Cpl Hollie Davis was awarded an MBE earlier this year for her work creating the Defence Child Bereavement Network. She set up the network to help others who have faced similar tragedy after the loss of her son to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in 2020…
We know the defence child bereavement network was developed after an incredibly difficult time for you – why did you think it was needed?
When my son, Kitt, first died everyone wanted to help me but nobody in the army really knew how as the policy was vague. SIDS occurs in around 200 babies a year in the UK so knowing how to deal with it was made more difficult as it is rare.
I reached out to The Lullaby Trust who provided me with a befriender, who lost her son to SIDS in the 1980s. She showed me that there is a life after child loss. She showed me that he will always be with me but life continues by keeping my son by my side in my heart.
I often think I only made it through the worst time of my life due to peer support from those who had experienced something similar.
When I was at my lowest I didn’t eat, sleep or go out. I isolated myself and turned to alcohol. I wanted to care for myself better as I had completely switched off and forgotten how to function. I decided to do a charity event that was physical as it would help me mentally, help me eat, sleep and shower and I raised around £25,000 for The Lullaby Trust.
The publicity meant my inbox started to fill with messages from other serving personnel who had experienced miscarriages, stillbirths and child loss. This made me think that a safe space was needed for serving personnel to come together to share and receive support.
How has the network grown?
We rolled out as the Army Child Bereavement Network in July 2021. This quickly became tri-service, then included partners and veterans. In the first two weeks we gained 68 members – now we are just shy of 200.
What support does it offer?
We offer peer to peer support. Service personnel will normally post about their loss and then other members will offer support and understanding if they have been In a similar situation.
We offer signposting to organisations and charities and provide care packages to help remind parents to care for themselves during the hardest part of their lives.
Have you had any feedback from members?
Yes, the feedback has been positive. One member said: “The network has given me the space to open up, learn, listen and keep going. It’s the most unique and incredible safe space.” Another commented: “There’s something very reassuring about finding others who get it, who don’t judge, who show that life ‘after’ does go on.”
It must have been a hugely proud moment receiving your MBE…
Finding out was truly a moment I won’t forget. I’d never even imagined that I would be considered for an award like that. I feel really humbled.
What are the plans for the network in the future?
The aim is gain exposure and awareness. We have just managed to secure another £1,600 of funding for care packages. These include things like face masks, bath bombs, chocolate, sweets, herbal tea, fluffy socks and candles.
Search Defence Child Bereavement Network on Facebook.