Reva and Danny Judas of Teaneck were away from home when their newborn son died suddenly. He lived only 12 hours. No one knew what do. “I was in shock, devastated. My father is a rabbi, but this was never something that was covered in his training,” Ms. Judas said. Together, Reva and Danny navigated the difficult choices of choosing a name for the baby and arranging for burial. Then they returned home to grieve alone.
That was 32 years ago, but not enough has changed, Ms. Judas said, so she did something about it. NechamaComfort, the organization she founded, is dedicated to helping families navigate the trauma of pregnancy or early infant loss. During October, which is National Infant/Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month, NechamaComfort makes a special effort to educate communities about the services they offer.
“Every case we deal with is unique and each is tragic,” Ms. Judas said. Many families reach out about losses that happened years ago. Sometimes, they ask for help to find out where their babies are buried. “It is a misconception that Jewish law prohibits families from knowing the location of the grave. I’m sure it was meant to protect the family, but people don’t realize how families suffer, wishing they could visit the grave,” she said.
NechamaComfort’s main focus is on helping parents and families directly affected by loss; it runs support groups and a hotline for them. It also teaches; when communities are educated about loss and how to support a grieving family, they feel empowered to offer help and families do not feel so isolated. Professional training for medical staff and clergy fills the gaps left by traditional curricula that gives little attention to how to handle these situations.
Sharon Barth, a mental health professional who recently joined the team, helps staff the hotline and run support groups. “People who never had a chance to grieve for their babies come to us every week,. They are so thankful there is a place for them to talk about what happened — a place where people understand that no matter how much time has passed, they still hold their baby in their heart,” she said.
NechamaComfort runs support groups in four locations in the metropolitan area — Teaneck, Riverdale, Cedarhurst, and West Hempstead.. “Our long-term goal is to train facilitators so that every Jewish community can have local resources to support families,” Ms. Judas said. NechamaComfort also consults with clients by phone, text, and email all over the world.
NechamaComfort has helped hundreds of families across dozens of communities, but “the more we do, the more communities reach out to us for help,” Ms. Judas said. “Calls for our services have tripled in the last year. We need to grow faster to meet the growing need.”
NechamaComfort will bring its message to its annual dinner on December 7 at the New York Hall of Science. For information about its meetings or the dinner, go to nechamacomfort.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (833) NECHAMA. It’s on Instagram and Facebook at nechamacomfort.