Mother’s Day For The Bereaved Mother

Guest post by Tina Thurtel, Sands Queensland Committee President

My first Mother’s Day was brutal after my baby, Willow, died. My partner was thoughtful enough to include Willow’s name on my card. It was bittersweet. I felt like crying all day. Mother’s Day was no longer a happy day for me, it was a harsh reminder of all that I had lost. I couldn’t see that it was ever going to get any better.

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A Grandmother’s Love

Guest post by Jude Conning

etsy4I will never forget my daughter’s anguished cry over the phone “I’ve lost the baby”. She was 29 weeks into her pregnancy and we all had a sense that nothing could go wrong now. A previous pregnancy had sadly ended at 10 weeks. But now so much had been prepared, the baby shower planning was under way and
 I had booked my flight to be there.

I flew to be with her that day and there she was – everything still looked so normal but nothing would ever be ‘normal’ again. The pain that she and her husband were experiencing was palpable.

As mother, mother-in-law and grandmother-to- be, my grief was for all three and yet I knew that I needed to put them first.

I work in an area of grief and loss and over the years I attempted to support and comfort many a parent whose baby or small child has died. Yet nothing prepares you for the very personal experience. And nothing helps you find the ‘right words’ to say. It’s best remembered that there are no right words but there are certainly some wrong ones.

Charlotte-15 copy
Jude captured precious moments of love for her daughter and son-in-law.

Charlotte was born in the early hours of July 1st 2011 – a perfectly formed and beautiful little girl. During labour my daughter asked “why do I have to go through this?” but afterwards she knew. She had given birth to her first child and she and her husband would have those memories, however painful, to sustain them.

I’m a photographer, so I asked their permission to capture some images of this beautiful baby. My daughter tells me she is so pleased that she has them and was able to use them for an exquisite slide show for the funeral one never wants to have. She has used the photos in many ways and I have my own little album that I can sit and look at. As a result, I felt that I wanted to do something to honour Charlotte’s memory so have become a Heartfelt photographer. Hopefully I am at least able to give people some images that they can share with others and provide them with valuable memories of a child that will always

Charlotte’s little sister releases a butterfly at the Sands Walk to Remember.

There is a saying that a “grandparent grieves twice” – once for their child and again for their grandchild. There is a sense of helplessness knowing that nothing you do will make it better. The most important thing we can do is be there and support our children’s decisions and actions.

I saw a poster a while ago and it said,

“You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have”

I know that rings very true for my family and for many others who have been through similar experiences. We don’t always have to be ‘strong’ and it is so important to let the tears flow and feel the emotions, as even that takes a particular type of strength.

I look at my daughter and her husband with immense pride at their courage, their love and their joy in Charlotte’s sister, Rosalyn, who was born 14 months later after a very anxious pregnancy and an amazing birth.

Both little girls will always have a very special place in my heart.

Jude Conning Photography, based in the Manning Valley, NSW is offering Mother’s Day photography sessions at $50 with the full price being generously donated to Sands Queensland. For full information find Jude on Facebook @JudeConningPhotography or at




Sands supports anyone effected by the death of a baby during pregnancy or shortly after.  For those wanting to connect with other bereaved parents or grandparents Sands offers several online support groups through their Facebook page. Find further information about Sands support services at Support at Sands.







Family volunteering for Sands Queensland in memory of their baby

2017-18 Sands Queensland Management Committee

The Sands Queensland Management Committee is comprised of volunteers who dedicate their time and skills to help steer Sands in it’s mission to promote and facilitate quality support and care systems for the parents and families of babies who have died during pregnancy, at birth or soon after.

We welcome and thank you to the new Committee for 2018 and we look forward to a productive year.Read More »

A Life Promised

Guest post by Leisa Andersen

I used to feel that my grief and how I dealt with it wasn’t validated, was too ‘over the top’. I mean we were only 15 weeks. He wasn’t a ‘real’ baby, a legal baby. Small enough to hold him in the palm of a hand, but we could still count 10 little fingers and 10 little toes. I’ve since come to realise it doesn’t matter. 15 weeks or 40 weeks, the outcome is the same…they’re gone.Read More »

2017 Sands Queensland Management Committee

The Sands Queensland Management Committee is comprised of volunteers who dedicate their time and skills to help steer Sands in it’s mission to promote and facilitate quality support and care systems for the parents and families of babies who have died during pregnancy, at birth or soon after.

We welcome and thank the new Committee for 2017 and look forward to a productive year.

Tina Thurtel – President

Tina and the family at the 2016 Walk to Remember

Our daughter, Willow, was stillborn at full term in October 2015. For the past four years I have been an Educator and Assessor for various Registered Training Organisation’s delivering Youth Work, Counselling, Community Services and Mental Health. Previously, I had fifteen years experience working in non- government charity organisations and Management Committee’s across Qld and NSW. I have a degree in Psychology, a Post Graduate Diploma of Counselling, Diploma of Community Services Coordination, and Cert IV Training and Assessment. I was raised in a small country town in Northern NSW and moved to Brisbane twenty years ago.

