Maggie Simkiss founded the Hull branch of Sands, the national stillbirth and neonatal death charity, in April 1993, in memory of her third son Kieran, who died aged just 9 days.
Baby loss has often been the centre of my life for the past 26 years. When Kieran died I felt that there was no support for bereaved families in our area and founded the group, which I continue to run today as a volunteer.
I needed to know I was helping others and that Kieran would always live on in what I did.
In the early days it was just me and my family and all of us were busy fundraising for equipment and things that would make a difference to children in special care and those who had stillborn babies.
It was sometimes really hard as I have always worked, both before and after Kieran was born, and I was also bringing up a young family at the time.
I never thought about not carrying on the group, and if I did find it difficult I thought about how it was for me, and how being able to share Kieran made his death somehow more bearable
Many parents have attended the group over the years and have told me I have helped them ‘go on’ and get through what is such an agonising time.
By providing support, parents are enabled to use their own strength, which they doubt they will ever have again, to continue to live without their precious child.
At this time parents are often unable to talk to their families and friends and so befrienders are the best support we can provide.
Because of this, and the people we have helped, I have gained the strength to go on, for myself and my family.
I have learned so much from other people and have managed to change so many things within maternity services.
One example is how we have often found graves of babies, especially those who died long ago, for their families. Their lives had been affected so much by being unable to grieve for their babies at the time.
I recently received a message from one couple who we helped in this way. They said we were an inspiration to all, with the work of Sands ‘beyond words’.
They said: “You helped us find our three baby boys. You gave us back what we had lost and now we can visit their little gardens.
“Thank you for everything you have done, we love you with all our hearts, bless you.”
A message from Sands Hull
This year saw the Group’s 25th anniversary and throughout this time, Maggie has remained at its heart, despite being a Macmillan nurse as well as a busy Grandma herself.
Now we have a very responsive committee and robust training for befrienders, they are all full of ground-breaking ideas, one example being the amount of bereavement training we have done in the area for both qualified and trainee midwives.
We have been the first group in the country to offer bereavement training to doctors, clergy, doulas and health visitors.
During our awareness month we had a stand in the City Hall where professionals such as the police and ambulance staff asked if we could offer them training too.
This year is also SANDS 40th anniversary year and we did a massive awareness and fundraising campaign in Hull in June, to mark Sands’ Awareness Month.
Lots of local businesses were involved and we lit up many of Hull’s iconic landmarks in the blue and orange Sands colours to raise awareness. We also placed a banner on the bypass into Hull which generated a call to ask for support.
Maggie has not only given others strength to go on when their worlds have collapsed, she has continually campaigned for better care to improve bereavement services.
She is an inspiration to so many and has achieved such an incredible amount in the last 26 years.
This is most certainly not the end of her or Kieran’s story as Hull Sands continues to go from strength to strength in our area, ensuring that local families get the support they need at such a devastating time.
Visit Hull SANDS for more information.