With the loss of a child, parents suffer an all-too-sudden end to the story, and are left grieving for what might have been. For Sherri Horvat, experiencing that anguish firsthand has taken her to a place where she has made it her life’s work to bring a sense of peace to others suffering as she and her family did.
Founded after the 2009 death of her daughter, Gianna Lynne, Horvat said it is the mission of Gianna’s Light to bring comfort and hope to families who have suffered the loss of their baby.
Currently in preparations for the 3rd Annual Candlelight Memorial for National Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day, Horvat shared that “the goal of this day is to not only remember our babies lost to miscarriage, stillbirth, ectopic pregnancy and neonatal death, but to let others know that they are not alone and do not have to suffer this unimaginable tragedy in silence.”
A celebration of the miracle of babies with music and community, the memorial will be held Saturday, Oct. 15 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm on the Green in Canfield, where, a lighting of candles from 7 to 8 p.m. will join participants in the worldwide Wave of Light happening in all time zones, all around the world, to bring awareness to this tragedy and to bring families together.
Sharing that they will be reading the names of each baby aloud and lighting luminaries in their memory, Horvat asked that anyone interested in having their baby included please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and include their baby’s name, their name, and the baby’s date of birth and date of death.
In addition to celebrating the babies and the positive impact they brought to the lives of their parents, Horvat said they will be highlighting the incredible work parents are doing in honor of their little ones.
“Whether it is volunteering, helping pass legislation, reaching out to other familes, collecting donations, let us know about it,” she said.
Sharing that she had been thinking that it might be time for the event to evolve and change, Horvat said she is now realizing that it was only because her own grief had changed.
After speaking to families about their likes and dislikes about the event, she said everyone wanted it to remain exactly how it has been. For instance, “I thought that calling the families up by name to light their baby's candles was somehow indulgent on my part, but the families really like that part - it's one of the few times they get to be recognized as the babies' parents,” said Horvat, adding that they love the lighting of the luminaries also. “One mom of triplets told me how much she loves this event because she never got to have a funeral for her babies, so this is her way of remembering and honoring them.”
“I originally modeled what we do based on how I was feeling in those months after Gianna died,” said Horvat, going on to explain that what she needed to do to was to grieve her own baby and give others a chance to do the same. “It was about getting the names said aloud, it was about being recognized as parents, and it was about coming together with other families who knew your pain,” she said, adding that she’s realized that's still what it's about.
Horvat said she hopes families whose pain is fresh can "look at us and hopefully know that the pain will ease, but that their baby will always be with them. And maybe they will find ways to reach out and help others heal,” she said.
Gianna's Light also provides black ribbons with crystal hearts to hospitals locally, and around the world to distribute to grieving families. Currently in 29 states, Canada and Australia, Horvat shared that more than 1,000 ribbons have been distributed to date, and that she would love to have ribbons in every hospital in every state. Handmade in her kitchen, the ribbons give the families something to wear, as an outward sign of their grief and are also attached to a card that provides them direct links to families who have suffered the same tragedy.
“We get so much support locally, it really is wonderful,” said Horvat, adding that “for many families, this is the first event they will attend for their baby, and it's very powerful and humbling to be able to provide that outlet for them - a safe place to come where they know they will be understood.”
“Whether you have experienced a loss, or want to support those of us who have,” Horvat said families wishing to participate may contact her or simply show up the day of the event. For more information, or to make a donation, please visit giannaslight.org.
“Help us bring the gift of light,” said Horvat, who, through the work of Gianna’s Light, is managing to fill in the pages of her daughter’s story and offering the opportunity for others to do the same.
Photo special to the Town Crier
Continuing in her quest to assist parents dealing with the loss of a baby to miscarriage, stillbirth, ectopic pregnancy, or neonatal death, Sherri Horvat, pictured with her husband Gregg, son Jackson, and daughters Nicolena, and Elliana Grace, will host the 3rd Annual Candlelight Memorial for National Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day on Saturday, Oct. 15 on the Green in Canfield.