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Shining a spotlight on our volunteers

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This week we're shining a spotlight on the incredible contributions of our volunteers to celebrate International Volunteer Day on 5 December.

There is no kinder act than truly being there for someone in their time of need. This is what our volunteers do, day in and day out, when they answer our support line calls, when they help us organise events, when they take the time to spread the word regarding our services and when they share their story, making it OK for others to do the same.

Quite simply, we couldn't do what we do - be there with compassion and understanding for bereaved parents in a way no one else can be - without them.

Sands volunteers are based right around Australia, come from all walks of life, and their roles are many and varied. We recently spoke to WA-based volunteer Diann and QLD-based Nell about their volunteer journeys.


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When did you become a Sands volunteer and why?

I became a Sands volunteer in May 2016 after carrying out my parent supporter and group facilitator training. In 2010 we lost our daughter Maia Jane when she was 1 day old. Sands was such a great support for us at that time and still continue to be. I wanted to use my experience to be able to support others in that position as I could not imagine being on this journey without the invaluable support I received.

What does your volunteer role involve?

At the moment I am Social Media Editor for Sands in Western Australia and I also volunteer on the national email support service. I also previously volunteered on the phone and live chat support services, but since starting full time employment I have stepped back from those. I also assist at any events that we run in the Perth metropolitan area, the latest one being our Walk to Remember in October.

What does it mean to you to be part of the Sands community?

It means the world to me to be part of the Sands community and I have made some wonderful friends through Sands, both in Scotland (where I'm from) and Australia. I know that any time I need to talk to someone I can call on any of the other volunteers for support. Likewise, if I need help in providing the right support to a bereaved parent who contacts Sands I know that I can draw upon the experience of the whole Sands community to find it.

What is the most rewarding part of your volunteer role?

That I know I am helping families at one of the most difficult times of their lives; I am helping them on their journey through grief and showing them that they can get through the dark days; I am validating their anger and giving them the opportunity to share their story where I can empathise with them and be there for them.

Would you like to add anything more about your experience as a bereaved parent or volunteer?

As a bereaved parent, taking the first step to contact Sands was one of the hardest things I've ever done. The first group meeting I attended was full of shared tears but it opened the door to so many new things for me. I am so glad that I made that first move! As a volunteer, I enjoy meeting new people and hearing their stories. I feel comfortable talking about Maia Jane to new people as I feel I am honouring her memory.



When did you become a Sands volunteer and why?

In May 2014 I was pregnant with my third son when he was born unexpectedly at only 16 weeks gestation. We named him Jasper. Sands provided me with invaluable support during that very difficult time, through support meetings, online support groups, information resources, and most importantly acknowledging and validating my baby and the grief I felt at his death. In the months following I began to volunteer with Sands as a way of giving back, and also a way to stay connected to Jasper – I could not mother him, but volunteering with Sands felt like a meaningful way to direct that energy.

What does your volunteer role involve?

My volunteer role with Sands has been quite varied – I am a full-time mum (to four beautiful boys at home) and an occasional graphic designer, so have been involved with creating graphics (for Sands events, cards, certificates, personalised images, etc.)vI was also a member of the Sands Qld management committee for two years leading up to the recent unification of all Sands groups, which was an incredible learning experience and gave me valuable insight into how much is involved in running an organisation like Sands. I have enjoyed helping out with various Sands events, from assembling newsletters, baking cupcakes for the Walk to Remember stall, sorting and selling donations for the fundraising Sands Qld garage sale, dressing up for the Sands Qld long lunch fashion parade, and sharing my story as part of one of the Bereavement Care educational workshops run by Sands Qld. One of the wonderful aspects of this community-based organisation is that there are so many opportunities to become involved, and everyone’s contribution is appreciated.

What does it mean to you to be part of the Sands community?

The Sands community is built on compassion, empathy, respect, support and connection. It creates space for people to grieve, remember, and share – without judgement or pressure.
As part of the Sands community I have come to know some incredible and inspiring people.

What is the most rewarding part of your volunteer role?

Volunteering gives me a sense of meaningful purpose, and hopefully helps to bring some comfort to bereaved parents.

Would you like to add anything more about your experience as a bereaved parent or volunteer?

One of the most important things Sands did for me was to recognise that my baby Jasper’s life, brief as it was, matters. He was here and he changed me, and will always be part of who I am. I live this change through volunteering with Sands.

