AS FEATURED IN WA TODAY, BY KATE HEADLEY
For many, Christmas is far from a happy time.
Support for those struggling during the festive season can be thin on the ground.
But a WA organisation dedicated specifically to caring for parents and families affected by miscarriage, stillbirth, and newborn death is doing its best to wrap members in a collective group hug at this time of year.
The Sands WA sunset ceremony will be held at Floreat Beach on Sunday, with organiser Till Heike-Woods hoping the event will provide support for bereaved parents.
“Here in WA we have 18 babies that are stillborn per month, plus another five babies dying from neonatal death,” Ms Heike-Woods said.
“Miscarriage statistics are hard to pin down, as it is not always reported, but the common rates are stated as 1 in 4 pregnancies that are affected as well.”
With 293 perinatal deaths in WA per year, the heartbreak of losing a child is not lost on Ms Heike-Woods, who lost her own daughter, Claudia, at 32 weeks.
“By helping to provide peer support to bereaved parents, [Sands WA] wants families to know they are not alone; they can find the support they need.
“My daughter’s death was sudden and unexpected.
“It felt like my world ended. I felt like a failure.
“You never expect your baby to die, no one prepares you for what it is actually like to hold your unbreathing baby in your arms.
“It’s not a case of ‘finding the strength’ or ‘knowing they are in better place’, or any of those platitudes bereaved parents often her.
“It about living with an experience you never expected. It blindsides you.
“My support structure was good, and I was moved to become involved with Sands because I know how important good quality support can be on how parents grieve, and I believe that being able to talk with someone who has experienced something similar is invaluable.”
Ms Heike-Woods said the holiday season could be a particularly tough time for bereaved parents, and urged those suffering from loss to seek support.
“It will be hard,” she said.
“Take time to know what you need.”
The Sands WA Sunset Ceremony will be held on Sunday, December 17 at Floreat Beach Surf Lifesaving Club from 5.30pm.
If you need help, Sands WA has a 24/7 support line on 1300 072 637.
Support meetings for bereaved parents are run throughout WA.
Go to sands.org.au for more information.