Journalist Allison talks to us about sharing your story of loss in the media

Allison shares with us her thoughts on the media’s approach to baby loss, on what needs to change and what parents must be aware of if they are looking to share their story.

November 2016

We know that sharing your story of loss can be extremely difficult. Publically opening up about an experience that is personal and painful can make you vulnerable and requires a lot of courage.

We have been overwhelmed this last year by the amount of who women have shared their stories of loss as part of our #misCOURAGE campaign

It is inspiring to see so many people working with us to end the unacceptable silence around baby loss.

We have also been heartened to see national coverage of some of these stories. This is an encouraging step towards getting miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death the focus they deserve.

It is important that if you are looking sharing your story in the media you ensure it is done in a way you are happy with.

Allison Martin is a freelance journalist and has worked on stories of baby loss both for Tommy’s and for national newspapers and magazines.

Allison shared with us her thoughts on the media’s approach to baby loss, on what needs to change and what parents must be aware of if they are looking to share their story.

‘Firstly it’s important to acknowledge that speaking out about your experience is both courageous and generous. It’s not going to change your situation but you do it because you hope it might change someone else’s. That’s something that needs to be respected.’

Media organisations must appreciate how sensitive and personal the subject matter is when covering bereaved parents’ stories.

‘Everyone responds to losing a child in different ways. Some women that I interview remember the dates of every single miscarriage they’ve ever had, some don’t. Some have processed their grief, others are still on that journey. You have to acknowledge the fact that not everyone is the same. Loss is not a blanket experience.’

Too often we see inappropriate wording or insensitive responses to baby loss being published. In these instances the act of sharing this story does more harm than good.

Earlier this year Nicola Sturgeon’s brave revelation about her miscarriage was referred to as a ‘tantalising secret’ about her personal life by one national newspaper.

This is unacceptable. Miscarriage is not gossip. It is not tantalising. It is a personal and often painful experience which should be treated with respect.

‘You need to take care with the language you use. I’ve had mothers, and fathers, read what I’ve written and not want a single word changed because it’s captured their experience. Others want words or sentences changed, information added or deleted and that’s fine because it’s their story, their experience. As a journalist you know your work may well be edited before it goes to print but I’d encourage any editor to be mindful because those changes, sometimes  just online, can be really offensive or upsetting.’

The media is often resistant to publishing stories about baby loss. Allison says that, while social media and blogs have provided a welcome platform for discussion about the reality of baby loss, miscarriage still doesn’t get enough coverage in the media considering it’s an experience that affects so many women, and men.

Not only does this mean the silence and stigma around baby loss continues, it can also mean that when journalists do come to write these stories they may not always be as sensitive as they need to be.

‘There are many misconceptions about miscarriage and, too often, it is trivialised, be that by friends and family, GPs or the media. Unfortunately when it comes to the latter it can result in inappropriate portrayals of baby loss which can do untold damage. That’s why Tommy’s work is so important and why, for me, people sharing their stories of loss with the media is so important. It’s the only way to change those misconceptions. When people explain the reality of miscarriage, that it can be so physically and emotionally painful, that it’s not ‘just one of those things’ it will, I hope, affect a change in attitude. Miscarriage will no longer be a taboo subject, be that in conversation or in the pages of newspapers and magazines. ’

Allison has worked with a lot of women on their stories for national newspapers and magazines as well as online platforms.

‘Writing is my career, but I’ve never approached any of my work on miscarriage as ‘just another job’. I have enormous respect for the women, and men, who have shared their experience of baby loss with me in the hope it will make a difference to someone else.'

If you want to share your story in the media then take a look at Allison’s tips for ensuring you have the best experience possible and are happy with the finished story.

Allison’s tips for parents looking to share their stories of baby loss

1. Make sure you’re talking to someone you trust

It is important that your main point of contact is someone you trust. You need to be confident that they will write your story accurately and sensitively and keep you informed, as far as possible, as to where and how your story will appear. .

2. If you don’t feel comfortable with a question then don’t answer it

You should never feel like you have to answer a question. This is your story and it is up to you what you share and what you do not.

3. Ask for copy approval

Some media outlets offer ‘copy approval’, a look at the final article before it’s published but time constraints mean that’s not always possible. Some will, however, offer a ‘read back’ over the phone if asked.

4. Be aware that once it’s out it’s out

Sharing your story is a wonderful and courageous thing to do which can provide enormous comfort and solace to many women who benefit from knowing they’re not alone in what they’re experiencing. However, it’s vital that you understand that once your story has been published, be that online or in print, there’s no going back.

If you want to share your story you can write it in our book of #misCOURAGE here where you can publish it anonymously or alongside your name.

If you want to read stories that other women have shared with Tommy’s you can do so on our website here.

If you have been affected by baby loss and are looking for information or support you can access this on at our support pages here. Alternatively you can get in touch with our midwives on our free pregnancy information line 02073983431 which is open 9 – 5, Monday – Friday.

Read more from people who have shared their story of #misCOURAGE

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