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An Ode to Working with Broken Hearts & Lost Dreams. After A Pregnancy Ends or A Baby Dies.

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The 25th March each year is 'Say Their Name Day.'

Sands Australia created this important campaign in loving memory and sharing of all the baby's names that are forever held in their parent's hearts.

"In Saying Their Name, name by name, we're helping to break the stigma that prevents families from seeking support to help in their healing, in finding hope for the future, and in coping with their 'new normal'" - Sands Australia.

This day is important to raise awareness of pregnancy, baby and child loss, as well as that of much needed funds, to ensure that every bereaved family has access to the support they need, for as long as they need it.

Suzanne Hurley, a Melbourne based, Perinatal and Fertility Counsellor and Supervisor at Fertile Ground Health Group, shared below a valuable piece with us when we asked her advice in supporting parents who have gone through the tragic loss of losing a baby, a child.

Thank you Suzanne for your words, your Ode, to provide insight for people who may not have experienced such great loss and would like to know how they can be of support to bereaved parents and families.

And in Suzanne's words to allow the depth of despair to be felt & be held, to sit and be with grieving parents.

Sands Australia - https://www.sands.org.au/

Suzanne Hurley - https://www.fertileground.com.au/practitioners/counsellor/suzanne-hurley

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Ode to Working with Broken Hearts & Lost Dreams.

After A Pregnancy Ends or A Baby Dies.

By Suzanne Hurley

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing ~ Naomi Shihab Nye

What great suffering to be up close to! For most of us it will be our biggest fear that we often doubt we could recover from. So too it is for those as it is happening to them. Parenthood is so full of, grief & yet we only see the images around us of blissfully expectant mothers & smiling parents with their children. So rarely do we know the stories of loss, often born shrouded in silence such as miscarriages or when a baby dies in utero, during birth or shortly after.

If you visit a maternity hospital, you will likely see image after image of the joy of having a baby. Go seeking a visual representation of the babies that die in pregnancy, in labour or shortly after birth and you will notice little to no representation for this potential. With life comes death and the lifetimes in between the two are varied and many, yet we only champion live births and happy parents.

Working alongside such experiences is profound in its sadness and in the honour of being a companion to such grief. Sitting with the love lost & the agony felt in letting go is an enormous task to hold. We can each be forgiven when we feel we get it wrong as it comes with the territory where getting it right does not really exist. It is as much a fantasy as being a perfect mother. There is only what is.

Holding compassion for ourselves is essential in our perceived failings as we support the unravelling of another in sinking downwards into an unfamiliar terrain. We must allow them to decide whether to rise again or not and just be there alongside, the doula for the other side of birth where a baby is missing in every part of their imagined shared futures. It is bleak and dark and unbearable and yet bear it we must as we only hold a fraction of what the other carries.

We are present when others cannot be. We are there because there is a need that often cannot be met by the ones who usually provide it. They cannot be blamed as who teaches them to hold the unbearable? Who teaches them to know what to say, not say and when to do and give instead of speak? When overwhelm paralyses there is no room for questioning only sitting with, being with, sharing the uncertainty.

Allow the depth of despair to be felt & be held. Give them an anchor to secure themselves to. Let them know their rights in honouring the loss, speaking of their loss, to expect to be heard for as long as they need to speak of their pregnancy, their baby, the child missing from the dinner table. Speak their baby’s name, ask them about their cherished one. Find ways to honour this experience, a tree that blooms at this time of year, a memory box full of all that is known and not yet known about their pregnancy/baby. Allow for meaning making and disbelief to coexist.

Let them know you know it gets easier, you get to know the grief, recognise its needs, make room for it, be forever changed by it & with good support can find yourself a better person because of it. A parent that has endured suffering on the path to parenthood will be better equipped to know something of their child’s suffering & may pass to them what they have learnt in reaching rock bottom & rising again. What a gift to give to another to reshape suffering into a way to comfort even if you did not have that yourself. Hold light where there is darkness & know if you only offer kindness, it is enough when there is sorrow.

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