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February 2021 update

Ensuring everyone has safe space, offering them compassion and reassurance

Jen Coates, Director of Bereavement Support and Volunteering, Sands & Nicola Welsh, Chief Executive, Held in Our Hearts

The pandemic has had a profound effect on bereaved parents. Parents often feel crushing loneliness and social isolation and that has been exacerbated by lockdown. Parents may have had fewer opportunities to talk about their pregnancy and the isolation has been very significant for women having to be at scans alone and in established labour before their partner is able to be with them.

Grief is best processed with others, if possible either at a funeral or wake or speaking to loved ones. This allows families to share together, helping them make sense of what has happened and allowing them to talk about their baby. Few family or friends will have met their baby in the current circumstances and many will not have had any length of time to spend with their baby and make memories. Like other organisations, Sands and Held In Our Hearts have provided that safe space, offering compassion and reassurance. Many families have reported that we are the only people they speak to about their loss.

Having the space to talk and share is vital to parents’ mental wellbeing in the long term, so giving options for support once they leave hospital is essential. Organisations have adapted swiftly to the pandemic and being unable to offer face to face opportunities. In 2020

  • Held In Our Hearts offered 1050 counselling sessions to 70 families and 200 families received support via telephone calls, virtual chats, closed Facebook groups and texts/emails. 47 virtual support meetings were also held supporting families with all types of baby loss.
  • Sands Scotland supported families across the country via 4,642 calls, emails, text and Messenger support sessions and the Sands Support closed Facebook group, in addition to the support provided by the 10 Sands Scotland Groups via Zoom, telephone, text and email. Again supporting all types of baby loss.

The pandemic has demonstrated a huge need for families to find quick, easily accessed information and support, with an increase in the need for digital and virtual provision. This wide range of support allows individuals (including men and same-sex partners) to choose the type of support which best meets their needs now and in the longer term. The last year has shown how effectively we can support parents from any part of Scotland through virtual channels, which bodes well for future working.

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