Good Causes

Julie helps parents cope with the loss of a baby

Julie was 37 weeks pregnant when she was told that her baby, Erin, had no heartbeat. The loss was devastating and Julie struggled to get the support she needed.

After Erin died in 2003 Julie and her husband Bryan sought support from other parents who had suffered similar bereavement. "Talking is crucial," Julie said. “Parents want to talk straight away. If you get help at the start it won’t take the pain away but it will help. It took me 10 years to recover from the trauma.”

Getting to talk to a professional can be difficult and parents can wait between 6 and 18 months for counselling after losing a baby. This has a big impact on mental health. Julie said, “Parents are much worse after 6 months with no counselling.”

Julie’s experiences led her to set-up the Baby Loss Retreat. This National Lottery-funded project offers a range of support for grieving parents. Julie said, “We start by asking if they’re ready to talk and if they are we offer both therapy and retreats for groups of parents.”

Coronavirus has meant parents have struggled to get the support they need, especially when it comes to navigating some of the problems that arise after the loss of a baby. Julie said, “During lockdown a mum called and told me she’d lost her baby. I asked if she was having a funeral, but parents are often upset, and they don’t know what they need to do.”

Julie explained that parents only have six weeks to conduct a funeral after a stillbirth, so she knew it would need to happen quickly. She said, “We managed to arrange a funeral, and I went with her to dress the baby beforehand. It brought a lot of comfort to both the mum and me.” These sacrifices Julie makes come at a cost though, she said “I had to seek counselling after.”

In normal times the project arranges 3 weekend retreats a year in 3 different peaceful Scottish locations. With coronavirus their strategy had to change slightly, so new phone services were launched to help parents. Julie said, “We’re trying to make the best of things in lockdown. Before, we just offered retreats and now we’ve expanded to do more on the phone.” The Baby Loss Retreat now offers phone support, counselling and giving people tools to help overcome anxiety, sleep issues and depression.

As well as directly supporting parents who have suffered a loss, the project has also campaigned for better public health support during lockdown. During covid women sometimes attend prenatal appointments on their own, which can be devastating if they’re given bad news. Thanks to Julie’s campaigning, partners are able to attend the appointments by video call, giving them the chance to offer support to their loved ones, even if they can’t be physically present.

For her incredible work with grieving parents Julie has been named winner of the Community and Charity category at the 2020 National Lottery Awards. This year’s winners – selected from 5000 nominated projects from across the UK – recognise the ‘Lockdown Legends’ who have worked tirelessly to help others during this extraordinary year.

Speaking about her award, Julie said, "We as a charity are absolutely delighted to be given the recognition and award by The National Lottery. This has been an incredibly tough year for us all and the hard work the charity has put in over the lockdown and the past few months makes it all worthwhile when organisations recognise and reward. The National Lottery has fully supported us for the past 2 years and we are forever grateful in helping us achieve our aims and objectives."

11th November 2020

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