Posted by Mark Ellis
Tonight, we were treated to an informative talk by Larissa Reinboth on the work of grief support charity “Possum Portraits”, to which she is the founder and Director. “Possum Portraits" works to support parents who have lost a baby to miscarriage, stillbirth, or neonatal death. Larissa spoke about the common misapprehensions surrounding grief and loss. In Australia, a first world nation with good medical facilities, we still have many stillbirths, miscarriages, and neonatal deaths. This is more so in rural communities, where medical coverage is sparser.
Possum Portraits runs 2 major bereavement care programs:
1. Their unique grief support approach consists of producing Memorial Portraits, which portray the lost infant in a less frightening manner by way of an illustration of a photograph that is supplied. The charity pays artists to render a photo more accessible through the medium of illustration, facilitating the grieving process for bereaved parents, children, and their support network.
2. Teaching midwives how to take better photographs of so-called “angel babies”, seeing as those photos will be the only photographs a parent will ever have of their child. In an upcoming research study with Monash University the charity hopes to demonstrate that their approach is of great benefit to grieving parents, a discovery which would put them in a good position to attract government funding.
However, like many charities, Possum Portraits currently relies on private benefactors. Larissa pointed out that the “stiff upper lip approach” doesn’t work. There is now a greater understanding about the grief process, which suggests there are better approaches for assisting the grieving mother and her family. For example, support people might consider saying things like “How can I help” or “I will help you by walking the dog at a specific time.” Most importantly, “I’m sorry for your loss” is a useful failsafe for those who struggle to find words in the face of someone else’s bereavement.
The charity is also producing a children’s book to help explain what happened to the dead infant’s brothers and sisters. “The House in Ollie’s Tummy” will be distributed via maternity hospitals, ensuring that parents return home to their living children after a loss with an immediate resource at hand.
Mark Ellis