn baby boy, Nio, in October 2017 and recently formed the group "Peace through Pain" to help other women through trauma. She is pictured here with her daughter Luna Segura, 3, her son Nio's urn, and one of the "love bags" the group donates. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

Giving birth to a stillborn baby boy at 34 weeks so profoundly affected a South Elgin woman's life that she is now studying to become a nurse midwife and has started a group to help women going through trauma.

No parent is prepared for the anguish of losing a child, said 28-year-old Kelsey Funk, who delivered baby Nio in October 2017. She and her husband have a son, 9, and a daughter, 3.

"It's not something that anybody can really help you through," she said. "Just kind of knowing that I had people that loved me was important to me."

Three months after Nio's delivery she quit her insurance job to study nursing at Elgin Community College. As the anniversary of his delivery approached, she decided she wanted to start a nonprofit. The board of the newly formed "Pace through Pain" group comprises Funk, her cousin Kristen Kremitzski of Aurora, and her friend Joy Symonds of Elgin.

Friends had already asked her to talk to other mothers who lost children, and she found herself wanting to do more, Funk said.

"I kind of wanted to be somebody that can give back in general to women who are going through things, not necessarily just women who are losing a child," she said. "Eventually I hope to branch out and help fathers."

The group is applying for state and federal nonprofit status and already donated 15 "love bags" -- containing self-care items like bath "bombs," salt scrubs, lotions, manicure supplies and leggings -- to Advocate Sherman Hospital for women dealing with pregnancy loss.

A synagogue in Aurora pledged to donate about 60 love bags in January, and the plan is to donate them to the Community Crisis Center in Elgin, Funk said. Future initiatives will help sexual assault victims and women suffering from postpartum depression, she said.

"Anything that really might be impacting a woman's mental health, we want to make sure we can be there to give them a little boost," she said.

Advocate Sherman nurse Gia Vandiver, who coordinates the hospital's bereavement services, said watching Funk deliver in person a love bag to a grieving mom "was absolutely beautiful to see."

"I thought, 'What an amazing gift,'" she said. "What an amazing huge hug to give to these moms who are going through a difficult experience."

It's hard to describe the trauma of losing a child, said Vandiver, who said she suffered six miscarriages before having her two children.

"If it's the 12-weeker or the 39-weeker, it's really upsetting to the family," she said. "And for the nurses, it's hard for us to take care of them. We're all emotional and compassionate."

Doing her own self-care after she lost Nio really helped, Funk said.

"It sounds so silly, but I would take baths, do face masks," she said. "I would just try to go a little extra mile to make myself feel physically better, because at the end of the day, it would mentally make me feel better."

The approach also helped her son, Funk said.

"He struggled with losing his brother," she said. "It was really cute; we would do face masks together. It helped bring him and I together, and it helped him feel better."

The response to Peace through Pain has been overwhelmingly positive in a very short time, Symonds said.

"The idea is that when you're going through a crisis, the last thing you think about is taking care of yourself because you're trying to confront trauma," Symonds said. "The more you do self-care, the easier it is to build that resilience."

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