Pip Hanrahan recently made Sands history by facilitating our first ever live, online support group!

We spoke to Pip about what that experience was like, as well as how she is adjusting to life right now amidst COVID-19 restrictions.

How was it facilitating the first Sands online support group? What were the positive and what were the challenging aspects?

It was a little nerve-wracking! 

I wasn't sure what to expect. I didn't know how comfortable everyone would feel to share online or whether I'd be able to feel the 'energy' of the room. One thing I love about face-to-face support groups is the comfortable silent space that happens in a room, where no one feels the need to jump in to make someone feel better. Online, the silences were more jarring because we were just staring back at each other, but I think this is something we can adjust to moving forward."

We had a few technical challenges, but I'm confident we'll be able to rectify these. I feel very proud that Sands can still bring this kind of support to people who really need it at this time. We were able to reach people who wouldn't have otherwise been able to attend, which is wonderful.

How are you finding life generally right now?

At first I really struggled with the isolation. I felt scared that I wouldn't be able to just walk to my little boy's gravesite when I wanted to. The crazy thing is that I don't usually go all the time, I just go when I'm having a tough day or feel the need to visit him, or for a special occasion. But this new world meant that I was no longer free to just go if I wanted to. I had to keep telling myself that I can, of course I can, I can still walk to him when I want to.
I'm starting to feel more settled with this new normal. Isolation has forced me to stop - stop trying to do too much - meaning I've got no choice but to rest and reset. 
There have been a lot of positives, too. Homeschooling my girls has given me time to see where my girls lack confidence in their schooling, and time to sit with them to help them understand. It has also given me this enormous amount of appreciation for what I have. I feel this overwhelming wave of gratitude that we are all healthy, that I actually like my family, that we have a roof to live under and enough money to eat.
Do you see any additional challenges for bereaved parents enduring social isolation?

I think back to when my little boy first died, and try to imagine dealing with COVID-19 at the same time. I think it's a double-edged sword. Having to stay home gives you the perfect excuse to avoid those really hard family gatherings, protecting yourself from those stupid comments. It can be a relief not having to put the exhausting 'happy' mask on that makes everyone else feel better except you.
But it also means you are at home, a lot, with your own thoughts, with nothing to distract you or take your mind off things. This can be so overwhelming and all-consuming. It can feel as though you will be totally consumed with your grief and no one is there to stop it. 

Read Pip's personal story of stillbirth.