Grieving families supported with love
Published at: 10 Jul 2020
AFTER EXPERIENCING THEIR OWN TRAGIC LOSS, TWO SHEPPARTON MOTHERS CREATED AN INITIATIVE TO HELP LOCAL FAMILIES THROUGH THE DEATH OF THEIR BABY. ERIN MCCARROLL AND TAMMY MILLS-ALEXANDER STARTED THE “WITH LOVE PROJECT” ENSURING FAMILIES WHO LOSE AN INFANT HAVE SOMETHING SPECIAL TO COMMEMORATE THEIR CHILD’S MEMORY.
When local families experience the heartbreak of losing a baby, Shepparton mothers Erin McCarroll and Tammy Mills- Alexander are there to help.
The pair has spear-headed the With Love Project since 2018, which sees those who have lost a baby presented with a special timber keepsake box to preserve their child’s memory.
Ms McCarroll said the project was born out of a simple conversation with fellow kindergarten mother Ms Mills-Alexander in 2017 when their boys started attending together.
The pair discovered they had both suffered immeasurable loss.
In 2010, Ms McCarroll and her family lost their baby boy Cormac just days after he was born.
Ms Mills-Alexander experienced the loss of a baby in 2015 when her son Ryan passed away at nine weeks old.
The pair both received keepsake boxes in Melbourne where their babies were cared for.
Ms McCarroll said she had always wanted to look into what was available for mothers at a local level, but she needed support to push through the emotional journey.
Ms Mills-Alexander provided her with the support she needed to bring the project to fruition.
“To have Tammy do this with me made such a difference as our experience gave us a unique perspective,” Ms McCaroll said.
“Sometimes this process has been hard as we want to honour Cormac and Ryan and there’s pressure in that alone to get it right.”
Containing items such as a memory book, a handmade quilt, a plaster cast and teddy bear, the boxes are a result of several community members coming together to provide their services.
“We wanted to create something that families could store their precious items in from a child that has passed away, close to them in a box that looks like furniture and doesn’t stand out.
“This allows the family to be close to the items, and if they don’t wish to talk about it, the box can still be on display.
“We believe it is a symbol to show families that the community cares for their baby and their loss.”
Assisted by GV Health Foundation, Director Carmel Johnson said it was incredible to have such a project at the health service, driven by local women with their own experiences of loss.
Ms Johnson said while GV Health already had a similar initiative in place, the pair had enhanced what was already on offer for families.
“We wanted to help the hospital deliver this service with the same love and support that we experienced, and we really hope it helps anyone who needs it,” Ms McCarroll said.
“When they walk out of hospital, we don’t want families to feel alone.”
Ms McCarroll said they were incredibly grateful for the GV Health Foundation’s support to roll out the project, which will initially include 50 boxes to be distributed to families when needed.
GV Health Maternity Services Manager Carmel Brophy said she and her staff were grateful for the the support received from Ms McCaroll and Ms Mills-Alexander.
“It is part of our role here to support grieving families,” she said.
“It is very gratifying that there are women who have suffered their own personal grief that are willing to support us in this way.”
GV Health Clinical Director of Paediatrics Dr Joseph Tam said it was important for families to be able to remember their loss, so having the boxes would go a long way towards them being able to do so.
“It is fantastic that the community can come together and make this project a success,” he said.
“(The death of a baby) does not happen often, but when it does it affects everyone – not only the child’s parents, but their extended family and friends.”
If you would like to donate to the With Love Project, contact GV Health Foundation Director Carmel Johnson via email at firstname.lastname@example.org