A specialist bereavement counsellor support worker is now supporting parents at The James Cook University Hospital thanks to the family and friends of baby Billy Jones who have funded the post in his memory.
Since saying goodbye to their baby boy in 2017, Rachel and Daniel Jones and their family have dedicated their time to improving support available to bereaved families at the Middlesbrough hospital.
Determined to make a difference for other families, they raised enough money to open Billy’s Room in 2019, which gives bereaved parents a calm, comfortable and private place to stay while they spend precious time with their child.
Although the opening of the room cost over £55,000 and has helped local families make precious memories in their darkest of days, they knew they wanted to do more.
So, using the money they raised primarily with help from their dance school and the local community, they set themselves the goal of funding the wage of a dedicated specialist bereavement counsellor role for a year.
Billy’s nana, Sue Tyler, said: “Sadly there wasn’t dedicated bereavement counsellor like this in place when we lost Billy.
“We thought as a family it was so important to have the room initially but vital for us to work towards employing a counsellor alongside it to give families support both in hospital and once at home.
“We miss Billy every day. There are lots of things you have to go through when you lose child that you don’t expect to have to deal with and Sharon will be there to support you.”
For the last two weeks specialist bereavement counsellor Sharon Wilson has been in post and has already helped families in Teesside.
She said: “I feel privileged to be here helping local families and working with Billy’s family.
“I want to be there for local families so they’ve got someone there at that difficult time who they know they can feel safe around and talk to confidentially.
“It won’t make it hurt any less but it will help with the grieving process.”
As well as supporting families using Billy’s Room Sharon will be training the hospital’s children and young people’s teams to make them feel more confident to help bereaved families.
Dr Lynne Paterson, clinical director for neonatology at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are really happy to have Sharon join our team.
“She will work closely with neonatal and paediatrics to support our families who experience the heartbreak of saying goodbye to their child.
“She will also be training our staff so that they are better equipped to support parents at this difficult time and to provide the best possible care.
“I would like to express my sincere thanks for all that Billy’s family have done for us.”
Billy’s family would like to thank all of the parents and students of Thornton Academy, and the wider Teesside community, who have been so generous supporting them over the past four years.
They are continuing to fundraise to secure this post long term as at this moment Sharon is only in post for one year. If you would to make a donation, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/billysroom