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The loss of a child is a devastating blow that never truly leaves you

The loss of a child is a devastating blow that never truly leaves you
3 min read

Baby Loss Awareness Week is a chance to show everyone who has lost a child that they are not alone and they have our support, writes Antoinette Sandbach

This week is Baby Loss Awareness Week. The loss of a child is a devastating blow that never truly leaves you. However, while these weeks are a commemoration of those children we have lost, it is also a celebration of the progress that has been made towards reducing the number of parents who lose a child, and in making sure that those who do are properly supported.

Each year Parliamentarians take part in events both here in Westminster and in their constituencies. Each year buildings are lit up in blue and pink, services and vigils are held, and each year discussion of this topic comes out of the dark and into the light. This year’s commemorations in Westminster will begin this Tuesday afternoon with a debate in the Chamber.

This will be followed on Thursday by a drop-in session for MPs who want to learn more, and then a lunchtime memorial service in St Mary’s Undercroft. In all the chaos of Parliamentary life, when everyone is worried about the next vote or tomorrow’s front pages it can be all too easy to forget that each and every Member of Parliament is a human being, with unseen scars. These services give us a chance to come together and support each other and provide an important reminder that those on the opposite benches aren’t our opponents, but colleagues who we should work with and who bring a perspective we may not otherwise have.

This week isn’t just a chance to remember those we have lost, but also to recognise the policy changes that have been made, and those we still need to see. Perhaps the centrepiece achievement of the last year has been the Parental Bereavement Act, ably guided through the Commons by Kevin Hollinrake. This enshrines in law the right of those who lose a child to two weeks paid leave. Most employers are caring and responsive to the needs of their employees, but this Act ensures that every parent in the UK can count on some time and space should something awful happen to their child.

Likewise, we have seen concrete results from the National Bereavement Care Pathway, the assessments of this programme, the pilots of which were launched a year ago, are exceptionally positive – 77% of healthcare professionals who were aware of the pathway thought that bereavement care had improved in their trust. Now is the time for the government to commit to funding the project into 2019/20 so that it can be rolled out nationally.

Since I joined Parliament in 2015, I have seen Baby Loss Awareness Week grow and grow. More and more people, both in Parliament and outside, have spoken movingly about their own loss and inch by inch we have built a campaign that has changed the law and brought a little comfort to those who are going through the worst moments of their lives.

I hope that this coming year will see further successes, but most of all I hope that everyone who has lost a child feels slightly less alone in knowing that their trauma is understood, and we are determined to do everything we can to help. 

Antoinette Sandbach is Conservative MP for Eddisbury. The Backbench Business debate on Baby Loss Awareness Week is on Tuesday 9th October

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