Bereaved parents ‘let down at work by lack of support’, charity reveals

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  • A charity has revealed that thousands of bereaved parents have returned to work without any support from their employers, with many not even discussing their loss with them.

    In a survey of 2,500 parents, conducted by the stillbirth and neonatal death charity Sands, it was revealed that two out of five found that when they went back to work no one spoke to them about their tragedy.

    Everyday in the UK, 15 babies die before, during, or shortly after they are born. However only one in five of the people surveyed knew what their employer’s policies were for supporting staff if their baby has died.

    In addition, four in ten people were not offered any additional time away from work following their baby’s death and almost a third were not contacted by their employer after the death of their baby.

    Speaking about his experience to the BBC, father Dan Wood, who lost his two-day-old daughter, said: ‘It’s difficult to start a conversation about it but I would rather talk about her than not. Our baby was part of our lives for a long time.’

    Based on the survey results, Sands’ new important campaign ‘Finding The Words’ is vital as it aims to break the silence around stillbirth and neonatal deaths.

    Speaking about the results of the survey Dr Clea Harmer, chief executive of Sands, said: ‘Sadly, the death of a baby is not a rare event but too often, bereaved parents are faced by a wall of silence because people around them, family, friends, and colleagues, are lost for words.’

    Dr Harmer stressed that while it may not be an easy conversation, talking will help the bereaved parents process their grief.

    She said: ‘Death is never an easy subject and when a baby dies it is even harder to talk about…Not everyone will be ready to talk about their bereavement – but simply saying, “I’m so sorry,” for example, can really help.’

    sad couple

    Acknowledging the loss of your own or someone else’s baby is an important part of the grief process and talking about it will help, experts says

    If you’re unsure about how to speak to someone who has lost a child, Sands suggests the following:

    Talk about their baby

    Sands say: ‘When someone’s baby has died, it can be hard for others to find the words to say. This can add to feelings of isolation, so simply saying how sorry you are can really help.’

    Let them know you are thinking about them

    Sands say: ‘A simple text, card or email goes a long way. If you know them well, you might want to call them and ask how they are. It’s okay to ask “How are you?”.’

    Offer practical help

    Sands say: ‘When a baby dies it can be very hard for parents and families to do everyday tasks such as walking the dog, going shopping or cleaning the house. Offer to help in a practical way.’

    Going back to work

    Sands say: ‘If you know a colleague whose baby has died you may want to let them know how sorry you are. If you’re an employer find out how best to support your staff and volunteers.’

    You can also direct them to the Sands Freephone Helpline 0808 164 3332 where they will receive confidential support and advice.