The word Doula stems from the Greek word meaning, ‘’woman who serves”.
A bereavement doula provides support to families who are experiencing, or who anticipate, loss.
They offer physical, emotional and informational assistance for miscarriage, stillbirth, or terminal diagnosis during pregnancy, sudden infant death and NICU care, as well as assisting parents in creating precious memories of their beautiful baby through photography, hand/foot prints and special momentos.
So what does that support look like?
This depends on the gestation of the baby at the time of death and the needs of the family. For early miscarriage, support may mean attending the doctors appointment or accompanying parents to the emergency room. Emotional support via text, phone, email, or instant messaging. Being present while mom labours and births baby, preparing parents to greet baby, bonding options for a tiny baby, explaining options and transportation for baby’s body. For stillbirth, the support may include much the same as above, but may be more in-depth to ensure memories and mementos are created.
A Bereavement Doula will provide information to help parents make informed decisions. For example: before 26 weeks gestation in South Africa, a foetus that showed no signs of life after delivery is currently disposed of as medical waste. However, through efforts from Voice of the Unborn Baby, Sonja Smit, this law is changing to state the following: on 29 March 2021, the high court declared that most parents who lose a child prior to birth have a right to bury their baby’s bodily remains, irrespective of the stage of foetal development.
In the interim, until the law is gazetted, the Bereavement Doula will ensure that baby’s remains are treated with dignity and assist in giving parents the option to have them cremated or buried.
Planning for a funeral is the last thing on anyone’s mind during pregnancy, but for a family who has been given a poor or fatal diagnosis, it is a cruel reality. The Bereavement Doula will provide information on the best options for baby.
Bereavement Doulas have a heart of compassion and understanding for those who are grieving the loss of a child. Your Doula will not try to fix you or try to find the right answers, rather they are there to come alongside you as companions walking this path together.