Assisting parents after the premature death of their child is the goal of Sylvia Üffing and the project: "Empty Cradle". This includes providing clothing for the deceased infant. © Lorenz
Sylvia Üffing accompanies parents who have lost a child due to miscarriage, premature birth or stillbirth. Because: Parents slip into a state of shock in this absolutely exceptional situation.
Freising – "A child will always be missing." After this sentence, Sylvia Üffing from the Freising Hospice Association pauses while the rain drums on the windows. She carefully picks up the small pieces of clothing that she takes with her to the hospital when needed and that are of great importance because they can reflect a piece of normality without wanting to diminish the incomprehensible grief. Üffing is where the world suddenly stops for parents and she is there not to leave those affected as well as their relatives alone – but also to make memories possible. As the initiator of the "Empty Cradle", she has been accompanying parents who have lost a child since last year.
The aim of the Empty Cradle is to be informed as early as possible after diagnosis through good networking, such as with the hospital or gynaecologists, in order to be there for the families in this difficult time. Üffing explains the naming as follows: "We are there for miscarriages, premature births or stillbirths, but also for parents who have lost their child in the first year of life due to sudden infant death syndrome – i.e. when the cradle remains empty or suddenly becomes empty." "At the moment of diagnosis, the mothers lose the ground under their feet, the parents slip into a kind of shock paralysis. It is an absolutely exceptional situation," says Üffing, who has completed further training to accompany families in the event of the premature death of the child after prenatal medical diagnosis.
The desire to support parents is also the basis of Üffing's professional biography. As a nurse, she used to witness again and again that small, stillborn children were disposed of as "hospital waste". A circumstance that still occupies her very much today. It is only in recent years that society has become more and more aware of this topic, which is why a much more empathetic approach can now be seen. In addition, the legislature presented a striking change with the Bavarian Funeral Act of 2006: Since then, fetuses and embryos weighing more than 500 grams have had to be laid to rest on a grave field – at least if the parents do not want a single burial.
Another, extremely important, task of the "Empty Cradle": creating memories. "I come to the parents' home or hospital and photograph the deceased child." And then Üffing says a sentence that goes to the heart and touches the soul in equal measure: "These are the first photographs of the child, but also the last."
Depending on your wishes, Üffing photographs details of the child, but family pictures are also possible, as well as handprints and footprints. Photographs mean a lot to the parents, also to give the deceased child a place and a face in the family – and to be able to look at the child again and again, for example through a photo album or a framed photograph on the wall.
What Üffing also finds important: "It's good when family or friends get to know the deceased child, because then grief can also work and does not remain a taboo subject." Because the parents often do not yet have any clothes for the deceased infant, the "Empty Cradle" has taken precautions and also brings some with her. "It's hard to bear when these children are naked," explains Üffing and also shows a cloth boat in which the little person can be placed. "We then also go to the undertaker, as a source of ideas for what a farewell or memorial party could look like."
(By the way: Everything from the region is now also available in our regular Freising newsletter.)
In the further course and depending on your wishes, individual accompaniment of the mother or parents is possible. According to Üffing, the most important thing is to give yourself space and time to say goodbye and grieve. This makes it all the more important to establish good networking with midwives, practices, the Freising Clinic and other groups of people involved in the care so that no one is left alone.
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"For the hospital and the midwives in the district, our support is intended to complement their valuable work," emphasizes Üffing. The "Empty Cradle" is financially supported by the CCGM Foundation of Hildegard and Karl Heinz Sturm.
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The contact person of the Empty Cradle is Sylvia Üffing, who can be reached by phone at 0170/3337556 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can find even more up-to-date news from the district of Freising on Merkur.de/Freising.