A room used to provide comfort and hope to grieving parents and families
Six months into her pregnancy, on January 24, 2012, Berkley Wellstein noticed a loss of movement from her baby, Jane. With her husband, Bob, Berkley went to the hospital, where it was confirmed that Jane had died; she was stillborn the next day. Although the general labor and delivery waiting room is typically a place to rejoice over new life, the Wellsteins were experiencing only shock and grief, while families nearby celebrated new birth in the same space.
This uncomfortable arrangement—anguish and elation on adjacent couches—inspired Berkley and Bob to imagine a different experience for grieving families. Out of their great loss, the Wellsteins created a nonprofit called Jane’s Room Foundation, named after their beloved daughter. The foundation’s Rooms of Respite program partners with hospital to create “Jane’s Rooms,” private, comforting areas of respite in the hospital— separate from the general waiting room—for families experiencing loss.
“When a family experiences the loss of a child, it’s easy to feel like you’re the only person in the world who knows this pain,” says Bob Wellstein. “Our hope is that, through these rooms, families will realize that they are not alone. The community of those who have experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth is one that no one wants to be a part of, but—as we discovered— it is tragically large.”
When the Jane’s Room Foundation began looking for a place in Michigan to bring one of these special spaces, Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital was selected due to its high volume—more than 7,500 babies born on site every year—and their shared desire to provide compassionate care for families experiencing the loss of a child, often at a time when they are expecting great joy, not deep grief.
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Conversations between Jane’s Room and Spectrum Health Foundation began in late 2018, with a site visit in 2019. Due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, a process that normally takes 12 to 18 months took more than three years. A virtual ribbon cutting took place in January 2022, and the Jane’s Room at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital—the 13th space the foundation has funded—is now operational and available for families to use when the circumstances arise.
“Hospitals do a great job of supporting and caring for families on the positive side,” says Wellstein. “Jane's Rooms are a source of comfort for grieving families when things don’t turn out the way they had hoped.”
Spectrum Health is committed to caring for patients and families at all ages and stages of life, from beginning to end. While all measures are taken to welcome and care for new babies as they are born, sometimes there are conditions and challenges too great to overcome, and a family experiences what is universally understood to be the greatest loss: the death of a child. At those times, our efforts shift to the provision of sensitive and compassionate bereavement services to comfort families in this time of heartbreaking loss. We hope that Jane’s Room—a special and sacred space—will be a place where family members can privately encourage and support each other, find the strength and courage to leave the hospital without their precious and expected child, and begin their healing journey.
In addition to providing grieving families with the special space they need to start the healing process, Spectrum Health offers other bereavement services to support families during this difficult time. All of the following services have been supported or made possible by philanthropy.
Handprint moldings—These models, cast from the baby’s and parents’ hands, are a precious keepsake for families.
Heartbeat recordings—If a heartbeat has been previously recorded, our team from the Edward and June Prein Family Pediatric Music Therapy Program can set it to music to serve as an audible memento of a child’s brief life.
Sleeping Angels—This endowment, established by a Spectrum Health family whose triplets died at birth, aids with unexpected funeral costs.
CuddleCots—This discreet cooling
device preserves the baby’s body,
allowing the family to spend precious
time with their child.
Feel free to reach out for more information about grief resources