Nicky Lynch – Secretary

Nicky 1
Nicky Lynch

After a long career in banking and finance I was drawn to a gentler career in the non-profit sector. Voluntary work in several organisations sparked a passion for community work and led me to Sands Queensland in 2005. My passion for grass roots community work developed as Sands struggled to overcome the many obstacles facing volunteer organisations including a lack of funding and the pressure to become more professional or businesslike in their activities. I completed a Bachelor of Human Services and Graduate Certificate in Business (Philanthropy and Not for Profit Studies) which allowed me to better understand the voluntary sector and provide useful skills as the Organisation navigated the changing environment.

As Office Manager until 2015 I was lucky enough to witness Sands’ transition to the leading provider of bereavement services and its never wavering commitment to its mission.

For the past eighteen months I have lived in Abu Dhabi (where my husband
is currently based) and taken the opportunity to travel. Now back in Brisbane,
I have joined the Sands Queensland Management Committee as Secretary and hope to continue my contribution to this wonderful organisation. The stint in the Middle East has once again led me to re-evaluate life with my hope for a less complicated existence. A couple of chickens, a dog and well-tended herb and vegetable gardens are now my focus.

My daughter is a lawyer in Perth and my son works in property development in Brisbane. My husband hopes to be home in early 2017.

Amanda Rohan – Secretary

General Committee Members

WTR 2011 Ribbon banner
Fra Left: Marie Deuble

Marie Deuble
For almost 30 years, Marie and her late husband Bob Deuble have supported parents and their families in the Townsville region. Their commitment to Sands Queensland and its mission has been unwavering. Sands Townsville is now recognised by health care professionals and the wider community as a leader in the support of bereaved parents through all stages of pregnancy loss and new born death.

Marie continues to provide invaluable support to Sands Queensland.

Nell Hakfoort

Nell Hakfoort (right) at the 2016 Sands Luncheon
I received invaluable support from Sands Qld in 2014 when my baby Jasper was born at 16 weeks gestation. Since then I have been involved with the organisation as a volunteer, which has given me many opportunities to honour Jasper in positive and meaningful ways, and to connect with other people who understand and empathise with my experience. I have been inspired by many of the amazing people I have gotten to know through Sands Qld.
Most of my working life so far has been spent as a qualified picture framer and retail business manager, until I re-trained in graphic design. I live in Brisbane with my husband and three sons, and am a full-time mother and occasional graphic designer.
I recently joined the management committee because I believe Sands Qld has a very important role in supporting and advocating for bereaved parents, and I want to help continue that crucial work.

Sands Australia Delegate

Nicole and her daughter at the Sands Queensland Walk to Remember

Nicole Ireland

Having joined Sands Queensland as a member following the death of our son Nicholas 11 years ago, I found the support services incredibly helpful for my family and our broader network. As time passed, I wanted to play a part in making sure that Sands Queensland would be able to provide support to newly bereaved parents across the State – support like we received.

I served on the Committee for four years and was President from September 2013 until the AGM in September 2016. I learnt a lot during that time and feel proud of my contribution in honour of our son. My current role at Sands Queensland is a delegate to Sands Australia.

I have a professional background in journalism, communications, stakeholder engagement and Government relations and have worked in the mining sector for much of my career. I live in Brisbane with my husband and our two young daughters.

Each year in September, a new Management Committee is selected from volunteers who are prepared to give of their time. If you are interested in learning more or perhaps becoming a Sands Queensland Committee member, please contact us on (07) 3254 3422 or email

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President’s Report 2015/16

In time, I expect 2015/16 will be recognised as a pivotal year in the history of Sands Queensland. It was a year where we were forced to look hard at our mission and our services and our future. The potential cessation of the long-term Queensland Government funding meant that we had to look at ways to survive and keep the doors open.

As challenging as it was, one thing did shine through – the value of our organisation and the importance members and now, the broader community, place on what we do. As President the long-term struggle to retain the Government funding was often overwhelming but it was the ongoing support of members and their commitment that provided the drive to push on.

Through the Save Sands campaign we were able to position the organisation very strongly for the future. The money raised, along with renewed funding for 3.5 years means Sands is well-placed for the future. Of course there is more we could do – the aspiration to reach more hospital and health professionals all over the State remains a goal, along with building and supporting strong regional volunteer networks – all of which will help bereaved parents and those who will sadly join our ranks in the future.

It has been an enormous year but one which we should all be proud of.

Nicole and volunteers at the 2016 Walk to Remember
Nicole and volunteers at the 2016 Walk to Remember

I want to thank my fellow Committee members for their ongoing contribution; our staff for going above and beyond; and our members for continuing to volunteer, fundraise and support parents. I would particularly like to acknowledge the long-term involvement of Nerissa Healey and Penny ten Brinke who both leave the Committee this year – thank you for all that you have done in so many roles. Don’t be strangers!

In an organisation like Sands Queensland, everyone has a role to play and it is truly about helping one another.

It has been an honour and a privilege to serve as President and I thank the organisation and our members for allowing me to honour our Nicholas and help other bereaved parents.

~ Nicole Ireland, Sands Queensland Committee President 2013-16

For a review of the 2015/16 achievements, the Sands Queensland Annual Report for 2015/16 is available to download HERE

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