Helping others come to terms with loss
A TORQUAY couple who lost five babies have set up a national organisation to help others come to terms with loss.
For Zoe and Andy Clark-Coates, from Wellswood, the loss of babies through miscarriage was a devastating experience, especially when it happened time after time.
Now five years on, and with two beautiful young daughters, they have set up Saying Goodbye.
From their own pockets they have also funded and established the Saying Goodbye services, which will be the first set of national commemorative services for people who have lost a baby at any stage of pregnancy, at birth or in infancy.
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Zoe said: "Having lost five babies, we experienced first hand how loss can affect you.
"We wanted to create services that would give a wonderful goodbye to babies that have been lost, and allow the parents to grieve in a supportive environment.
"When you have parents saying 'this is the first time in 50 years that I am being able to grieve and say goodbye', you understand that whether it happened yesterday or half a century ago, the pain is still there, and people need help and support."
The first of the seven services will take place at Exeter Cathedral at 3pm on Saturday.
It is free to attend, is open to people of all faiths or no-faith and will feature personal stories, poetry, music, and more.
In addition, they are also providing support and advice on loss, which they hope to extend next year.
The couple have found that despite the tragic nature of a miscarriage, the life of a baby who dies before 24 weeks gestation is not recorded with a certificate, which leaves the parent with no official recognition of the baby's life.
They said that as miscarriage often takes place at home without medical intervention, people can be left with no avenue for grief, and as no memorial service usually takes place, the opportunity to officially recognise the unborn life, can just pass by.
With stillbirth and early infant loss, services are usually conducted quickly while parents are in the depth of despair, and not at a time when people can truly take onboard and process the grief.
The couple have used their events company CCEM to set up the services, and have seen huge support in a matter of months, so much so they are currently seeking charity status.
Many leading names have joined as ambassadors of the cause, including world medical experts Professor Lord Robert Winston and Professor Lesley Regan, and television personalities Denise Robertson, Julie Etchingham, Nigella Lawson, Jools Oliver, and Ruby Hammer.
Professor Lord Robert Winston said: "Miscarriage is often something that's not acknowledged or talked about in the UK, and people certainly do not appreciate how utterly distressing it is for women, and indeed their extended families.
"It's a loss of a precious life, and whether the loss happens in early or late pregnancy it's traumatic, and a natural grief process must be allowed to happen.
"I hope these services will be a turning point in the nation, and through this new organisation miscarriage will become more widely understood, and families will know that their pain and loss has been heard and recognised."
There are currently 20 services planned for 2013, and services are already being arranged for 2014.
For more information, log on to www.sayinggoodbye.org