Coping with baby loss – lessons from my career

 

claire-stoneman-enable-lawFrom the very start of my career I have worked with bereaved families.  I have been very privileged to learn so much from them about the grief cycle and the bereavement support that is needed.  I will never truly understand what they have been through but this work has given me an appreciation of how difficult it is and what a life changing event baby loss is.

Early in my career I found myself in the team dealing with the Bristol Royal Infirmary public inquiry into babies who had died following paediatric cardiac surgery.  We represented the parents through the Bristol Heart Children’s Action Group and I also took statements for the Inquiry from bereaved families and dealt with individual clinical negligence claims.  I was 25 years old and had never experienced death beyond a few pets whilst I was growing up.  To say it was a steep learning curve is an understatement.

Any avoidable stillbirth or neonatal death is devastating.  It has an everlasting impact on not only parents and siblings but also on the wider family and friends and it feels as if nothing will ever be quite the same again.  If only one lesson could be learnt from every avoidable death and changes implemented, that would be a step in the right direction.  Every baby that comes into this world counts and every stillbirth or death should as well.

No one ever wants to see a clinical negligence solicitor.  We are a distress purchase.  For a lot of people it is an intimidating experience at a time when they are grieving and have already been let down by the medical profession.  We start from a position where we have to earn their trust.

All of us in this area of law want to help people.  We are people focused.   Helping people find answers to their questions feels worthwhile to us.  Finding out what happened in their care, obtaining apologies where appropriate, obtaining changes to future practices and ensuring lessons are learnt and patient safety is improved for the future is so important.

My team at Enable Law specialises in dealing with baby loss cases. All too often, procedures and practices aren’t changed and don’t seem to be shared with other Trusts such that lessons aren’t learned and the baby’s death hasn’t made a difference.  This is truly shocking.

Talking about what has happened does help. I know it sounds really cliché but a problem shared really does make a difference.  For our clients I often suggest that they seek support from a local or national charity. Support groups aren’t for everyone but there are so many different ways that people can get involved with charities from fundraising, to volunteering, to campaigning or getting involved in research studies to name but a few. Doing something practical and tangible can be of great benefit and help people deal with their grief.

You need to make sure that you have someone you can turn to, which could be a friend, partner, relative or a work colleague.  You need to look after yourself and share your thoughts and feelings so that you are in a good place to support and look after your family.

In conclusion, I wanted to give a couple of quotes that I have found helpful during my career:

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about” – Wendy Mass, The Candymakers

“You can’t pour from an empty cup.  Take care of yourself first.”

Claire Stoneman is a partner at Enable Law, and heads the Taunton team, who specialise in stillbirth and birth injury claims. You can contact Claire on 03303 116850 or via claire.stoneman@enablelaw.com