Local group helping bereaved parents to cope with death of a baby disbands

AFTER 17 years of helping support parents throughout the Borders who have lost a baby shortly before, during or just after birth, the local branch of the nationwide Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society (SANDS) is being disbanded.

A final remembrance service will be held on Sunday, in The Tryst at the Borders General Hospital, from 2.30-4pm and there will also be a small exhibition on the history of Border SANDS from its beginning to the present day.

However, it has been stressed that information from the charity will still be available to parents from the hospital’s maternity unit and the BGH chaplaincy centre, and parents wishing to speak to someone from the charity in person can still do so through it’s other branches in Edinburgh and the Lothians.

Border SANDS secretary, Irene Halliday, from Kelso, says it is an appropriate time for the branch’s activities to come to an end.

“The chaplain at the BGH, Ron Dick, is retiring in July – he has been a great supporter of ours for many years – and we felt that this, together with having such a small committee of the same core people and with nobody new willing to join and take over, as well as other reasons, made it an appropriate time to call it a day,” she explained.

Irene – who suffered the loss of a baby herself – has been involved with the organisation for 18 years and says the problem of recruiting new members is something that has been difficult to overcome.

She told us: “We get very few new people willing to get involved, so it is the same small nucleus of people on the committee and they also have families and some have health issues.

“The other major thing is that people now access information differently to when we first started up the branch.

“In saying that, however, it should be stressed that SANDS information will still be available from the BGH – so SANDS is not disappearing completely.”

Irene says the branch has helped a considerable number of parents over the years of its existence: “We have not acted as counsellors, more like befrienders, and all our work was in strictest confidence.”

Established by bereaved parents in 1981, SANDS has three core aims – support anyone affected by the death of a baby; work with health professionals to improve services offered to bereaved families; and to promote research and changes in practice that could help reduce the loss of babies’ lives.

The Reverend Dick says he is positive many local people have been helped by the volunteers who staffed the local branch of the charity.

“I was involved with a sub-group, which was called the SANDS Midwives Working Group, which worked to support midwives who in turn were supporting mums who had suffered a loss during pregnancy or a stillbirth,” Rev Dick told TheSouthern.

Rev Dick, who conducted SANDS’ annual remembrance service, said the charity offered parents who had lost a baby, the chance to speak to someone who had gone through the same experience themselves.

He said: “The branch also raised funds for various items needed in the maternity unit, such as a camera to take pictures of a baby for the mother, or a Moses basket – things like that.

“A big thing the group also raised money for, was the refurbishment of the Eildon Room, where mums could go if they had to deal with the loss of a baby and needed a wee break away from the rest of the unit.”

Rev Dick agrees that more young people are sourcing required information from the internet and this has made some of SANDS work redundant.

“Lots of this kind of information can now be found on websites, which is something young people are used to doing and they can get this information very quickly.

“However, they will still be able to speak to someone if they wish and can access support through the charity’s website, as well as information being available in the hospital.”