GRIEF presents itself in all sorts of ways and sticks around for varying periods of time.

Sometimes it lingers for days or weeks, but sometimes it lasts a lifetime.

When you lose a child, especially one which has a surviving twin, the latter is certainly the case.

Mary Donnelly from Johnstone will, in three months time, mark two years since she lost her five-month old boy Aiden to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) - otherwise known as ‘cot death’.

SIDS is the unexplained death of a child who is less than one and usually occurs during sleep. You have no time to prepare and are left with no answers.

The Gazette: Mary Donnelly keeps pictures of Aiden and twin brother Kieran as well as a special cushionMary Donnelly keeps pictures of Aiden and twin brother Kieran as well as a special cushion

And, unlike the loss of an elderly parent or grandparent, it is a tragedy you never expect to face and is subsequently all the more harder to work through.

“It’s hard, it’s still really hard everyday,” said Mary. 

“I have got other kids and I guess they keep me going, but it is still really difficult.

“Every now and again I’ll be on Facebook and I’ll see a wee picture of him and I’ll just burst into tears. Or someone will say to me ‘I remember when you were pregnant with twins’.

“A lot of people have the idea that he wasn’t around for long so how can it affect me so much. But he was here, I gave birth to him, and I think it’s harder because he’s got a twin.

“Kieran will do strange things like when he takes a handful of crisps, I’ve got a pillow with the picture of the two of them on it and he’ll put some under the pillow. It’s as if he’s trying to share and you wouldn’t even think he’d remember him.”

Over the past seven days, several charities have come together to call for better and more accessible support for parents who have suddenly lost a child during Baby Loss Awareness Week (BLAW). 

This year, the tagline was ‘Breaking the Silence’, which had the aim of encouraging bereaved parents to speak up about their experiences to improve people’s general understanding of baby loss.

The Gazette: Mary said the loss of Aiden has hit his two-year-old twin Kieran hard Mary said the loss of Aiden has hit his two-year-old twin Kieran hard

A report, dubbed ‘Out of Sight, Out of Mind’, was submitted to the UK Government highlighting the frightening number of women who have been unable to access appropriate support at a suitable time and place, with the BLAW Alliance calling for this to be rectified.

The lack of understanding and sympathy surrounding the issue became clear to mum-of-11Mary, 38, when she received an upsetting letter through the door.

“A couple of weeks ago we had a letter from the hospital which was addressed to the parents of Aiden Donnelly,” added Mary.

“It was asking us to come and talk about him and his death which we had already done. I thought that was extremely insensitive. I was absolutely distraught in that moment.

“I haven’t actually reached out for much support because I find it really hard to talk about it. 

“But I think we need to be a bit more open about it [the subject of baby loss]. It needs to go beyond just handing people leaflets. We need to do a little bit more.”

Losing Aiden was like rubbing salt into a wound for Mary, who had already experienced four miscarriages before finding him unresponsive one morning last January.

And she feels miscarriage is an area where there is great misunderstanding.

She added: “I don’t think people really understand it very much if they haven’t been through it. But there was a baby inside you and you were expecting to have a life with that child, so it’s still devastating.”

The Gazette:

Research by the BLAW Alliance has shown if bereaved parents, including men, do not get the correct type of support, the consequences can be severe. It can affect future pregnancies, personal relationships, physical health and employment and the charities behind Baby Loss Awareness Week believe the repercussions are felt across wider society, costing the NHS more in the long run.

In a survey carried out this year, 60 per cent of bereaved parents said they felt they needed specialist psychological support, but were not able to access it on the NHS.

Eight out of 10 NHS commissioners across the UK do not provide specialist therapies for parents who experience psychiatric illness after pregnancy or baby loss. 

The BLAW Alliance hopes these alarming statistics will alert the UK Government to put an end to this grim reality and ensure that, in future, the thousands of parents who experience baby loss every year get the right support, whenever and wherever they need it.

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