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Bereaved Armagh mum’s candlelit walk shines light on stillbirth stigma

'I just thought it was really important to break that stigma of keeping it hushed. Your baby is the most important person in your life, so you should be allowed to talk about them'

A young Armagh mum who lost her newborn son four years ago this Christmas has spoken about how she overcame her grief – and how other mothers can do the same.

Alisha Devlin and partner Owen Quinn had been eagerly awaiting the birth of their son Lochlann in 2019 but were devastated to learn on Christmas Eve that his heart had stopped beating.

Lochlann was stillborn on Christmas Day at 41 weeks and two days.

On Wednesday (December 13), Alisha organised a candlelit walk on the Mall in Armagh to remember children who have died.

The second annual ‘Light up the Night and Walk with the Stars’ event raised £1,100 for the Little Forget Me Nots Trust, a charity set up by Lurgan woman Louise Taylor who lost her firstborn son Ruben mid-way through her pregnancy.

The money to Little Forget Me Nots will be a vital asset in their work, which involves art therapy and café workshops. A donation like Alisha’s will help the charity work towards expanding their team and supporting more families.

The night was a lovely, yet poignant, success, with a large number of people attending, men and women – many of whom had been through the same experience as Alisha.

“The walk is about allowing families to remember and honour the children that aren’t around their trees at Christmas and show them that they are not alone; walking gets people talking, and it always makes people feel better and lightens the heaviness that grief brings.

“It’s also an opportunity for other people who haven’t been affected by child loss to show their support to those who have.

“I have a little girl and a little boy now and they were at the walk. My little boy is only 14 weeks old, but my little girl is three now. She was our rainbow baby and she talks about Lochlann every day.”

She added: “One of the mums that came on the night had never been to anything since her baby died two years ago. She’s never been able to go to anything but we had a lovely message from her after to thank us for doing it”, said Alisha.

“She hadn’t talked about the loss and she wasn’t able to bring herself to do anything to remember her baby… because she got out walking, she started talking to people about it and then she was able to tell them how much this has helped her.

“I understood how she’s feeling because I was in her shoes two years ago. It’s four years now from I lost Lochlann so I know how raw the grief still is after two years.”

For Alisha, the purpose of the walk was to challenge the stigma and offer a space for bereaved mothers to speak out about their experiences.

She continued: “People are not alone. There’s a community of mums and family that are grieving babies. Especially around Christmas time it can be very heavy.

“I just wanted people to know they’re not alone and to bring them some comfort and give them a special way to honour their babies at Christmas time. It’s also a way for me to celebrate Lochlann’s birthday as well.”

While speaking out about this topic is undoubtedly difficult for those who have come  through it, Alisha says being open about Lochlann’s passing has helped her in her journey through grief and recovery.

“For years it’s been a massive taboo and before I didn’t understand why you would talk about it. Now that I’ve gone for it I understand why people do talk about it and why they want to scream and shout about their babies.

“I just thought it was really important to break that stigma of keeping it hushed. Your baby is the most important person in your life, so you should be allowed to talk about them.”

Continued Alisha: “For far too long parents have faced an unacceptable stigma and shame after the loss of a baby, and this must end.

“Being made to feel like you can’t talk about your loss can lead to isolation and disconnection, leaving a bereaved parent trapped in their own grief.

“From day one I have been very open when talking about my loss, even during the times I was being made to feel like I shouldn’t, I kept talking. It has been my biggest coping mechanism.

“I think it’s important to make people aware that after the loss of a child, the grief is always present in a parent’s head and heart.”

However, Alisha adds that people can deal with grief in many different ways and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to that journey.

“Somebody might feel better about not talking about it, whereas with me, I need to talk about it. My advice would be to just do what you feel is right for you. If you want to talk about your baby, talk about it.”

She also recommends reaching out to other mothers and families who have experienced this kind of loss.

Said Alisha: “You will find great friendships with other mothers. Most of my friends now are people that I didn’t know before I lost Lochlann.”

If you want to find out more information about the Little Forget Me Nots Trust or make a donation, you can visit their website here.

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