As Demelza marks Baby Loss Awareness Week 2023, we wanted to recognise the work of our family liaison in-reach team – and the support they offer families who lose a baby very early in their life.

Lauren and Rebecca work as Demelza representatives within local healthcare settings on neonatal wards, helping to support families whose babies are born extremely prematurely or with complex needs. They encourage earlier referrals to Demelza, as well as sharing information and signposting families to the resources they need to have the best start possible under the circumstances.

Sadly, some babies referred to us during this time won’t survive, but a referral to Demelza means that all of our support is available – including our bereavement services.

“It doesn’t matter that they’ve never visited Demelza – the support Rebecca and I offer families if they lose a baby is the same support we would offer any bereaved family,” said Lauren. “We can offer them the chance to do memory-making with their baby; whether that be handprints on a canvas, or plaster casts of a parent holding their baby’s hand, or inkless fingerprints which can be turned into jewellery, a member of the Demelza team can come to the hospital and deliver that.”

This kind of memory-making gives families a tangible reminder of their child, which they often keep for years to come – a reminder that may even make it easier to talk to their other children about their lost sibling.

“We have had instances where families will have twins, and one twin will sadly die while the other requires ongoing care,” said Rebecca. “In those cases, being able to do memory-making with the twins is such a special thing because it helps maintain that connection between them even when one has died – they’ll always have that piece of their twin with them because we were there early enough to deliver that support.”

Demelza’s bereavement support goes beyond the hospital ward as well. “We do offer families the option of using our bereavement suites at Demelza Kent, which gives them a private place to spend time with their baby and begin to say goodbye before funeral arrangements begin,” said Lauren. “We supported one family whose baby had never seen daylight; they had always been on the ward receiving care. So when they were compassionately extubated in the gardens at the hospital, we brought the family to Demelza Kent to use the bereavement suite so they could be out of that hospital environment – it’s somewhere a bit more like home.”

“I think the most important thing about the support we offer is that we have the time to do it,” continued Rebecca. “Families have said to me how nice it is to have someone who understands their whole journey, not just one little part of it – because we’ve met them maybe just a few days after their baby has been born, and we’re there for them as long as we’re needed. You really see the impact of that.”

Although our support remains the same for any family using our services, the experience of losing a baby – especially one who may have never left the hospital – can be very different. This is why Demelza hosts an annual Wave of Light event, inviting families who have lost a baby to join us at one of our sites and take part in an evening of remembrance – lighting a candle to remember their loved one and sharing experiences with those who understand what they have been through.

“Dealing with the death of a child is always painful, but when a family loses a baby, they haven’t always had the opportunity to make memories – to get to know them – in the same way,” said Lauren. “Coming together with other families at Demelza, where there’s mutual understanding and support, is so valuable.”