A COMMUNITY group for bereaved families going through the heartbreak of pregnancy, infant and child loss has gone from strength to strength since being chosen as a Co-op Local Community Fund project.

Our Angel Bears, a volunteer led community group, works closely with the early pregnancy unit (EPU) at Bournemouth Hospital and the bereavement team at Poole Hospital providing keepsake bags and clothing which are made by a team of volunteers to be passed on to families who suffer loss of a baby during pregnancy.

So far, they have given out more than 1,000 of these keepsakes.

Suzanne Stockbridge, the Bournemouth volunteer for Our Angel Bears, has used personal experience to help others who have gone through similar experiences.

She said: “The Our Angel Bears support group started with me being a patient myself at the Royal Bournemouth. I’ve sadly lost babies myself so spent a lot of time at the early pregnancy unit.

“I built up friendships and a rapport with the nurses and midwives there and when talking we agreed that all babies should be remembered and their families should be offered a keepsake to remember their baby instead of just being handed a leaflet and sent on their way.

“This is where we got the idea to create keepsakes for the EPU staff to offer to those who had lost a baby in early pregnancy – they are also given out by the hospital priest during the baby’s funeral services.” The support group has grown massively from 4,000 to 45,800 in 2019, earning them a nomination for The Butterfly Awards, a national award recognising support groups that deal with baby loss.

Our Angel Bears also provides face-to-face support groups, peer support online and bigger versions of hospital keepsakes that people can apply for via an online application form.

Since January 2018, the group has been running support sessions with the nurses from the EPU at coffee shops in Southbourne from 2-3pm.

Suzanne added: “Anybody including babies and children can attend, we average 10 at the support groups which run every 3 months, but our reach is much more.”