Welcome to the latest addition to the It Still Takes a Village – Working in Baby Loss Interview Series where we take a closer look at those who dedicate their day to day to preventing baby loss and supporting those affected. You can read more interviews, here.
I’ve been aware of LeighAnne Wright from a BBC Stories video that went semi-viral on Facebook – what she has created is simply beautiful. I was touched and so pleased to have her represent her charity, Little Things & Co earlier this year on a Baby Loss Hour surrounding funerals and memorials and I am delighted to share with you her truly passionate, dedicated and inclusive mindset on bereavement care. Meet Leigh-Anne…
So, to start us off, please can you let us know a little about your current role?
I am a funeral director working in Plymouth, Devon. I have been in my current role for ten years. I am also CEO of the charity Little Things and Co.
What are you currently working on? Is there a particular project or aim that you’d like to share with people.
We have lots of ongoing projects via the charity. But at the moment I am getting ready for the launch of my debut book, Help to Heal. Its released in October and things are getting busy!
“Baby loss is the predominant focus but breaking the silence around the taboo that is grief generally is a personal aim of mine.”
What motivated you to do the job that you are doing now?
I have always wanted to be a funeral director. I saw a family friend go through the stillbirth of her son when I was only as teenager. The care she received from the funeral director was shocking and I remember thinking ‘This needs to change.’ That’s when I choose my career path as a funeral director.
In what ways does your current role allow you to get involved in the baby loss cause?
We have links with lots of wonderful charities who work on prevention, but we focus on the ‘after’. Bereavement care is our focus. Baby loss is the predominant focus but breaking the silence around the taboo that is grief generally is a personal aim of mine.
What are the biggest frustrations or constraints that you face in supporting those affected by baby loss or preventing baby loss in the first place?
My frustration is when there are things in place to help people and they are not used. As a charity we have various emotional and practical help available and everything we do is free of charge. Unfortunately, not all professionals use the services that are available. And that’s not just us as a charity but some seem stuck in the old way of ‘move on, keep quiet’ and that is not helpful to anyone.
Do you think that Baby Loss is still a taboo, and if so, why? Do you encounter issues with it being a taboo in your day to day work?
Absolutely! Things are changing, slowly! But it is still a taboo. It’s the worst possible thing to happen…the death of a child. No one knows what to say. No one knows what to do. We need to keep talking, keep having open discussions and raise awareness. It happens every day, to people in every walk of life, in various circumstances. We cannot be silent any longer.
Who else do you work alongside in terms of baby loss support or prevention? Are there any charities that support you, or perhaps a colleague that you couldn’t manage without?
We have various links and a big social media following. We are very much ‘support one another for the greater good’ than an individual charity. The bottom line is we are all grieving parents, all trying to make a difference. There are other charities who provide the services we do and if they are getting to a family we have not then that’s amazing! We work with charities who look at the bigger picture and love to champion that mindset!
When the job is hard, what one thing reminds you to keep on keeping on?
That no matter how small a gesture you make it can mean the world to someone. Lots of small changes effect a big movement.
“We need to keep talking, keep having open discussions and raise awareness. It happens every day, to people in every walk of life, in various circumstances. We cannot be silent any longer.”
We are in a shift change with the understanding and awareness of baby loss. What would you say to someone just starting out in a job associated to baby loss?
Assume nothing. Every one grieving family are different. Do your research and if you don’t know what to say be honest! Admit that and you will get a lot more respect than false platitudes. And above all else be kind! It goes such a long way.
It’s likely that a newly bereaved parent is reading this. What would you like to say to them?
Firstly, I am sorry you find yourself in this new reality. Although the world right now does not seem fair, right or just, please keep going. There is happiness to be found alongside the memory of your precious child. There are so many people who care about your wellbeing. You are not alone.
We have some ambitious targets for baby loss currently in the UK. What are your specific hopes for the future in terms of maternity and baby loss?
Obviously that stillbirth and baby loss death rates are reduced dramatically. But for those who cannot be saved I hope for an end to the postcode lottery of care. I hope for good bereavement care, for greater social understanding to the pain and for any professional taking care of a baby loss family to know that what they do can have a profound impact on a person’s grieving and healing journey.
“There is happiness to be found alongside the memory of your precious child.”
Thank you so much for taking part in this interview series. Lastly, before we finish – Is there anything else about you or your job that you’d like to let people know about?
For support, emotional and practical, we can be found at www.ltandco.org
And to remember that together we are stronger!
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This blog post is part of an ongoing spotlight on those working in baby loss. To read more from It Still Takes a Village series, visit the hub page here.