2018 Christmas Services & Events

We warmly invite bereaved parents, their families and friends to join us for our annual Christmas services and events this December:


Our Brisbane Christmas service is at 2.30pm on Sat 1 Dec at Merthyr Road Uniting Church in New Farm. Families are invited to bring along a plate to share, a gift for the giving tree and/or contribute to a special slideshow of babies to be shown during the service. Please RSVP and email your slide details and images to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by 4pm Tuesday 27 November.


Our annual Victorian Christmas fundraiser, Carols in the Garden of Angels, will take place at Fawkner Cemetery on Sat 1 December. Hosted by the Friends of the Garden of Angels, this is a wonderful family-oriented event. There'll be a silent auction, sausage sizzle, face painting, glitter tattoos, live music, popcorn, fairy floss, and you can also decorate your own star or angel to hang on the Christmas tree. To stay in the loop, sign up to our Facebook event for more information. 


Please come along to our informal Christmas gathering at 6pm on Sat 8 December at the Tom Dadaur Community Centre, 363 Bagot Road, Subiaco. Families are invited to bring a plate to share as well as a gift in memory of their baby to be donated to the Women's Council for Domestic & Family Violence Services. Please RSVP to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Supporting bereaved parents to return to work

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The challenges commonly faced by new and expectant parents are in the spotlight this Perinatal Depression and Anxiety Week as national attention turns to ways we can better support parents’ mental and emotional wellbeing.

Research has shown that parents who experience the shock and devastation of the loss of a pregnancy or the death of a baby have statistically higher rates of depression and anxiety in the perinatal period than the general population.

Sands Australia CEO Jackie Mead said that more support services that addressed the wellbeing of bereaved parents are needed to ensure they can cope with the unique challenges they face in coping with everyday life as they grieve their baby.

“Without a baby to care for, bereaved parents are often cut adrift from the usual sources of support offered to new parents. There are no new parents groups to attend, no catch-ups with colleagues to introduce their new baby. Family and friends can also stay away for fear of further upsetting their loved ones,” said Ms Mead.

Bereaved parents report to Sands that one of the most significant challenges they face in adjusting to life without their baby is returning to work.

“Returning from maternity or paternity leave in such harrowing circumstances is a very daunting prospect. Parents may feel worried about what to say to their colleagues, or how people will react to them in the workplace. They may not have the physical or emotional stamina to undertake their usual work hours or duties.”

“Employers, too, often struggle to know how best to help their employees transition back into the workplace in the most appropriate and sensitive way. Increasingly, businesses themselves are contacting Sands for advice about how to manage the return to work process for the affected employee as well as their wider teams.”

Sands Australia and The Pink Elephants Support Network are joining together to deliver a targeted workplace support program to address these specific needs.

They’ll deliver workshops across Australia to educate employers about these issues and to equip them with the knowledge and confidence they need to support bereaved parents and to address any challenges that may arise.

Melbourne dad, Nick Xerakias, returned to work just weeks after the death of his newborn son, Angelo, in 2017.

“I would not have been able to do so had I not had such a supportive employer and colleagues who allowed me to take the time I needed to grieve for my son and to support my wife, Elena. Nick’s employer, GRACosway, were able to provide him with flexibility in his work hours and work load, which greatly reduced the pressure Nick felt about balancing the needs of his family and his job.

“They kept in touch with me and made sure they knew what I needed at each point in time. They didn’t make any assumptions.”

Sands CEO Jackie Mead said that the death of a colleague’s baby can also a have a profound impact on others in the workplace.

“It’s important to remember that other colleagues and team members may also benefit from education and support to feel confident about responding to a really challenging life event that is still so rarely publicly spoken about.”

The proposed workshops, to be rolled out in 2019, will help pave the way forward for employers in navigating this historically difficult space and in increasing awareness of the impact that pregnancy and infant loss has on the community.

About Sands

Sands is a not-for-profit organisation providing support, information and education to anyone affected by the death of a baby before, during or shortly after birth. We provide 24/7 support to bereaved parents through our national support line, email, live chat and through local face-to-face support groups. We provide information on miscarriage, stillbirth, newborn death and the grief experience to families as well as educating health professionals to improve the care and support bereaved parents receive.

About Pink Elephants

The Pink Elephants is an organisation that supports, nurtures and empowers couples through early pregnancy loss. We provide emotional support literature, personalised peer support and online support groups. We believe that whilst miscarriage is an individual journey, it should not be walked alone. For more information and to access our varied support services visit

Come and work with us

It is an exciting time at Sands. Having just completed a merger to become a nationwide organisation, Sands is growing service delivery so that we can support the growing needs of bereaved parents following infant or pregnancy loss. We're currently recruiting for a Care Services Coordinator (QLD), State Manager Victoria & State Manager Queensland. Visit our Careers page to find out more.