INDIANAPOLIS — It was 2018 when the excitement of Jessie Lindsey’s first pregnancy turned into heartache.

“I went in for a stress test on Christmas Eve, and I found out that my daughter had no heartbeat,” said Lindsey. “Christmas morning, I delivered her at 38 and a half weeks. So, she was considered full-term.”

Lindsey’s daughter was born still, becoming part of the nearly 24,000 that happen every year in the U.S.

“I didn’t really cope with my grief at all for two and a half years,” she said, “Honestly, I felt alone. I mean, it’s something that people don’t talk about.”

Rebekah Delaney leads Pathways to Hope, a bereavement program at the Riley Maternity Tower inside Riley Hospital. Through that, she works directly with mothers and families, who’ve experienced perinatal or infant loss.

“Sometimes it’s right at the time of finding out, sometimes it’s right at the bedside,” said Delaney. “There’s no handbook that tells you what to expect when you have a loss. There is no guide.”

In her experience working with families, Delaney said it’s common for women to feel as if they are by themselves in their grief.

“It is a very isolating experience,” said Delaney, “I know many, many moms I work with feel very alone.”

That’s one of the main elements Delaney hopes to combat. October is Perinatal and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and statistics are shining a light on the impacts, especially when it comes to the life of the mother and her family.

Indiana already charts among the highest in infant and maternal mortality. With perinatal and infant loss, Delaney said the experience can increase a mother’s risk of suicide and mental health-related impacts, which are named as leading causes in maternal deaths.

“Perinatal and infant loss increases a mother’s risk of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide,” she said. “This makes bereavement support not optional, this is imperative.”

When it comes to support, Pathways to Hope offers a variety of resources for bereaved families, including assistance with funeral costs and services, counseling and other support that helps families connect with, honor and memorialize their baby.

However, one of the biggest resources, Delaney said, is making sure mothers, families are surrounded by a network of love and community. Delaney said family members and friends can help simply by being present, letting them know you are there, and stepping up to help them along their journey.

“After going through trauma, you don’t even know how to take your next breath. You forget to function as a normal human being,” said Delaney, “and saying ‘let me know how I can help you’ is not meaningful. It is not helpful.”

Delaney recommends helping by starting a meal train with friends or family, take turns delivering groceries, gift cards, gas cards, anything that can help make that person’s life a little bit easier.

“A lot of people forget that after loss, a family still needs paper towels and toilet paper,” she said. “There still are necessities in life, and it’s really hard going to the grocery store because you see triggers everywhere, you hear babies crying, you see pregnant women, and the initial reaction of a bereaved mom is to want to walk out.”

Lindsey said it’s also important that family and friends be patient with bereaved parents as there is no time limit on grief.

“Be kind, don’t set expectations on them,” Lindsey said. “Show up for them, and if you can’t physically be there, text them and say ‘I’m thinking about you, I love you.’”

“Do not exclude them and take away their decision,” she added. “If you’re having an event, or have news that you want to share, let them decide whether they can handle that or not.”

In Lindsey’s journey, she said she’s in a better space, but she credits that to the support groups, consistent therapy and strong relationships with loved ones.

“I am in a very healthy place today in my life,” she said. “I have a job that I love. I have a husband that is wonderful, and I have two great puppies. Hopefully we will expand our family soon and take that journey, and hopefully the outcome is much different this time”

For families, who may be new to navigating their grief, Lindsey said it’s important they find community among those, like her, who’ve experienced similar heartache.

“There are mothers out there, fathers included, that are dealing with the same loss, the same hurt, that can relate to them,” she said. “Find that community, whether it’s through a church, whether it’s through a support group, whether it’s through a hospital-facilitated group, and join it so you can support, and love, and encourage one another.”

On Saturday, Pathways to Hope will host its inaugural Light the Night event. Organizers encourage families to come and honor their babies together during a candlelight memorial along the canal. Registration is free and is open through 10 a.m. Saturday.

Organizers are also taking donations for the Pathways program, which will help support the numerous services it provides to bereaved families. Delaney said the goal is to raise $10,000 during Saturday’s event.