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Baby Loss Awareness Week 2021

Baby Loss Awareness Week logo

Sadly, not every pregnancy has a happy outcome and some can end in the truly heart breaking loss of a much wanted baby. 

UHDB has specialist bereavement midwives at our Maternity units in Royal Derby Hospital and Queen's Hospital Burton to provide both immediate and long term sensitive care and support for families who have suffered a late pregnancy loss, stillbirth or neonatal death.

Although the role of the bereavement midwife is hospital-based, these specialist midwives also see families at home, and work with them to create positive memories of their baby. You can find out more about this valuable service on our Bereavement Services pages .

Baby Loss Awareness Week  takes place between 9 - 15 October each year and offers a wonderful opportunity to bring people who have been affected by baby loss together as a community, so that they know that they're not alone.

This year, the theme for Baby Loss Awareness Week is Wellbeing and how anyone affected by pregnancy and baby loss can find ways to look after themselves and others.

Each day throughout the week, UHDB colleagues will be exploring a different topic.

Saturday 9 October 2021 - week schedule

This year, the theme for Baby Loss Awareness Week is about wellbeing and how anyone affected by pregnancy and baby loss can find ways to look after themselves and others.

Each day during the Week, staff at UHDB will be exploring a different topic. Here’s how the Week is shaping up:

  • Saturday 9 October: Introduction to the week 
  • Sunday 10 October: Looking after yourself
  • Monday 11 October: Looking after those who provide care and support and those on the frontline
  • Tuesday 12 October: Looking after siblings (children and adults)
  • Wednesday 13 October: Looking after partners
  • Thursday 14 October: Looking after each other as a community (including the workplace)
  • Friday 15 October: Remembering your baby and Wave of Light

Sunday 10 October 2021 - looking after yourself

It goes without saying but the loss of a baby can have an astronomical impact on families - in a number of different ways. 

This loss can leave both a physical and emotional toll on parents, grandparents and other loved ones, but it's incredibly important that, through it all, you remember to look after yourself. 

Charity Sands have created a Bereavement Support Book that addresses some of these challenges and can hopefully, in some way, help those experiencing grief through this difficult period.

Please remember that you are not alone. 

Monday 11 October 2021 - looking after those who provide care and support

From Alison Thorp, Chaplain at Queen's Hospital Burton

Alison Thorp

This year, the theme of Baby Loss Awareness Week is Wellbeing, which is something that is a very high priority at UHDB. Later in the week - on Thursday - we’ll be thinking about how we can support our colleagues who have been personally affected by pregnancy and baby loss, but today the focus is on those who provide direct care and support to the parents and families.

Health workers, who have been under immense pressure during the pandemic, can only look after bereaved families with empathy and kindness if they themselves are supported. 

Midwives are at the forefront of looking after patients who experience pregnancy and baby loss, but there can be many other staff colleagues involved too, including Maternity Support Workers, Student Midwives, the Neonatal teams, the Emergency Department, Theatre Staff, Porters, Mortuary Staff and the Chaplaincy.

Those on the frontline of delivering pregnancy and baby loss care have a good mutual support system in place, but occasionally there is a heart-breaking loss that we find really difficult. 

For me, this is often when the parent is also a member of staff and the loss and their grief and devastation hits at a completely different emotional level. However, my most challenging loss was undoubtably when my first grandchild was born asleep on the second day of BLAW 2019. 

I’d spent the day doing baby loss awareness events at two of our community hospitals during the day with bereavement midwife Sam, then drove to another hospital late that evening to hold and bless my little grandson. 

I simply couldn’t continue with the rest of the events we had planned for that week, especially the Remembrance Service we’d prepared for the Sunday afternoon. I didn’t even have to ask for help – as others seamlessly stepped in to lead the Remembrance service and pick up the things I couldn’t do. 

They watched over me when I took his funeral and then again when I did my next baby blessing on Snowdrop Suite and my next baby funeral after this.

Because that’s what we do – we love and support each other through the worst of times, so that we have the strength to rebuild ourselves and continue caring for others.

Useful contacts: Employee Assistance Program (CiC: Confidential in Care) on 0800 085 1376

From Marise Hargreaves, Chaplain at Royal Derby Hospital

Marise Hargreaves

There is a very wise saying, which is: "If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love somebody else?"

It is so easy for carers to forget or play down the need to look after themselves and to keep putting others first. It can be very difficult to not feel selfish or simply keep on giving when we are aware the tanks are beginning to run dry.

Here are a few suggestions of things you can do when we begin to feel we, or others around us, are beginning to run out of steam.

  1. It’s okay to step out and say no, if we feel so stressed out we are beginning to burn out. Having boundaries and knowing when we have little left to give helps us begin to reset our inner world and inner strength. It’s a sign of health to know when enough is enough. It’s okay to say no.
  2. It doesn’t all depend on me. Other people are around to step up and step in. Involving others and knowing when to let others carry some of the load is a sign of trust. It’s okay to be vulnerable and ask for help or to say ‘I can’t do this alone’.
  3. Make space to do something for yourself. So often we are too busy. Take a walk, have a bath, read a book, watch a ridiculous film – whatever it might be, make space and do it. Letting our lives reset and rebalance helps get the energy back that we may feel is running low.
  4. Ask the question ‘Are you okay?’ if you are not sure how someone close, or a colleague, is feeling. Don’t assume they will say something. Often, people – especially in a work environment - don’t ask for help and try and push through. Giving a prompt opens a door to let someone know it’s okay to not be okay and let someone in to carry the load.
  5. Self care is good care. We can only give out what we put in. Everyone needs time and space to put back the love and care we are keen to pass on.

