LeighAnne Wright BCAv

Baby loss advocate, author, charity CEO, campaigner, funeral director, celebrant and loss mother

Coronavirus, charity and chaos

Updated September 9th, 2020

Coronavirus, charity and chaos

As we head into the sixth month of the global pandemic that is Coronavirus, I cannot help but reflect on all this has meant for us as a charity.

I remember the early days and thinking ‘Its probably the media exaggerating again’.

As a Funeral Director in my day job I was around for the panic surrounding bird flu, swine flu and various other incidences when the government warned us and we made our preparations.  I’m not afraid to say when the first calls of Coronavirus came, I didn’t take it all too seriously, thinking this drama too would pass.  Over six months on and how wrong I was.

Our team was fortunate to have had a trustee meeting two days before the official lockdown and although we were now starting to take it a little more seriously never could we have envisaged just what was to come.

As news spread and there were daily updates from the Government, we realised our much-needed support groups would need to be suspended.  We hung on hoping this was a bad dream.  I remember thinking ‘Surely the loss of a child is enough? Our families don’t need to now go through this without face to face support?’  But it was not to be, they had to be stopped, to adhere to the guidelines.

So ever the optimist we kept posting our daily quotes, words of encouragement that we were alone but still together.  But there was a shift.  People had retreated into their homes, but many had also retreated into themselves.  Our inbox is normally buzzing with activity daily.  People asking advice, discussing funerals, wondering will they ever be happy again.  But there was radio silence.  Personally, I was scared.  Not of this blasted virus but of the effect this was having on people’s bereavement care.  My belief has always been that talking is the best medicine.  Sharing is a tonic and understanding can be a lifeline.  There were minimal comments on our posts, but the contact had all but ceased.  People were scared, people were troubled.  I am by nature a worrier.  And my continual thoughts were ‘How are our families doing? How are the new families who don’t know the way this grief journey works doing?’ The thought people were not getting the support they needed was consuming me.  Yes, there were other charities too, and we did not need to carry the burden for the bereaved alone, but I knew if we were finding this shift so were others.  And on speaking to our friends who run other baby loss charities we found the same thing.

The next alarm bell rang when hospitals stopped accepting parcels of our beautiful clothing.  The risk of contamination was too high.  Which meant if they had no stock that babies were not being dressed.  Most hospitals were organised enough not to run out but what if circumstances had prevented them from having any clothing at all?  Clothing was the whole reason I had set up the charity seven years ago.  It was at the core of our whole charity.

Thankfully, there was a moment of light when we were able to provide our grave dressing to a family.  No one would touch it after it had been in place and although the saddest of occasions it allowed us to feel like we were helping.

But then came the next problem.  Four of our trustees were vulnerable.  The four that do the legwork, the banking, the collecting, the real graft.  So, we had to get creative!  We posted cheques to banks, rallied together, we took them other jobs and we had to keep calm and carry on.

Meetings were cancelled, funeral directors had to pick up their own birds if they wanted them flown at funerals and sadly, we had to tell our lovely knitters to keep their knitting with them until we could accept it again.

Myself and our trustee Harriet are both funeral directors.  Working to make the charity keep running plus our day jobs was at times tough.  We were seeing baby funerals with only parents in attendance and the reality of all that Covid was taking from our precious families was heart breaking.  Both of us had done our jobs for a long time and never had we seen legislation and even the law change so rapidly, and it was a struggle at times to keep up.

We were hearing of families being given devastating news at their scans but having to hear it alone.  The women having to give birth to their stillborn child with minimal support.  After years of pushing for better care this was heart breaking.  People started petitions, social media was alight with disdain for this crippling virus and all it had robbed people of.

We saw parents unable to tend to their child’s grave because they were adhering to the curfew.  Yes, the rules were in place to protect us but when a grave is all you have left of the beautiful baby you had longed for being told you cannot attend is soul destroying. 

Little Haven our beautiful memorial garden was left to its own devices as no one was permitted to attend and tidy it up.  A few of us tended to it as our daily exercise when we could but were fighting a losing battle against such a vast space.  But then restrictions eased somewhat, and we have been able to gather together again.  And yet now these restrictions are being enforced again and we are left wondering, yet again, ‘what now?’

Our annual Wave of Light event has been made into a virtual event and I have to admit that one hurt!  It is the one night of the year we gather together for a truly beautiful evening.  Autumn has very clearly set in by October the 15th and after an emotionally charged Baby Loss Awareness week we relax; we remember our precious children and we are together.  The pure love I feel from that event reminds me for another year just why what we do is important.  When times are tough, and I am juggling life, work, family, and charity I reflect on that night and I get the boost I need.  Pure warmth and love.  This year I am apprehensive I will not get to be with those people, with the new folk who need it, with those who have been with us since the day we started seven and a half years ago.  But as always, we will adapt and overcome.  We will join together virtually and make it work.  Those bereaved by the loss of a baby are the strongest and most resilient group of people to walk the earth.  When you have suffered such a tragic death as that of your child Coronavirus will be minimal, a mere inconvenience.  When you have been to hell and back, as our families have, then we can face anything, as long as we fight it together.

At the moment we are in that awful limbo stage.  When some restrictions are easing and yet some more are being reinstated.  Everyone is anxious, waiting for a second wave maybe?  Wondering when life will go back to some sense of normal.  For the bereaved life will never be normal again, we know that. Coronavirus has decimated 2020.  Baby loss decimates life and we have all clawed our way back and we will do it again.  But we will not be beaten.

I am sorry for those who have not found us during this awful time, to those who need our support and we cannot fully give it but I can make a promise…that we will be creative to bring the services we can, we will support as and where we can and we will be there to pick up the pieces, as always.