Paris gathering gives bereaved parents chance to say goodbye
AN INTERNATIONAL charity which helps families who have suffered the loss of a child at any stage of pregnancy, birth or childhood held its first remembrance service in Paris in April 2016 and hopes to hold more in France in the future.
The Mariposa Trust was set up by Zoe and Andy Clark-Coates in 2012 after they experienced five miscarriages. They now have two daughters but wanted to find a way of remembering the babies they had lost and so organised a service in Exeter cathedral for themselves and anyone else who wished to come along.
Within two weeks they had received requests from around the world from people who wanted to see a similar event in their area.
“We discovered that there was a need for our Saying Goodbye services and we now run our charity full-time,” said Mr Clark-Coates.
“The services are held in Anglican cathedrals because we feel our children deserve to be remembered in these magnificent buildings which are used for services of national importance. However they are open to people of all religions and to non-believers as well. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, atheists and others come because they may have lost children recently or it may have been many years ago.
“At one service in York Minister, a 90-year-old man sat on the front row and wept continuously for his babies who died 70 years ago. It was the first time he had been able to grieve.”
Mr Clark-Coates says people come away with a lighter heart: “It is a way of acknowledging the child and saying that he or she did matter and made a difference to the people around them.
It can offer a chance for people to discover their loss doesn’t need to be an anchor weighing them down forever.
“The services follow an Anglican format and within the structure there are poems, music, a chance to light a candle and to ring a hand bell with one chime for each child that has been lost. That can be very poignant. People say it is the chance to give a voice to a baby who never cried or laughed, in the situation where there was a miscarriage or stillbirth. I have seen people ring the bell up to 15 times. It can be very emotional.”
The charity hopes that the Paris service, which will be held in the American Cathedral, will attract people from the city and surrounding areas and will reach out to both the international and local community. There will be parts in English and parts in French.
As well as the Saying Goodbye services, the Mariposa Trust also runs three support sections: Growing You for parents who have had miscarriages and there is a new pregnancy, Holding Hope for those going through fertility treatment and Waiting for You, for those who have decided to adopt.
Although it is UK-based, there are possibilities of support for people who live abroad via their website, Facebook and Twitter. “We already support 50,000 people a week globally,” says Mr ClarkCoates. “If you live in France you can get in touch with us on the phone or internet and we also have some people in France you can connect with. We wish to reach out to as many people as possible. In the UK alone there are 250,000 losses due to miscarriages a year. Many people live with a hidden grief and our aim is to support them.”