Aching Arms – the impact of volunteers on families affected by baby loss

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It is often said that the most devastating thing a person can experience is the death of a baby or child.  This is often made worse by the fact it is seen as a taboo subject.  13 babies die before, during or soon after birth in the UK every single day, yet it is rarely covered in parent classes during pregnancy and medical staff often don’t want to mention it in case it worries parents unnecessary.  This can mean that when it happens, parents feel extremely isolated and as if they are the first person it has happened to.

Many amazing charities across the country work hard to break the silence around baby loss and make sure that parents have the support that they need to navigate the next steps.

Aching Arms is one such charity which is at the forefront of supporting families from the moment they are told their baby has died.

What do Aching Arms do?

Aching Arms aims to provide a comfort bear to every parent impacted by baby loss.  This bear is a loving gift from another family who has also experienced baby loss. Each Aching Arms bear wears a personalised, handwritten label with the name of the baby in whose memory the bear was dedicated as well as a tag explaining Aching Arms’ other support services.

Supporting Arms is a flexible call back service open to anyone in the UK impacted by baby loss.  When you call, text or email on 07464 508994 or support@achingarms.co.uk someone from the charity will contact you within 72 hours, to arrange a convenient time to talk.  They also offer a video call with their Bereavement Care Manager, Lindsay and arrange ‘Be Together’ events for bereaved families to meet up with one another.

What role do volunteers play?

I am a local hospital volunteer for the charity.  This means I have the privilege of preparing the bears for my local hospital and liaising with the bereavement midwife and Emergency Department. Each card is lovingly written in a name of another baby who has died – this is a key part as it helps to break down those feelings of isolation.  Writing the babies’ names and attaching them to their bears always fills me with mixed emotions. Each name is special – it represents a life not lived or cut short, a grieving family and a lifetime of lost memories, experiences, hopes and dreams, but it also represents a huge amount of love for that baby.  I also know that the bear and this dearly loved baby’s memory will provide much needed support to a family in their darkest moments.  I’m immensely proud of the work the charity has done and know many parents are incredibly grateful for their bear, who can become a key part of their family.

Aching Arms Comfort bears are in over 170 hospitals over the country and each hospital has a hardworking, dedicated volunteer.  These are often bereaved parents, or those who have close friends and family who have experienced baby loss.

There are also postal volunteers who prepare the bears for families who didn’t receive a bear in hospital and requested one online, through social media or during a Supporting Arms session.  These volunteers dedicate time every week to lovingly preparing and carefully packing the bears ready to send.

Aching Arms also has a team of volunteers who run bereavement training sessions for health professionals and workplaces, and a Fundraising Events Team. This is a very varied role which involves supporting fundraisers at their various events and challenges.

Finally, Aching Arms has a team of Ambassadors who attend business events, local community groups, schools or other local organisations to raise awareness of the charity.

The charity highly values its volunteers and provides training and support for all roles.  They also recognise the emotional impact volunteering can have at times, and has a support group so that you always feel you have someone to talk to when things becoming overwhelming or if you want to share any successes.

If you would like to volunteer for Aching Arms, please complete an Expression of Interest form.

If you have experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth or your baby died shortly after birth and you did not receive a bear from your hospital, you can request one here.

What the volunteers say

Being a volunteer for Arching Arms is a privilege and helps me to feel that I am playing a small part in bringing a little bit of light to families in their darkest moments. Here are some quotes from Aching Arms volunteers:

“I asked to volunteer for Aching Arms after my husband and I donated bears in memory of our son who was born sleeping. We were so very touched by what they did for families who had suffered baby loss. I had never heard of Aching Arms before but the simplicity of having a bear to hold to walk out of the hospital with at such a tragic time made it a little bit better and I wanted to be a part of that process. I wanted to help other families who were experiencing that heart wrenching loss.”

“The charity means a lot to us as they were there in our hour of need and helped us to help us know we were not alone on the path we found ourselves on after losing Zachary in 2018. Also by providing a bear it gave us something to hold when we was feeling empty and lost.”

“We never learned about Aching Arms until I was advised of the charity by another bereaved parent on a baby loss forum. Leaving hospital without our baby was devastating, our arms were literally aching under the emptiness of being without our precious baby and it was a lonely and isolating experience. I truly believe had I had a beautiful wee bear to cuddle it would have made that heartbreaking journey slightly less painful.”

Other volunteers for Aching Arms shared why they volunteer for the charity and the benefit they get from it during Volunteers Week in June. See what they said here

ENABLE LAW IS HERE TO HELP

I am a Managing Associate at Enable Law and I work predominantly with bereaved parents.  Nobody wants to bring a claim but parents can often feel that this is the only way to get independent answers to their questions, ensure that lessons are learnt and that care is improved to help other families in the future.

Being a volunteer for Aching Arms helps me feel that I am providing support for as many parents as possible, through all parts of their journey.

If you would like to speak to me regarding any concerns you have about the death of your baby, please contact me: nrw@enablelaw.com

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