As baby loss awareness month draws to a close we want to say a big thank you to all our committee members and supporters for sharing their photos and words for our awareness project. They formed a part of our capture your grief project sharing words from parents about their experiences. You can follow our Instagram account here https://www.instagram.com/sands_charity_exeter/
A few weeks ago Kerry England from the Exeter Sands charity committee took part in a sponsored tandem skydive.
Kerry joined others from across the region at Dunkerswell airfield to not only raise money for their chosen charities but to also attempt to set a brand new regional record from the ultimate altitude of 15,000ft.
"It was the most terrifying and exciting experience," says Kerry. "It was great to take on a personal challenge and raise money for a cause very close to my heart. My third baby Lily was stillborn 2 years ago. It was a simple thing but the Sands memory box was one of my first touch points with the charity. It was a welcome distraction in the hospital. Sifting through, it prompted us to make sure we kept some memories of her, which we hadn't even thought about, and the leaflets about siblings really influenced how we broke the news to our two older children. Which was something I was really dreading and fretting over."
Kerry raised £650 in sponsorship and shared these breath taking photos of her jump. If you are interested in taking on your own fundraising challenge there are lots on ideas on the national Sands website https://www.sands.org.uk/get-involved/fundraising/fundraising-events
The first meeting can be daunting. Naomi shares her thoughts on her first Sands meeting and what it meant to her...
When my daughter died in labour, I realised that I would need all the help that I could get, so I looked up SANDS online and saw that there was a support meeting happening. Immediately my very fragile mind was filled with misgivings. Would my partner want to go? There was no way I was going alone. What might a support meeting be like? I thought “Oh God, I am a ‘Support Group’ person now. Something sufficiently bad has happened that I am a ‘Support Group’ person”. Would I end up trying to say things and be in a complete state? Would we all sit there in awkward silence? What would the other people be like? How many of us would there be? The idea of going to a new place and meeting strangers was very daunting when I had so few resources to deal with the world.
I discussed it with my family. My partner said he would definitely not go. My father said that he would take me and would be glad to feel that he was doing something helpful. I ended up deciding to go out of a desperation- I just wanted to feel better sooner and do anything that might help.
I was pretty nervous going in, worried that I had got the day or the place wrong or that it would be an ordeal in some other way, and with a big fear of the unknown. It turned out to be quite a busy week, there were a new couple who were recently bereaved and a new lady who had lost a baby some time previously. There were also several ladies who I presumed were regulars who knew each other. Our befriender sat us down in a circle and talked us through some information- what we said was confidential, that we could borrow books, fundraising events that were happening and so forth. Then she started us off by talking about her own story. Once other people started talking there turned out to be quite a lot to say. People had plans for anniversaries, hopes and worries for the future, notes to compare about hospitals and GP’s. It surprised me that although everyone’s story was quite different with all types of loss, there was so much that we all had in common as we grieved. Half way through the meeting we stopped for tea and chatted in small groups. I hadn’t planned to say anything but ended up having a lovely chat with our befriender who made me feel very welcome and listened to me so calmly I ended up crying despite my best intentions. Of course it didn’t matter.
By the end of the meeting I knew I could go back alone, and I felt I had been armed against my pain by the strength and encouragement of the group. They gave me a little book of short poems and stories by bereaved parents that I carried around with me for months in my handbag so that I would never be stuck on my own with everyone being ‘normal’ around me when I was deeply grieving. I have learned from SANDS how important it is not to be alone with grief; that a grief spoken out loud is free to fly away but that one held close to your chest will get heavier and heavier. I have seen with my own eyes how we can recover from the most horrendous blows life has to offer us, and how we can find positive things in the darkest of places. I’d like to say to any bereaved families reading this, please hold onto the hope that one day you will feel absolutely fine, because it may happen sooner than you think, and please come to us for support if you feel that you can.
On Saturday 14th July Tozers LLP held a family fun day to raise money and awareness for our charity of the year – Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal charity. We are delighted to announce that the event was a huge success and has raised over £1,500.
The day was packed with activities for families including a stall manned by our very own volunteers.
Today we are meeting with the labour ward coordinator to discuss the bereavement care that her team provide to parents.
They are the most lovely group of midwives who just want to make a heartbreaking situation a little bit easier, in any way they can (despite the limited resources and time that they are fighting against).
We are very proud to have such a committed team to work with and will do whatever we can to help make the bereavement care they provide the best it can possibly be. There are always areas for improvement and we are open to any suggestions you may have....💛
Sands is commemorating its 40th anniversary this year.
We are searching for parents, family members and friends affected by the death of a baby to share their stories and experience of loss who are long ago bereaved.
These stories are powerful and will help us to raise awareness of the issues surrounding stillbirth and neonatal death, and also help other bereaved parents to understand they are not alone.
Forty years ago, two bereaved mothers found there was no support available for parents whose babies had died. After giving birth to their stillborn babies in mid-1970s, Bel Mooney, a journalist, wrote an article for The Guardian describing her experience and Hazelanne Lewis, a psychiatric social worker, wrote to national newspapers asking bereaved parents to contact her to share their stories.
The avalanche of replies from all over the UK revealed the vast, unrecognised need for support and advice for bereaved parents and their families upon the death of their baby. As a result Sands was formed in 1978. At that time in the UK, most parents were not allowed to see, hold or bury their babies. No photographs were taken, and they could not put their baby’s name on the stillbirth certificate.
Hazelanne Lewis said: “When I gave birth to my stillborn baby in 1975 things were very different than they are today. My baby was taken away from me almost instantly, delivered with nurses leaning over me and they took him out of the room so I couldn’t see him. The midwives made no eye contact and they instructed my husband not to discuss our baby with me.
“My experience spurred me on to reach out to other bereaved parents who had been through the same ordeal and we formed a support group which became Sands. Thankfully bereavement care has changed for the better since the 1970s and we have seen the number of baby deaths reduced, but more research work needs to be carried out to reduce the number of deaths even further.
“I know Sands would be pleased to hear from bereaved parents, so please do get in contact and share your story if you feel able.”
This year, Sands 40th anniversary recognises the support of volunteers, befrienders, fundraisers, healthcare professionals (including midwives) for their contributions towards Sands’ achievements over the past four decades. Despite many accomplishments over the years more work needs to be done to reduce the number of babies dying even further.
The anniversary also acknowledges our continuous efforts to be the voice of bereaved parents, our impact on the lives of many bereaved parents, improvements in bereavement care and funding vital research.
If you would like to share your story please email: firstname.lastname@example.org, call 020 3897 3449 or send a letter to: Lee Armitt, Press Office, Sands (stillbirth and neonatal death charity), Victoria Charity Centre, 11 Belgrave Road, London, SW1V 1RB.
Mother’s Day can be a particularly difficult day for mums who have experienced the death of a baby. It can increase sense of isolation for many bereaved mothers and grandmothers.
For this reason the national Sands Helpline will open on Sunday 11 March from 10am-3pm.
The confidential free helpline provides a safe place for bereaved mothers and anyone affected by the death of a baby to seek comfort and support. The experienced bereavement support team is there to listen and signpost to further help.
Dr Clea Harmer, Chief Executive of Sands, said: “Bereaved parents tell us that Mother’s Day can be highly emotional for them as they remember their babies who have died. So we have responded by extending the opening hours of our helpline on a day when they may need us the most.
“I would urge anyone who has been affected by the death of a baby to get in touch if they want to talk to us on Mother’s Day. We are dedicated to providing emotional support and information right from the early hours after a baby's death, through to the weeks, months and years ahead.”