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Finding the words

Finding the words

20 August 2019

Amanda Wood is Director of Business Integration in our Academic Division and founded a Befriender Network in our UK office. The Network provides informal support to anyone living with, or returning to work after a life changing event—such as challenges with mental or physical health, well-being, bereavement, or supporting dependants—as well as providing advice to managers who are supporting employees with such challenges.


Amanda’s story

“After a perfect first pregnancy, just before 8pm on 29 December 2014, our beautiful, brave daughter Layla Kate was born. She weighed 7.1lbs. Earlier that day, we noticed that Layla’s movements had slowed. As a precaution we phoned the maternity unit at Warwick hospital, and they invited us to come in for monitoring. Very quickly the hospital staff decided that Layla needed to be delivered.

We will never know what happened to our lively little girl that day, but after Layla was born via emergency caesarean section, it was clear that she was very unwell. The doctors resuscitated and stabilised her before moving her to the hospital’s Special Care Baby Unit. From there she was transported in a portable incubator to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital.

The staff at both hospitals did everything they could for Layla, but she was too poorly. Our families joined us, and we are thankful that Layla’s loving grandparents, uncle, and auntie had the opportunity to meet and hold her. Layla passed away quietly in her mummy and daddy’s arms just before 6pm on New Year’s Eve, in the Eden bereavement suite at Heartlands. She was not yet two days old. We were, and still are, absolutely heartbroken at our loss, but we are grateful that Layla was so loved and that we could be there with her when she needed us the most.

Talking about what happened, and about Layla, has certainly helped us with the grieving process. While the grief will never truly end the gaps between low periods do become longer, although Layla’s birthday, the New Year, and Christmas will always be difficult. In the four years that have passed since Layla’s brief life ended, we have talked about her a lot. We have talked with each other, with family and friends, doctors, nurses, midwives, a psychologist, a grief counsellor, work colleagues, and with other bereaved parents through UK charity Sands. We have also been involved in delivering bereavement care training to NHS staff, and in promoting a Sands campaign in the national media.

It is incredibly difficult to know what to say to someone who has been affected by the loss of a child, but talking about it is very important. There are no right words to use, because every person’s experience is different. Acknowledging that difficulty, expressing sympathy, being patient, allowing space, and simply asking ‘what can I do’ will all help. As will remembering that grief is complicated, irrational, messy, and never truly ends.”

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Since launching in 2018, the Befriender Network has expanded to include more than 40 employees who have signed up to lend their support and friendship to colleagues. Following the Network’s success in the UK, we hope to expand it to other OUP locations around the world.