Gemma has supported bereaved families for many years, starting with memory making in her role as a Healthcare Assistant when she joined Airedale NHS Foundation Trust. In 2013, she qualified as a midwife and continued to advocate for families and improve the support available for parents.

She is currently on a secondment as a Bereavement Support Midwife and has been nominated for the Elaine Thorp for Bereavement Care by Sarah, whose baby Rory was stillborn three years ago. 

In her nomination, Sarah said: “I first met Gemma 24 hours after my son Rory was stillborn, I can still remember the other midwives saying, ‘Gemma's in tomorrow she's part of the bereavement team she’s amazing she will look after you’.” 

Gemma supported the family with their move to the bereavement suite, so they could spend time and make memories with Rory. 

Sarah said: “The calm, safe space made so much difference to us and especially my partner, in giving us that safe space to truly make memories with Rory. Gemma was the only health professional to ask Callum, Rory's dad, how he was and continues to ask how he is. I really wanted to dress Rory myself, he still wasn't dressed, and this didn't feel right to me, I always wanted my babies snug and warm. However, at first, I was nervous. I knew how to dress a living baby but not a baby who had died...he felt even more fragile than a living baby.  

“Gemma was amazing, she didn’t really speak, instead, she held the space for us, she had a silent, quiet, calming presence. We knew she was there but just quietly as a reassurance. Gemma listened, really listened, she used Rory's name, and she told us how perfect our Rory was.” 

Gemma Sayer pictured wearing glasses and a purple tunic

The family were concerned about how to tell Rory’s older sister. Gemma shared information, resources and books with them to help them understand the different ways to support her. When the time came to leave the hospital, Sarah asked to leave Rory with Gemma. 

She said: “Gemma went above and beyond, she knew on the day we wanted to leave first thing, so she came in before her shift and sorted all our paperwork out and then stayed with Rory. She asked another wonderful midwife to escort us out of the building while she stayed with our Rory, which was really important to me. Although she was always professional, it felt like Gemma over those few days had become a close friend, this helped knowing we were leaving Rory with her, and I still say now, we left Rory with Gemma.” 

Gemma, who feels ‘honoured’ to be able to look after people, said: “One year after qualifying as a midwife, I looked after my first bereaved family and I just knew that that's what I wanted to do, I wanted to continue to look after these families. 

“It's sad that I’m having to do this job, but I just feel so privileged to be in their lives, to give them that support, and feel like I’ve made a difference. 

“The care I provide is always personalised to the family. You have to do it right to be able to carry on supporting families, for them to trust you, to be the one that they go to.” 

Find out more about the Elaine Thorp Award for Bereavement Care.

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