The Coronavirus pandemic has understandably increased the anxiety levels of expectant couples. Additionally, COVID restrictions have brought about some limitations to the support pregnant and birthing women have been able to receive.
Sadly, for families who experience a stillbirth during the pandemic, hospital restrictions have resulted in some additional challenges. Along with the shock and devastation of losing their much-wanted babies, bereaved parents have felt more alone and isolated in their grief due to the Coronavirus restrictions.
Bereaved parents have had to grieve without the support of family and friends being able to visit them in hospital and at home.
Professional photographers such as Heartfelt, have at times been unable to visit and take professional photos of babies who have died.
There have been limitations around the number of family and friends able to attend the baby’s funeral.
In hospital settings, Midwives and Obstetricians supporting women and their partners whose babies have died, are working hard to make up for the limitations imposed by the Coronavirus pandemic.
What is being done? Bereavement Midwife Eliza Strauss highlights what healthcare professionals can do to care for bereaved families during these extremely difficult times, and to help bereaved parents mourn and honour their baby’s short lives.
Many bereavement care practices that were in place prior to the pandemic can continue, so that bereaved mothers and fathers are still able to gather memories and parent their babies who have died.
Typical bereavement practices:
The use of a cuddle cot to ensure the baby is not separated from the parents
Unrushed time for the parents to spend with the baby
Creation of a memory folder including collection of tangible memories such as foot & handprints, measurements, weight and birth details
Dressing and bathing the baby
The offer to take baby home if this is the parents’ wish
The taking & printing of photos, using a donated camera or the parents’ phone (with their permission)
Early referral to an appropriate funeral company
Early referral for counselling and support
Additional bereavement practices during the pandemic:
Extra input from Midwives or other health professionals to present alternative options so bereaved parents are informed of what is and is not possible due to the restrictions
Suggesting that parents FaceTime their families if they want them to meet the baby
Offering to film the parents on their phones with a message to their older children, introducing their sibling who has died (if the parents would have otherwise brought the children in to the hospital)
Encouragement to ask the funeral company whether they have live streaming options for friends and family who cannot attend the funeral due to Coronavirus restrictions
The Coronavirus pandemic has catapulted the world into a collective grief. Restrictions and limitations imposed by the virus need not impede the care and support health professionals can give to their grieving patients.
It is important that bereaved families know that the people looking after them are working within the coronavirus restrictions to honour their babies in ways that will help them through their ongoing grief and mourning.