SANDS Bendigo service aims to help families to grieve

FAMILIES will be given the opportunity to grieve for lost babies at a SANDS Bendigo memorial service this weekend.

SANDS Bendigo is a support group for parents who have lost a baby through stillbirth, newborn death or miscarriage.

The group is inviting anyone who has ever lost a baby to the memorial service at the Bendigo Funeral Centre in Miller Street at 2pm on Saturday.

SANDS Bendigo facilitator Carmel Fitzgerald knows first hand what it’s like to lose a baby.

She said sharing with other people who have had similar experiences could help parents work through the range of emotions that followed the death of a baby.

“In my case it was 46 years ago that I had a miscarriage,” she said.

“I had three other children and I miscarried the fourth one. 

“I think I was about 12 weeks.”

Mrs Fitzgerald still thinks about what could have been – what life would have had in store for her child – and recently went to the effort of making a birth certificate in honour of the baby she never had the chance to meet.

“I made it using my birth certificate and I set it out so it looked like a legal document and everything,” she said.

“I didn’t tell my husband, I just did it.

“My older daughter’s a fairly sensible girl so I took it out and showed her and she freaked.

“I said, ‘I’ve decided it was a boy, I didn’t know what it was, so I called him Morgan which was my maiden name’.

“She just went right off so I put it away and never told anyone else about it ... So we still haven’t actually named that baby so at the memorial service we’re just going to call it ‘Baby Fitzgerald’.”

Mrs Fitzgerald said miscarriages were not really talked about back then but things were getting better. “It’s healthier these days,” she said.

“At the time you were just told to go home and have another one, as if it’s nothing.”

SANDS Bendigo re-formed in April after being in hibernation for about 10 years.

The group meets every month, with the only membership requirement being that you must have had a stillbirth, newborn death or a miscarriage.

“We basically just tell our stories in all sorts of various ways and give each other the opportunity to grieve, to cry if they want to, to talk about the experience,” Mrs Fitzgerald said.

Only a handful of people attended the first meeting but the group has picked up a few new members through various organisations, referrals and word of mouth.

“Some of them are older losses, but now we’ve got about three young couples who have lost a baby in the last few years,” Mrs Fitzgerald said.

“So that’s what made us decide to have a memorial service, because it’s a way of expressing your grief and having an open forum.”

People can register for this weekend’s service by phoning Carmel on 5439 6235 or Catherine on 5441 6909.

SUPPORTIVE: SANDS facilitator Carmel Fitzgerald and member Kathie. Picture: Jodie Donnellan

SUPPORTIVE: SANDS facilitator Carmel Fitzgerald and member Kathie. Picture: Jodie Donnellan