From Alison Thorp, Chaplain at Queen's Hospital Burton
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
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.
- 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.
- 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’.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?