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Good Grief: The Film To Spark Conversations About Grief In Honour of Baby Loss Awareness week

8 October 21 words: Emma Walsh
photos: Mercedes Assad

Baby Loss Awareness week takes place between 8-15 October, which we’re supporting with the pink and blue masthead on our cover. Nottingham is home to several great charities that do a huge amount to help parents going through the awful process of losing a baby, including Forever Stars. Emma Walsh speaks to Operations and Funding Manager Jo Sharp, as well as Rob Sharp of Sirloin Films, about Good Grief - the new short film featuring Vicky McClure, which aims to provoke conversations around the grieving process and baby loss...

Losing a child is, without a doubt, one of the hardest things a person can go through. Unfortunately, the idea of talking about stillbirths, miscarriage, and even grief is still considered a taboo subject. That is why Sirloin Films and Forever Stars have teamed up to create the short film Good Grief, narrated by Vicky McClure.

“The film follows four women who lose their child at different stages,” says filmmaker Rob. “It aims to show the devastation of child loss, but the themes that run through it are based around anyone and everyone’s grief. It’s something that we will all experience at some point in our lives and we hope to offer an explanation of what the pain of grief is and why it’s so important.”

In partnership with baby loss charity Forever Stars, the aims for the film are shared by both parties. “We hope that this can be used as a starting point or platform to encourage people to talk about their loss,” says Rob. “Our hashtag is #talkaboutthem,” Jo adds. “They did exist and will continue to exist in your life. You will always have your memories and thoughts about them and I think the film really encapsulates that.” As far as the two of them are concerned, any platform that enables people to talk about their loss and grief is, quite frankly, a no-brainer to push into the public eye through film and media.

The inspiration for the film was personal for Rob too. “Grief was always a subject that I wanted to write about,” he explains. “But the main drive for Good Grief was two of my close friends, who sadly lost their baby. They were the inspiration for the positive message that we’re hoping to show in this film.” 

So, it seems apt that he chose to partner with a charity set up to commemorate another baby lost by a friend. Jo’s best friend Richard, and his wife Michelle, sadly suffered a stillbirth and lost their daughter, Emily Daniels, in 2013. At her wake, Richard asked Jo if she would help raise some money because, unfortunately, Michelle had to go back to the usual labour ward after the stillbirth. “It was horrific,” Jo recounts, “so we just wanted to create a nicer area in the hospital where women experiencing similar devastation didn’t have to go through the same thing as them; hearing successful babies crying, or people on the phone telling families that their babies had arrived.” Thanks to Forever Stars, both the Queen’s Medical Centre Hospital and Nottingham City Hospital now have dedicated bereavement suites. “Our mission, really, is to make sure that all facilities and resources that are required by baby loss families are available to them in Nottingham,” Jo states.

The stigma attached to baby loss has some very dark, misogynistic roots and anything this film can do to help to break these will be a massive achievement

And as if it isn’t enough to balance trying to make a film tackling this calibre of subject matter, good old COVID-19 always has to stick its oar in as well. “What kind of fool tries to make a film during a pandemic?” jokes Rob. “It was definitely a challenge, especially with locations. Trying to get access to film in a hospital was almost impossible, but people are lovely and once they knew what we were trying to achieve with this film, lots of things started to come good for us.” 

But COVID hasn’t just impacted the filmmaking process; it has impacted the very subject behind the film as well. During the lockdowns, people have been cut off from their loved ones, and this has had a particularly devastating impact on those grieving. “The isolation has made grief even more difficult to deal with,” Jo states. “You’ve not had that personal contact with your family, and can’t do those personal things like doing their shopping for them or putting the kettle on. The really simple things in life are just pulled away from you.”

Good Grief is clearly going to give audiences a lot to think about, as it did for Rob during the film’s production. “Talking with people about the film and the topic has been a huge eye opener. I didn’t realise how common child loss is, but it’s also highlighted how people just don’t talk about their loss and grief,” he says. “The stigma attached to baby loss especially has some very dark, misogynistic roots and anything this film can do to help to break these outdated taboos and encourage people to be more open about their grief will be a massive achievement for us.”

But what can we do to work through the grief attached to baby loss? “Talk about them. I can’t emphasise that enough,” Jo says. “You aren’t alone; there are lots of support networks out there. They - for a second, for a minute, for a month - existed, but they will live within you, in your life, forever.” Forever Stars itself has a number of resources that you can draw on to help you through the grieving process. From their bereavement suites, to their counselling services (for both adults and siblings) that will open at the Serenity Centre on 9 October, to my personal favourite, the Serenity Garden - a remembrance garden in Highfields Park home to two beautiful sculptures, one of which you can apply to have a petal with your child’s name and date of birth woven into to remember them.

Anybody lost, a baby or otherwise, was and is a part of your story. The grieving process may be long, but there is support available, and it’s important that you talk about them. Good Grief is sure to shed a new and important light on the grieving process and, while I’m sure there won’t be a dry eye in the house, it will spark some much-needed conversations.

There is a special screening of Good Grief at The ARC Cinema in Beeston on Friday 15 October

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