June marks the start of SANDS (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death charity) Awareness Month, an opportunity to talk about the work SANDS do nationally and at a local level here in Bristol. This year’s campaign focuses on Together, #WeAreSands, to highlight how the charity is made up of many volunteer groups around the country. Bristol Sands are part of this community and is made up of a group of volunteer bereaved parents, who offer support to anyone who has experienced a similar loss.
Sadly, the loss of a baby at any stage of pregnancy, or shortly after birth, is a subject many would consider taboo and shy away from discussing. This can often leave bereaved parents feeling isolated and alone, as they negotiate their journey through grief. It’s precisely for this reason we have an awareness month to enable us to talk about the support SANDS can give, to breakdown the taboo and make baby loss a subject we should all be talking about.
On average every day in the UK 13 babies die either before, during or shortly after birth. Read that number again. 13. It’s a figure that thankfully has decreased over the years, partly due to contributions charities like SANDS have made, but is still overwhelmingly and heartbreakingly high. Only by talking and raising awareness of baby loss can we ever help to reduce that figure further.
At Bristol Sands, we offer support in the form of our monthly meetings. These meetings are an opportunity for bereaved parents to come together and talk about their baby, their experience, their grief, absolutely anything that may be on their mind. It can be a comfort to just be in the same room as someone else going through the same thoughts and feelings. Sometimes words are not necessary, just being there helps. We also hold monthly meetings for those going through pregnancy after loss. A joyful occasion often surrounded by anxiety, worry and fear. We are here to listen and provide emotional support.
Our remembrance events held throughout the year are another form of support, offering moments to pause, come together and remember. Our family friendly events are a chance for everyone to feel supported: siblings, grandparents and wider family members, all are welcome. During many of our services, a roll call of babies names is read out, as we remember those we have lost. Often this can be the only time parents will hear their baby’s name said aloud. A simple act that means so much.
We are also linked to Sands United Bristol FC founded in 2019 as a way for Dads to come together and support each other through sport.
As well as the support aspect, we also work within the Bristol area, providing support packs for parents and funding bereavement suites within the local hospitals. We’ve worked on projects to add a private room within the Early Pregnancy Unit at St Michael’s Hospital, as well as placing a memorial in Arnos Vale Cemetery to mark the area where babies were historically buried in unmarked graves.
None of this work would be possible without the generous contribution of our amazing supporters who have completed hundreds of different challenges, to raise money for Bristol Sands. One of our main fundraising events will see us return again to the Great Bristol Run on 25 September, where Team Bristol Sands will complete 10k and Half Marathon distances. If you are already running in this event and would like to support us, or you would like to enter and join the team, please get in touch, we’d be happy to hear from you.
Our support is available to anyone, regardless of how long ago you experienced your loss, it’s never too late to reach out for support. All information about our group can be found on our website.
We are here for you.