Keeping mementos of the baby and naming their child can help parents cope with the loss of an infant.
Taking photographs, hand and footprints of baby Frank are tangible reminders for Sarah Hall of the baby she lost at 34 weeks in January.
“His baby clothes, the prints and photos are all that remain with me. Without this I would have walked away without a legacy of my baby,” said Ms Hall of the need for keepsakes to help parents through the grieving process.
When she met with Alexandra Sullivan of the Little Angels - Love Through Loss support group, it was as if a dam had burst.
“I sobbed, I swore, I howled. She told me her story and I was able to talk about my loss. I found someone else to grieve with. The worst fear is that your baby will be forgotten. It’s difficult to watch the world spin on after this has happened.”
Talking to other women and attending monthly meetings can also help mothers prepare their family.
“We share incredible moments. There are some amazing things we remember that make us laugh and smile so it is not all doom and gloom. I felt instant love for complete strangers when I first met them and I wish them happiness so desperately,” said Ms Hall, who also learnt how to break the news to her two young daughters.
“The biggest heartbreak was letting my four-year-old know what had happened when all she was looking forward to was her baby brother. I like talking about Frank. I don’t want him to be forgotten and Alexandra gave me the strength to understand that if other people feel too sad or uncomfortable or can’t bear it, that is their problem.”
Alexandra Sullivan, the group’s founder, is studying for a bachelor’s degree in psychology and counselling to be a grief counsellor and help families in trauma and crisis management.
After moving with her husband to Dubai, she wanted to create a support group here similar to the one she relied on in her home country of Sweden, where she lost identical twin boys at week 26 in 2011.
“When I opened the doors of the group in Sweden, that was my biggest comfort – to know it had not happened only to me. I felt sad for all of them and started to talk about me experience more. I was hiding, I felt guilt, I felt it was my fault it had happened. That is what many women go through,” she said.
Teaching care givers and the general public to be empathetic is another one of Ms Sullivan’s goals.
“Processes are not fully in place here and most people do not have family around like in their home country. That isolation is difficult to handle. My long-term dream is to educate midwives and doctors in hospitals here on how to deal with grief, meet and talk to families,” said Ms Sullivan, who now has two young children.
“It is so raw and traumatic for the family and everyone needs to be empathetic because the couple have to deal with a dead baby. They will be in shock. There are so many dreams that were crushed.”
For many women who deal with grief by burying the memories, group therapy encourages them to share. In one session, a mother opened up for the first time about a child she lost 20 years ago.
“Whether years have gone by or it’s a new loss, parents need to feel comfortable talking,” Ms Sullivan said.
“Everyone has suffered. I want to take care of families like I was taken care of.”