Her boxes are memorials to miscarriage

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NORTH HUNTINGDON, Pa. – Three white polar bear stuffed animals sit nestled together at Alaina Jalosky’s home.

They’re tangible reminders of three children the Wesmoreland County woman and her husband, Brendan, never got to hold.

Next to each bear are small blocks symbolizing their names.

A for Avery.

A for Asher.

Q for Quinn.

In that same room at her Westmoreland City home, Jalosky uses the grief she felt after those three miscarriages – two in 2011 and one in 2013 – to help other families find comfort after the same loss.

“It’s my way of doing things for the children I lost,” she said. “I think what I’m doing is what I desperately wanted someone else to do for me.”

Jalosky created Umbrella Boxes and a year ago began accepting requests for the small boxes filled with personalized items from families across the world grieving the loss of an unborn child. Inside the boxes are several items, including tissues, a lavender candle, a packet of forget-me-not seeds and a handwritten message bearing the child’s name, among other things.

She received 256 requests for a box in eight months. She closed requests in April to catch up – 51 boxes are awaiting completion.

While Jalosky spends an hour carefully selecting the perfect stamps to decorate a handmade journal or choosing the right bow to wrap the box, she feels the grief of the parent who will receive it.

“It’s really overwhelming,” she said. “When you have a baby or a child, you have all this mothering you were planning on doing.”

But after a miscarriage, suddenly that opportunity disappears.

“There’s nothing to do after that,” she said.

Jalosky’s compassion and empathy has made the project a perfect fit, as well as a therapeutic opportunity to heal in her own way, said her mother and sister.

“It’s been really good to watch her do this and flourish in it,” said sister Shanna Hunneyman of Rochester, N.Y., who helps with graphic design elements of the boxes. “I’ve sat with her and made a few boxes with her. … It’s just incredible to watch her as she thinks through it and prays for it.”

Each order is special, said her mother, Dana Coiner of Blairsville.

“She puts a lot of personal effort into each box,” Coiner said. “Each of those little babies, those parents get prayed for.”

Jalosky relies a lot on donations and puts some of her own money toward the boxes. Recently, she raised $640 through a GoFundMe donation site solely for shipping 56 Umbrella Boxes. She hopes to become a nonprofit in the future and possibly expand the boxes for parents dealing with other types of loss or to celebrate happy occasions.

In the meantime, she’ll be plugging away at the remaining boxes in between caring for the couple’s four children – Aniela, 7; Emmeline, 5; Ivan, 3; and Ofelia, 2. Uliana is due to join the family in December.

Those are all names she repeats on a daily basis.

She’s made sure Asher, Avery and Quinn’s names are part of the Umbrella Boxes. They appear on cards bearing a list of supportive resources for families after a miscarriage.

“So it’s like someone reads their name all the time,” Jalosky said.

Her mother is proud.

“Alaina has always had compassion for people, and she’s always … helping,” Coiner said. “This project … it fits all the way around for her.”

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