Photographs to aid grieving process for bereaved parents

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A man whose daughter died at birth is calling for a scheme to allow bereaved parents to have a photograph taken with their stillborn child.

Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust is looking into setting up the photography service at Stoke Mandeville Hospital.

Dr Dan Shaffer, a dentist from Harpenden, says pictures can help parents through the grieving process.

He said photographs of his daughter Lenni had helped him. "Photos can be an anchor for grief," he said.

"With the loss of someone who has lived a long life you will have memories, stories and photos of them, but with an early death you don't have any of that.

"We have no memories of Lenni as a live baby, but we are fortunate to have a few photographs of her which were taken after she died."

Dr Shaffer, area representative for the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity (SANDS), said the pictures would be taken by skilled amateur photographers who have lost babies themselves and professionals who wished to become involved in bereavement photography.

He added that a bereavement photography service had been set up by the Leicester Partnership NHS Trust in 2011, which he said had been very successful.

'Taboo subject'

Dr Shaffer said that stillbirth was still seen as a taboo subject, which often led to the social isolation of parents.

"We found that people avoided us because they just didn't know what to say.

"The irony is that discussing stillbirth with a bereaved parent often doesn't add to their grief," he said.

"In actual fact, engaging with a parent and just saying something, whatever it is, really helps."

In a statement Bucks Healthcare NHS Trust said: "We are happy to look into the idea. We know that the loss of a baby is incredibly difficult and our sympathies are extended to anyone who has been affected by this.

"At the trust we try to offer as much support as possible to parents who have suffered a loss, and we have dedicated bereavement midwives who are also able to offer guidance and support."

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