Other suggestions are out there on self care. We are all different and what works for one might not for someone else. Find what works for you and enjoy finding out what it might be.

Either way, just remember... if you don’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love somebody else?

Tuesday 12 October 2021 - how to support a sibling after a baby loss

Every family will need to find their own way to experience and manage their grief following a baby loss. Children, especially those who are older, are likely to be greatly affected by the death of a baby sibling, so supporting them through their grief and sadness is important.

With this in mind, the steps below could help make a horrible situation just that little bit easier for siblings to understand:

  • Explain what has happened – this depends on your child’s age and understanding, while it may also depend on the child’s past experiences of death and whether you have religious beliefs. With children of any age, it’s best to use simple terms – if they want more details, they will ask.
  • Answering their questions - children need to know that it’s alright to ask you questions about the baby. They may ask questions straight away, or at apparently random times later. Try to answer immediately and as simply and truthfully as you can. This will help them feel able to ask about other things they want to know or don’t understand.
  • Be honest and reassuring – answer questions honestly and simply.
  • Be careful with words – think carefully about the language you use as a family to talk about what has happened. Using euphemisms can cause confusion and upset for young children who can take things literally.
  • Do not be afraid to show your emotions – it is okay to show children that you are upset. Through this, they will learn that they can express their own sadness.
  • Recognise and acknowledge the child’s grief
  • Include the child in family rituals around the death
  • Keep the memory of the baby alive in the family.

Children can be much more anxious when they have a feeling that something is wrong but are unsure what it is, so try to be as open and honest as you can.

Make sure people involved in your child’s care, for example the school, childminder or nursery, know what has happened and how you’ve explained your baby loss to them.

Each child will have their own way of working through their grief and should be encouraged to express their individual feelings. Children, like adults, can suffer a wide range of emotions, including sorrow, anger, disbelief, and even guilt.

Some useful links

Wednesday 13 October 2021 - looking after partners

The loss of a baby is the worst thing imaginable to parents, so it's so important that they're both offered any support that they need. 

The overwhelming grief after the death of a baby can put even the strongest relationships under pressure, as we all grieve differently and this can be difficult for couples when their baby dies.

It’s not uncommon for one partner to show their grief more visibly while their partner on the surface appears to be less affected.

In many cases, partners can feel the need to be strong for their loved one following the loss of their baby, but it's important to remember to check on them. 

Please find below some examples, from people who have been affected by baby loss, about looking after partners:

  • "Your feelings may be just as intense as your partner who gave birth."

  • "Your partner's needs and feelings will not always be the same as your own."

  • "All feelings of grief are normal but if you can remember to be kind to each other and never expect too much, it will help."

  • "In time, couples who respect each other's different way of grieving, often find that they begin to talk, share and support each other more easily."

 

Thursday 14 October 2021 - looking after each other as a community (including the workplace)

The theme of the penultimate day of Baby Loss Awareness Week this year is how we look after colleagues in our workplace who are experiencing the loss of a baby at any stage of pregnancy or after birth. While this obviously includes expectant mothers, it will also include partners and significant others. Staff colleagues who were expectant grandparents will be experiencing the double blow of not only grieving for their future grandchild but also having to watch their own child going through the pain of bereavement.  It can be hard to know what to say and how to offer practical and emotional support our colleagues through this grief.

Because a pregnancy loss or a neonatal loss is often regarded as less significant than, for example, the death of an older child, many people underestimate the effect on the parents. They may expect them to “get over” the death of their baby in a few weeks or months and to “move on”. But the loss of a baby is a major bereavement.  Although the intensity of their grief may fade over time and they may learn to live with what has happened as colleagues we need to remember that every loss will have its own story and its own journey.

Beyond the individual way that we each experience trauma, there can be many complexities around the loss that a colleague might be going through that we don’t always consider.  Baby loss is not restricted to white, able-bodied, straight, cisgendered colleagues in long term relationships. Your colleague may be single, disabled, a non-birth parent in a same-sex relationship, or from an ethnic background which has a different cultural understanding of baby loss. This may be their first loss, or they may have experienced multiple losses.

A useful rule is never to say anything that can be prefixed with the words ‘At least’, such as at least you’re young and can try again, at least you have other children, at least she is with the angels now. You don’t need to have experienced baby loss yourself or say some deeply insightful to help a colleague through baby loss, you just need to be honest, ask them to tell you what you can do to help, and be guided by their response.

There are some excellent resources available on The Miscarriage Association’s website for both managers and colleagues supporting staff in the workplace through the trauma of baby loss, both practically and emotionally.  Whilst these are aimed at miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies and molar pregnancies, the advice shared is useful for any kind of pregnancy or baby loss. They are available via the links below:

Friday 15 October 2021 - wave of light

Saying their baby's name, writing a birthday or due date card, or including them in a family greeting can make a big difference to a parent who has lost a child.

To remember all of the babies gone too soon, we hope you'll all join us in creating a Wave of Light, by lighting a candle in your home from 7pm tonight.