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‘It’s like the earth has crumbled’ - Meet the bereavement midwife who supports grieving parents

PUBLISHED: 15:31 15 November 2019 | UPDATED: 16:02 15 November 2019

Kari Kordtomeikel won the patient choice award at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s staff awards. Picture: NNUH

Kari Kordtomeikel won the patient choice award at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s staff awards. Picture: NNUH

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A midwife and nurse who supports grieving parents in their most difficult hours has shed light on her “emotional but special” job.

Kari Kordtomeikel works as a Bereavement midwife and specialist nurse, a new role she has held for 18 months. Picture: NNUHKari Kordtomeikel works as a Bereavement midwife and specialist nurse, a new role she has held for 18 months. Picture: NNUH

Kari Kordtomeikel, who is in her fifties and lives in Norwich's golden triangle, is a bereavement midwife and specialist nurse at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH), a new role created just 18 months ago.

As the only bereavement midwife at the NNUH, she supports families who are coping with infant death at all stages including miscarriage, still birth, near natal deaths and termination of abnormal foetuses.

Ms Kordtomeikel, who won the patient choice award at the NNUH staff awards last week, said: "It is an emotional but special job.

"I am with parents at their most difficult and devastating time and it is just about making a small difference.

"Parents feel like the earth has just crumbled beneath their feet and they are falling forever. What I see happen when families lose babies is a paradigm shift in their perception of the world. It is no longer a safe place.

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"I am there to let them know they are not alone."

Ms Kordtomeikel, who works with around five parents a day, said the biggest challenge was assuring them they are not to blame.

She added: "For the mother that is often the key thing, they always ask themselves if it was something they did or didn't do. It is never, and I can't stress this enough, anything they have done. Sadly, we just don't have all the answers even in the 21st century."

Awareness around infant death is poor according to Ms Kordtomeikel. With another mum, she set up a bereavement support group at the end of last year to offer longer term help and regular meet-ups. She has also discussed the national bereavement care pathway twice in parliament.

She said: "I often find that people avoid families who are grieving the loss of a child because they don't know what to say and don't want to upset them. But that makes families feel more isolated.

"People also don't understand that while time does help, families will never ever forget their baby. I know couples who have celebrations every year on the day the baby died."

She added now her mission is to improve care, support and resources for bereaved families.

For infant death support click here

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