8 June, 2023, 11:33 pm Central - 20°C Clouds

Early pregnancy loss grief recognised with little handmade coffins

Early pregnancy loss grief recognised with little handmade coffins

By abc.net.au
Monday 27/03/2023
Jade Ireland says she wants people to know they're not alone when they're grieving.(ABC Radio Hobart: Carol Rรครคbus)

Losing a baby before 20 weeks' gestation can be an isolating experience.

There are no legal requirements to register the pregnancy loss, and no formal funeral requirements for babies lost before 20 weeks.

Some people might not have even told anyone about the pregnancy before it has ended, but that doesn't mean there is no grief.

In Clarendon Vale, east of Hobart, volunteers at Clarendon Vale Neighbourhood House get together to make small wooden boxes in a project that aims to help those going through the grief of early pregnancy loss.

The project is called Petit Angels, and Jade Ireland said they started to make the boxes about seven years ago when volunteers in the north of Tasmania reached out asking for help to meet demand.

"It's that little bit of humanity," Ms Ireland told ABC Radio Hobart.

"Miscarriage is still a thing even with all our medical marvels that we have.

"It's OK to grieve โ€ฆ you're not alone."

Sue Briggs got involved with making the boxes from the start, working on the lining that goes into the coffins, using material from donated wedding dresses.

"It's something for them to actually grieve over and not just the mother and the father, but the siblings," Ms Briggs said.

"They can put stickers on it โ€ฆ paint it or draw on it."

Materials for the coffins are either donated by the community or are bought by the Clarendon Vale Neighbourhood House through donations.

The boxes are given to the Royal Hobart Hospital (RHH), where they're offered for free to people who have lost a pregnancy, whatever the circumstances of that loss.

Becky French, the midwifery unit manager in maternity services at the RHH, said the boxes could be an important part of the grieving process.

"The death of a baby, at any stage of pregnancy, is a tragic circumstance for a family," Ms French said.

"The angel caskets are offered to parents โ€ฆ and may be used as a memorial box or as a special resting space for their little one during a time of significant grief."

Allowing people to grieve what might have been

Keren Ludski is the CEO of Red Nose Australia, an organisation that provides support for people going through the loss of a pregnancy or death of a baby at any stage.

She said projects like Petit Angel helped to reduce the stigma of early pregnancy loss by acknowledging the loss.

"Historically and societally, we were all told don't announce your pregnancy till after 12 weeks because the risk of miscarriage is higher before 12 weeks," she said.

"What that's effectively done is enhance the stigma around miscarriage."

One in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage and Ms Ludski said it was still a common misconception that the earlier a pregnancy was lost, the less the grief would be for those involved.

"From the minute they find out they're pregnant, so starts the beginning of the hopes and dreams they have for that baby," she said.

"What we hear over and over and over again is how alone people feel in that early pregnancy loss and that people don't get it.

"Our biggest cohort of families reaching out for support is in that miscarriage, stillbirth base."

Ms Ludski said it could be a different kind of grief to that of losing a baby after it was born.

"The difference between having an early pregnancy loss and let's say having a neonatal death is that those who have delivered a baby and the baby lives for whether it be a minute, an hour, a day, a week a month, they've got the opportunity to start building some memories with that baby," she said.

"When you have an early pregnancy loss, they don't have any of that."

And this was why having something like a physical box to use either as a coffin or as a keepsake could be useful for those going through loss, Ms Ludski said.

The volunteers at Clarendon Vale Neighbourhood House never get to meet the people who receive the coffins, but Ms Ireland said they knew they were making a little difference with each box.

"Death and dying, it happens. If you don't have people willing to talk about this, it stays taboo," she said.

"Other people go through this. People may not talk about it, it's too taboo, but it's OK."

Original story link https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-03-27/early-pregnancy-loss-miscarriage-little-coffins/102081560

Story by Carol Raabus

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