In 2013 Kathryn Johnson received the worst news that a mother could get: her unborn child had no heartbeat. Heartbroken, she began searching online for resources to help her through this difficult time and found them lacking. Determined to help other mothers and families going through this loss, she created her first “Hope Box” at her home and the bud of Hannah’s Hope began to form. When asked where the name came from, Kathryn states that “Hannah’s Hope is derived from the story of Hannah in the book of 1 Samuel in the Old Testament. Hannah longed for a child and prayed for God to give her a child. Many women who experience pregnancy losses are longing for children in the same way that Hannah did.”
With the help of a friend who is a fellow infant loss mom, she went to her church to pitch her “Hope Box” mock-up and was met with a great reception. Giving her the financial support she needed to get started, the partnership began. Since this initial meeting, Hannah’s Hope has grown into a stand-alone 501(c)(3) charitable organization, though her church is still financially invested in helping support this very important mission. Although she also offers online resources and speaking engagements, the most important portion of the Hannah’s Hope ministry is the Hope Boxes.
Hope Boxes include items that have been carefully curated by Kathryn which include a devotional book titled Grieving the Child I Never Knew by Kathe Wunnenberg, the placement of a Gideon’s New Testament in memory of your child, a plush lamb, and Christmas ornament to commemorate your child’s memory, forget-me-not seeds, scripture and song lists that will provide hope and healing, as well as coupons for hope necklaces available on Etsy. These boxes are most commonly purchased by friends and family of grieving women to help lessen their load and help them begin the path to healing. The lamb is especially symbolic for Kathryn as she and her husband had purchased one for their unborn child prior to learning of their loss.
Miscarriage is a subject which can carry a lot of weight, trauma, and grief for many women, with the current statistics showing that at least one out of four women have suffered a miscarriage during their lives. When asked if this particular call to ministry takes an emotional toll, Kathryn states that starting and then growing with Hannah’s Hope has been therapeutic for her grief. Having suffered through three miscarriages before welcoming their rainbow baby (the term for a child born after a loss, a metaphoric rainbow after the storm), she is able to speak through her own experiences to further help other women, which has, in turn, helped her. One thing she noted that is especially difficult but important to remember is that, “Every person’s story is their own,” adding that, “I am reminded that pregnancy and life are both so fragile, that we are not in control, and I truly believe every baby that is born is a miracle.”
Despite the 25% of women who are affected by miscarriage, it can often be incredibly difficult to know how to react to learning this news, and most importantly, how to help our friends and families who are grieving through this process. Kathryn advises “to do something to acknowledge the loss. That may be sharing a kind word, bringing them food, or ordering a Hope Box. Taking a tangible action – even when you aren’t sure what to do or how it will be received – is very important.”
Hope Boxes can be purchased through her website (HannahsHope.us) and cost $25 for a singleton, and $35 for twins (which include an extra lamb, ornament and NT donation), plus shipping.