Filling silence with the sweetest sound

Words can’t do justice to the pain that is felt by families who experience losing a child. In the halls of UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital, a new initiative is underway to help provide additional solace to families grappling with the grief that accompanies such circumstances.

Through the Angel Heartbeat Bear program, each stuffed animal contains a 20-second recording of their child’s heartbeat to serve as a tangible connection to their lost loved ones.

Alix Stovall, who serves as a Child Life specialist in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at the children’s hospital, uses a variety of memory-making strategies during bereavements. Now, the heartbeat bears will be another source of comfort Stovall and others can offer families.

Thanks to generous support from Children’s Miracle Network Hospital donors and partners, heartbeat bears are presented to families and siblings affected by the loss of a child at the children’s hospital.

“There is a special level of comfort provided through the stuffed animal and an actual recording of their child’s heartbeat,” Stovall said. “One way that I feel they make the biggest impact is for siblings involved in bereavements. In my experience, the footprints and molds provided are so special for parents, but there aren’t many memory-making options that are able to be provided to a sibling.”

In the face of such heartbreaking circumstances, heartbeat bears help fill the silence with the sweetest sound and serve as symbol of empathy and support for grieving families.

“Seeing a young child get to have a comfort item, that will forever hold a piece of their sibling, is such a gift. While the heartbeat bears can be utilized in different ways during bereavement, I think sibling interactions are my favorite of them all.”