When Jackie Mancinelli ‘10 started to do outreach for her organization, Start Healing Together, she did not hesitate to contact her Chestnut Hill College community, starting with an email to President Carol Jean Vale, SSJ, Ph.D.
“I had a strong feeling she would remember me,” said Mancinelli. “Because that’s just how it is at Chestnut Hill College. You don’t really forget about your community members and you feel that as soon as you’re on campus − that you will not be forgotten.”
Her organization aims to do the same thing, but for parents and individuals who have experienced infertility or pregnancy loss. Based in Southern New Jersey, Start Healing Together began at a high school in Voorhees, NJ, where Mancinelli works as a teacher. After a miscarriage that she kept secret and a neonatal death two years later, Mancinelli in her grieving found a way to honor her angel son, Richard, by helping other families through their own loss. She joined the perinatal bereavement program and the parent panel at Virtua Hospital, where she gave birth, and began collecting information and resources to share with others, especially those in her school community.
For example, she learned that the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) offered members that have experienced a miscarriage or neonatal death use of bereavement time for their loss and that additional benefits were available to support individuals.
“I was surprised to learn what options and rights educators had in this situation,” Mancinelli recalled. “I learned that nearly 1 in 5 individuals suffer from a miscarriage, and I just remember thinking that I am not the only one struggling with this and that there is important information that needs to be shared.”
Inspired by the opportunity to create a community and open dialogue on the topic, Mancinelli reached out to colleagues at her school and formed Start Healing Together, which is now compromised of 20 staff members who have either personally experienced pregnancy loss or infertility or who want to offer support to those who have. The organization aims to offer emotional support to educators, while making them aware of their rights and directing them to helpful resources. It also provides additional resources and services including giving presentations on how to talk to and support members experiencing pregnancy loss and infertility.
According to Mancinelli, so many people want to help but they just don’t know the right words to say. Start Healing Together helps with that with a goal of providing examples of helpful and unhelpful language to help ensure that educators feel comfortable in their workplace as they navigate these difficult times.
“I know that I can become a voice for so many people who have had to experience this alone,” she said. “If I can help to remove some of the stigma surrounding infertility, miscarriages, and neonatal loss, then I can create a safe and open space for grieving, comfort, and support.”
Ultimately, Mancinelli hopes that her organization can expand to become advocates for staff at schools across New Jersey and beyond. Currently, she is looking for educators nationwide who would be interested in starting chapters of Start Healing Together at their own schools. Mancinelli has also begun to get her organization’s name out there with several interviews, including a published piece in the NJEA Review and on the Kicks Count UK website. You can follow Start Healing Together on social media (Instagram and Facebook).
While Mancinelli never imagined becoming an advocate, she says that her time at Chestnut Hill College prepared her for this moment.
“I was quiet and without much confidence before I attended Chestnut Hill, but once I arrived, I was really encouraged to speak up and be present in everything I did.”
A member of the soccer team, she fondly remembers pep talks from her coach and best friend pushing her on and off the field. CHC is also where she developed her love for reading and writing in her English seminar class, where the professor became one of her closest mentors.
“I was always surprised by how much people cared and were willing to support me, even when I didn’t think I needed it,” said Mancinelli. “I hope to continue that same spirit and foster it within others so that we can start healing together.”