A couple who lost five unborn babies will tomorrow (Saturday, September 15 2012) stand shoulder to shoulder with other bereaved parents in the first of a nationwide series of special services to honour their children.
The service at Exeter Cathedral, along with six others confirmed for this year and at least 20 planned for next year, have been organised by Zoe and Andy Clark-Coates, through Saying Goodbye – an organisation they set up to help other grieving mums and dads.
For Zoe and Andy, both 37, now proud parents of two daughters aged three and one, this will be the culmination of months of hard work after the loss of their babies.
They have gathered massive support, from parents, charities and celebrities since going public with their aim of helping people say goodbye as part of a national support network.
And they stress the services are for anyone who has lost a baby at any stage of pregnancy, through stillbirth or in early years.
"People are welcome to attend if their loss was 80 years ago or yesterday," says Zoe.
She adds: "We saw a need for a national set of services - so every doctor, hospital and charity could refer people to one organisation. The aim is to eventually have a service within an hour of everyone's home.
"We wanted to create a service where a person's whole family can come with them, as loss and the effects of grief aren't limited to the parents - grandparents, aunts and uncles are all affected.
"We are using cathedrals as they are considered neutral spaces - used for both secular and religious services. They are also majestic buildings and are so fitting to honour our babies in.
"Of course we know that everyone may not want to attend a service, and we so respect that - but just because everyone may not want to attend, it by no means diminishes the importance for those who do want to."
Zoe believes Saying Goodbye fills a need that is not currently met.While a small number of parents have been able to say goodbye to their babies in hospital, after benefiting from the support of medical staff, many more bereft families have not known where to turn. A very small minority of losses occur in a hospital setting.
"For those who have had a funeral service, they are often conducted in a haze of grief, and for those people we hope the services will be a place to come and remember the baby they have lost," adds Zoe.
Zoe and Andy have gained the backing of major charities as well as celebrities including Jools Oliver and Gabby Logan. Professor Robert Winston has also spoken of his pride at being an ambassador for Saying Goodbye.
"Support has been overwhelming," says Zoe.