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Bereavement support for parents

Wairarapa charity Hōkai Tahi is increasing awareness of the impact of pregnancy and baby loss as part of Baby Loss Awareness Week.

Now in its 21st year, Baby Loss Awareness Week creates an opportunity for everyone affected by baby loss to come together to remember and commemorate “all babies that have died too soon”, Hōkai Tahi’s service manager Rebecca Vergunst said.

It also highlights “the importance that bereavement support plays in the ongoing bereavement journey and of the vital work that is needed to improve pregnancy outcomes and to save babies’ lives”.

Hōkai Tahi’s aim is to enrich and promote the wellbeing of women and their whānau, “particularly those who face adverse circumstances surrounding their pregnancy, or who have experienced baby loss”.

It’s an important service, given that “one in four pregnancies end in baby loss. Each one of these whānau has their own story and grief journey”.

During the awareness week, Hōkai Tahi will talk about baby loss and support services available on their social media channels, facilitate a watercolour workshop with Kasha of Sienna Studio for bereaved parents to create an artwork to commemorate their little one and host an earring making workshop as a fundraiser.

As the annual awareness week takes place within pregnancy and infant loss month, “some activities will carry on”, Vergunst said. “We will also be hosting a morning tea for bereaved parents on October 25 at 10am in our offices.

“It’s open to all and a chance for parents to meet others who have also lost a baby and share a memory of their baby.”

Hōkai Tahi is based in Worksop Rd in Masterton and will soon extend their service to Five Rivers Medical in Greytown one day a week.

“This will make us much more accessible to people in South Wairarapa, so they don’t have to trek all the way to Masterton,” Vergunst said.

The service has two main arms – one for pregnancy support and one for baby loss support.

“So on the pregnancy side, women will often come to us because they feel like they aren’t coping well with the pregnancy. Or they just don’t have very much support at all.

“Some women may have recently moved to the area, or they have no family and friends. They may not have a partner either and they’re like, ‘Well, what should I do now? How am I going to get through this with no support?’.”

Women can self-refer or be referred to Hōkai Tahi by their midwife, doctor or other community organisation.

“They come in, they sit down with a health professional and they have a look at this situation and say what’s going on? What can we help with?”

Hōkai Tahi can provide practical support such as petrol vouchers, meals through the community kitchen, food vouchers and maternity and baby gear.

For parents who have suffered the loss of a baby, Hōkai Tahi provide access to a support coordinator or more formal counselling, thanks to grant funding from Masterton Trust Lands Trust.

“Talking to a registered counsellor can help parents work through difficult emotions,” Vergunst said. “Some people are surprised by their grief. They think that their grief may be less because they never met their baby, or only knew them for a short time.

“But actually, they are mourning the person they didn’t get to fully meet, the hopes and dreams and the life they had imagined.”

The service has grown steadily since it opened six years ago.

In 2022, it had 33 ongoing clients for pregnancy and baby loss support and is expecting over 50 clients this year.

Plans for 2023 include public drop-in days where women can come and collect free baby gear, pregnancy tests and resources, Vergunst said.

“As a charity we are very reliant on community grants and donations in order to keep our service free to Wairarapa women and their whānau.”

Recent support includes a $2000 grant from Wairarapa Building Society [WBS] to upgrade the outdoor courtyard at its Worksop Rd office.

“We are planning to replace the lime in the courtyard with artificial grass, add in sensory flowers and herbs, install some outdoor furniture and waterblast mossy areas.

Help from Hireways Masterton, Garden Barn Masterton, Arise Church, and Mitre 10 Masterton “has really helped stretch every last dollar”.

For more information and to access Hōkai Tahi’s services, visit www.Hōkaitahi.nz/

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