Belfast cathedral to host 'saying goodbye' service for those impacted by baby loss

West front of St Anne's Cathedral, Belfast in 2010
-Credit: (Image: Peter Thompson/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Belfast Cathedral will host a special service later this month for those who have been impacted by baby loss in Northern Ireland.

The 'Saying Goodbye' service will be held at St Anne's Cathedral on Sunday, June 16, and will provide a space for families to grieve their loss and show their world that their babies were truly loved.

The event has been organised by the Mariposa Trust, which was founded by grief expert, author, TV host and campaigner Zoe Clark-Coates MBE and her husband Andy, following their devastating personal journey of five losses.

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It will be free to attend and is open to people of any faith or no faith and to those who have lost recently or decades ago.

The charity’s co-founder and CEO Zoe Clark-Coates said: "Our services provide a beautiful opportunity for mothers, fathers, siblings and extended family to say goodbye to their babies and show they are truly loved. Our job at the Mariposa Trust is to ensure every child is recognised, however fleeting their existence.”

Baby loss impacts around one in four pregnancies in the UK with nearly 700 babies lost each day.

28 Saying Goodbye services will take place in 2024 in seven different countries, with the service in St Anne's being the 11th of the year.

One parent who attended a service said: “The Saying Goodbye service gave me the time and space to formally recognise all of my babies and the experience of being with people who just knew how it felt was a real strength. As I stood with other parents and proudly rang the bell for my 14 babies, I felt unbearable sadness but also a great privilege to be able to properly celebrate their existence. For the first time, I felt my tears of grief, loss and love were allowed, shared and understood.”

The Mariposa Trust has been campaigning for change in recent years, with Zoe chairing and authoring the government’s Pregnancy Loss Review in the UK, which saw 73 recommendations to overhaul care and support across the NHS and beyond accepted in 2023. These are in the process of being implemented, which will lead to the clinical care and support available to bereaved parents transformed.

Andy Clark-Coates, the charity’s co-founder and CEO said: “We invite anyone who has gone through or been affected by baby loss, whether recently or decades ago, to join us for this special event.”

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