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Meet Jenna Minuto: Giovanni ... Hearing his name means everything

Meet Jenna Minuto: Giovanni ... Hearing his name means everything

Giovanni. Simply hearing the sweet sound of his name helps his mother, Jenna Minuto, feel at peace within. Jenna recalls, “I’ve always wanted to be a mom, but my blessing of being pregnant was not how I ever imagined. I was the only one who seemed happy. Coming from an old fashioned Italian Catholic family, it was hard because I was not married yet. Giovanni’s dad was not excited either.” Jenna said. “The situation tore my heart apart, and my family apart.” I was excited though, I knew I wanted this and I had so many dreams for him. Sadly, that dream was ripped out of my reality.” 

Giovanni Angelo, named after her grandmother, was delivered still at 16 weeks in 2016. Feeling Jenna’s pain, her family came together to support her when she was in the hospital. “Giovanni brought us together,” Jenna said. “He united us as one. Everyone held him. We took pictures of him, and shared our love and our grief. He reminded us that we are a family through good times and bad. That we needed each other to survive this trauma.” 

Shortly after Giovanni’s funeral, Jenna became extremely isolated. What she desperately dreamed of was now gone. She had support, but no one who truly understood her grief. She was mourning her baby, and all the dreams she had for him. As time went on, people around her went about their lives. She was still stuck in misery. “I was literally in the dark,” Jenna recalled. “I didn’t want to be a part of anything or around anyone.” 

After a few weeks, happenstance connected her with Lee Denigris from Good Samaritan Hospital’s  Bereavement Group. “Lee is a Godsend. She truly is a special angel on Earth. She gave me all the time I needed to talk, and she has stayed with me throughout my journey. She gave me the tools to learn how to cope, because you can never just move on. This pain is forever, but with the right help it’s possible to see joy and light in our lives again. The staff at Good Samaritan helps our hearts to heal and becomes part of our family.” 

Lee then invited Jenna to the Perinatal Bereavement Support Group. “I came to meetings when I realized that even though my family and friends wanted to help me, they didn’t know what it felt like to be me,” she said. “The group gives me a safe place to share my thoughts and feelings with others who understand what it is like to have carried, delivered and held my baby. They also help me celebrate Giovanni. They validate him, and they say his beautiful name. Giovanni. That means everything to me.” 

“The Perinatal Bereavement Program showed me I wasn’t to blame,” said Jenna. The bereavement counselors and other parents helped Jenna absolve herself of the guilt that had been overwhelming her. The support ultimately helped her to find hope. 

That hope led to a new chapter. “I realized that I have so much love to give. Being single, I chose to follow my dream using IVF - in vitro fertilization. This path blessed me with two beautiful little boys, Carmelo and Marco. These miracles keep me busy! Running, climbing, laughing and filling my days with joy,” she said. “Giovanni is still part of our everyday lives, and always will be. As my family grows, and Carmelo and Marco reach milestones, I always think Giovanni should be here, too. These moments are still so hard. I talk about Giovanni to my boys and when we visit his grave, I tell them that this is where all the angels play. It creates a peaceful, positive experience for the boys as their normal.” 

As a high-energy mom and a 5th grade special education teacher, Jenna is very busy. She does what she can to support the Perinatal Bereavement Program. “Mom life keeps me busy, but I can never forget this program for shining a light in my darkest days. I asked family and friends for donations to fix up the room where the support group meets. In Giovanni’s name, I participate in the annual Walk to Remember. I made a slide show and spoke at the candle lighting ceremony a few years ago. So I too can be someone’s hope. I want to help others the way they helped me. I’m open to connecting with others facing loss when they feel ready. I talk about my experiences losing yet always loving Giovanni. I hope I can connect with them to never feel alone.” 

“When I was asked what my message would be to others who have experienced loss, I paused. I requested an extension to this question because I really needed to think about it. Not because I haven’t already had a long time to think about this kind of response but because there is no real answer. Those who experience loss are all struggling with our own feelings and grief. There is no set way to grieve. There is no time frame. It is a process. Your individualized process is validated! The fact of the matter is, the loss of a child is the loss of so many things. It’s the loss of trusting your body. It’s the loss of dreams. It’s the loss of innocence. It’s losing someone who you so deeply loved, before ever meeting them. It’s the most painful pain I have ever felt. Having children will never replace the son that I lost. I will always speak his name and my children will always know his light guides them through their lives.” 

Amidst the pain of my loss and grief I discovered so much about myself. How “strong,” brave and determined I was. Initially, I hated the word “strong.” I didn’t feel strong. In fact I felt weak and drowning. But I see now just how strong I am. I survived. I took my own steps in grieving and accepted my own process. I accepted having to lean on others when I couldn’t stand on my own. That is my biggest advice to others. Be gentle with yourself and trust your path in your grief; in your journey back to self-discovery. You are not alone. Talk about it. Reach out for help. I see your fragility. I hear your cry. I feel your heartache. Your child did exist and they will forever be loved and never forgotten.”