News / Ottawa

Butterfly Box program sparks conversation around pregnancy loss

A local program, run by three Ottawa women, is trying to change the way people talk—or don't—about pregnancy loss.

From left Elizabeth Cleland and Lisa Deacon who are leading the Butterfly Box project in their office in downtown Ottawa. Uploaded by: Tumilty, Ryan

Justin Tang / Metro Web Upload

From left Elizabeth Cleland and Lisa Deacon who are leading the Butterfly Box project in their office in downtown Ottawa. Uploaded by: Tumilty, Ryan

Here’s a piece of free advice from Lisa Deacon: the platitudes you reach for when someone close to you experiences a pregnancy loss — lines like, “there’s a reason for it,” or “God works in mysterious ways” — are “the worst thing to hear, ever.” 

It underscores the point that when it comes to pregnancy loss, very few people have any clue what to say, how to support their loved ones or how to process their own loss. 

That’s where Butterfly Boxes come in. 

Deacon, along with her business partners Elizabeth Cleland and Aviva Gluss, who started a post-partum company called Mom Friends in April of this year, launched a program in October that gives out boxes filled with items to help families who have miscarried, experienced a stillbirth, or lost an infant child. 

“It’s about starting a conversation around infant loss,” said Deacon. “It’s about giving people the tools.” 

“A lot of people have a hard time knowing the right words to say,” said Cleland, “or if they should say anything at all.” 

The program allows someone close to a person who experienced a pregnancy loss to request one of the 50 boxes that Deacon, Cleland and Gluss made as part of their first run, and give them as a form of support. 

The boxes are free, but anyone requesting one is asked to consult with the recipient first, since “everyone does grief differently,” said Deacon.

A Butterfly Box, Deacon and Cleland tell me, is roughly divided into three parts. The first are practical self-care items—kleenex, a journal, lavender candles—that can help someone through grief. 

The second is resources, which Cleland calls “almost the most valuable piece in the kit.” There are suggestions for reading, contact information for local partners and programs that can help with the grieving process.

The third part is the postcard. Each box contains a postcard with a message of condolence written by a member of the community. On the flipside, there is room for those who have experienced a pregnancy loss to share their experience of grief. 

Their first run of 50 boxes have all been distributed to various organizations who are responsible for giving them to those who need it. Moving forward, Deacon and Cleland said that they are “constantly thinking big,” and that they hope to take the program national. 

Despite the heavy subject matter, the pair remain upbeat. The stories that they hear—stories of grief, healing, and strength—help with that. 

“The network that’s built around [the program] is just awesome,” said Cleland. “The fact that [people are] sharing things with complete strangers is great.” 

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