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COVID isolation is affecting bereaved parents

DEMAND for support services for new parents has soared over the past year as COVID-19 has created additional anxiety and crisis for families.

COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions are placing additional stress on parents dealing with the grief of losing a child, forcing them to navigate traumatic experiences without the support from their friends and families.

Since July 2020, Australian charity Red Nose has seen a 40 per cent increase in counselling sessions for families who have lost a child, and a 45 per cent increase in calls to their grief and loss support line.

Co-CEO of Red Nose Australia, Keren Ludski, said: “COVID has placed a great deal of stress on many Australians, but imagine the absolute trauma that comes with dealing with the death of a baby in lockdown.

“[Imagine] the anxiety associated with being a first-time parent worried about SIDS and not being able to have your family and friends over for support.”

Around 3,000 babies and young children die every year in Australia, with 2,200 of these stillbirth deaths.

One in 135 pregnancies that reach 20 weeks will end in stillbirth; a figure that has remained alarmingly high for the past 30 years.

Candice Van Poppel lost her first child, Millan, at 39 weeks.

Candice, had “the perfect pregnancy,” and was on maternity leave, preparing to meet her son when a sudden lack of movement prompted the hospital visit that confirmed the worst.

Candice with her husband and three of her four children. Photo: Supplied

Two weeks after Millan’s birth, a Red Nose counsellor connected her to the support group that would become her lifeline.

Candice said, “I didn’t actually know anyone who had had a child die.

“But then to go to the support groups and to see that the range of loss… it was enormous, and I didn’t even know it existed.”

“These women were just like me, and I wasn’t alone.”

Red Nose’s support services for new parents include counselling, group sessions and support helplines, and are kept free of charge thanks to funds raised on Red Nose Day.

Celebrated this Friday, 13 August, Red Nose Day also raises vital funds for critical research and education, with a goal of zero babies dying unexpectedly in Australia.

Research includes the current world-leading stillbirth research project in placental ageing, which began in 2019, and a stillbirth research project into the impact of side sleeping from mothers-to-be.

These research projects could provide insight into the reasons behind Australia’s consistently high stillbirth rate, which has remained at around six stillborn children every day.

Jackie Mead, Co-CEO of Red Nose, said “Red Nose Day is vital to raising funds for Red Nose’s world-leading current stillbirth research project.

“I’m urging Australians who are in a position to, to please get behind Red Nose Day,” she said.

For Candice, who recently marked ten years since Millan’s passing, support from those who have gone through similar experiences is something that she still relies on daily.

But when it comes to providing support to friends or family enduring the loss of a child, she stresses that just remembering can be one of the most helpful methods of support.

“Don’t be scared to mention the child’s name,” Candice said.

“Just because you don’t mention them, it doesn’t mean we aren’t thinking of them already.”

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