The loss of a child is something that every parent fears, and no parent is ever prepared to face. Losing a child leaves a gaping hole in your life and heart, and it takes years to begin to heal. Even then, that hole never really closes, you just learn to live with it. When someone you know loses a child, it can be incredibly difficult to find the right words to comfort them, or know how to offer your support during such a difficult time. But it's so important to show them that you're there, and to help them work through their loss. So many bereaved parents don't have the support they need in the weeks and months after losing a child, especially when it comes to taking time off of work or being offered resources by their employer.
According to a survey conducted by Sands, a stillbirth and neonatal charity in the UK, as many as 4 out of 5 parents were not offered or given any support by their employer following the loss of their child. 2 out of 5 respondents reported that they were not offered any more time away from work. And approximately half of the 2,500 survey participants said that their employers didn't discuss any leave or entitlements to pay following the death of their baby.
In the UK, if a baby is stillborn after 24 weeks or dies shortly after birth, parents are still entitled to take maternity, paternity, and shared parental leave. They are also entitled to full parental rights and benefits. The government is considering adding an additional two weeks of pay and time off for parents who've lost a child, starting in 2020.
Some of the respondent's stories are absolutely heartbreaking. One father was fired from his job for taking a week off after the death of his baby girl. A mother says that even though her several of her colleagues and her manager attended her baby's funeral, none of them mentioned her baby again. Another mom shared that her colleagues quickly began sharing their own exciting baby news, so she felt unable to bring up her own loss.
So many people may not know what to say, or may be afraid of upsetting a bereaved parent by bringing up their baby. But it can be as simple as saying, "I'm so sorry", and letting the parent know that you're there for them when they're ready to talk or need someone to lean on. It's an ongoing process, but it's so important to remember that even though their lives were short, their babies existed and are so loved and missed by their parents.