Providing a supportive space to grieve

Mothers, fathers, grandparents and siblings attended a remembrance service at St John of God Murdoch Hospital in September for those who have experienced the loss of a baby through miscarriage or stillbirth.

This was the first service of its kind at the hospital and grew out of conversations with families about their need to not only privately grieve their loss, but to participate in some form of ritual or occasion that publicly honoured the life they had lost.

Pastoral Services Manager Jenni Ashton said the service was peaceful and reflective, giving those who attended the opportunity to grieve openly in a respectful, nurturing and non-judgmental environment.

“We feel it is really important to give people a supportive space to understand and process their grief,” Ms Ashton said.

“People can find themselves pressured to ‘move on’ or ‘get better’ following their loss, but services such as this provide an opportunity to pause and reflect on the way their life has changed.”

One attendee said “the acknowledgement that a life was lost was important to us” and another spoke of the importance of remembering, saying “the service was great because we don’t want to forget our baby.”

Attendees were able to light candles for their loved ones and many held the small fabric hearts made by hospital staff.

“Our caregivers make these hearts with love and it is wonderful to see people holding them for support and comfort.”

In addition to this service, the hospital provides4-burning-candles-in-the-dark six remembrance services a year for those who have lost loved ones of all ages, faiths and situations. In the past year, over 400 people have attended these services and their feedback indicates this is a significant aspect of the care provided by the hospital.

“Providing bereavement support is very much a part of who we are as an organisation and the reason we wanted to invite the wider community,” Ms Ashton said.

The vision of St John of God Health Care, as a ministry of the Catholic Church, is “to invite people to discover the richness and fullness of their lives, give them a reason to hope, and a greater sense of their own dignity.”

“This can seem an insurmountable task in the midst of overwhelming sadness, but providing sensitive and pastorally appropriate remembrance services does facilitate this painful, yet sacred, opportunity.”


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