Our new film highlights the work Sands does supporting anyone affected by the death of a baby, improving bereavement care and pioneering new research to save more babies’ lives; and what you can do to help.
Each day this week we will introduce all the people in the film who will share their stories below in their own words. Today, Anna and Andrew Milloy reflect.
My daughter Philomena was born over 6 years ago and I have thought of her every day since then.
Philomena was born and died on New Year's Eve. I struggled through the rest of the winter without her, just trying to make it through each day. I didn't know what to do with myself or how to relate to other people. I desperately wanted to talk about my baby and had no patience with people who couldn't cope with hearing my story. I was in such intense pain it felt as though I had no skin. I felt exposed and vulnerable. I had hoped to be part of a group of new mums and suddenly I had been expelled and was on my own.
Andrew and I marked the days and remembered the time of her birth each evening. We felt proud of ourselves for surviving as well as unbearably sad that she was no longer there with us.
Over time we learned ways of coping as bereaved parents. Going to Sands events gave us a safe space to talk about her as well as a place to belong. The counselling we received at the hospital was extremely valuable.
After that first year we trained as Sands Befrienders, wanting to offer to others what people had given us. I know from my own experience that being heard and understood by someone who knows, when so many around you seem unwilling or unable to listen, is such a relief. As Sands Befrienders Andrew and I can offer that relief.
These days I still think of my daughter every day and it doesn't always make me cry.
I can remember her beauty and be glad and grateful that she is mine.
There are no words I can think of that can capture the feeling of seeing your first child for the first time. I imagine it's true when your baby is born alive as well. Here was this beautiful girl: her mother's good looks, long and tall with slender fingers like her father, and yet someone so completely new and individual. It was heartbreaking to have to say hello and goodbye in the same instant, like being woken from a dream in which you met a soulmate.
I remember many people telling me that bereaved fathers don't like to talk about their lost children; that we would find it too difficult to put our feelings into words. That may be true for some, but through Sands and my work as a Sands Befriender I've met dads of all shapes and sizes, open and closed, loud and quiet, animated and reserved. As long as we're honest with ourselves it shouldn't matter. Personally I welcome the chance to share Philomena's story, but whatever our style, there is something in our experiences that we can recognise in each others' eyes. Words are optional.