Meet Nicole Hasseldine, a bereaved mother to her daughter Isla who lived 6 days in NICU after suffering birthing complications at 38 weeks in 2016. Nicole talks to us about bereavement support after a neonatal death and how you can help others by educating yourself.

Read our other patient perspective stories. Read articles on paediatric nursing including NICU and PICU nursing.

Get 20% off 3-Part Education-Series events on Perinatal Bereavement for nurses, midwives and students. Go here and search for ISLA Grief & Loss for the discount code and how to redeem it.

I am Nicole Hasseldine, a bereaved mother who wants to share her daughter’s story to raise awareness and facilitate training opportunities in the perinatal loss space. 

“The death of a child is recognised as the most severe, enduring and debilitating form of bereavement within the context of human relationships” (D Zagdanski)

”Bereaved parents never forget the understanding, respect, and genuine warmth they received from caregivers, which can become as lasting and important as any other memories of their lost pregnancy or their baby’s brief life.” (J van Aerde, 2001).

Our daughter Isla was born on 01.02.2016. After a normal and uncomplicated pregnancy I went into natural labour at 38 weeks and until the last few minutes everything was perfectly alright. Unfortunately, Isla was born with a true knot in her cord which resulted in reduced oxygen flow during the birthing process leaving her fighting for life as soon as she was delivered. She was stabilised and transferred to another hospital, but after 24 hours of observation and testing, she was found to be severely brain damaged and made palliative. We spent 6 days with her in NICU before we said our final goodbyes and I watched her die in my husband’s arms. Our world had shattered.

I can say from the bottom of my heart that we received exceptional multidisciplinary care, support and guidance during our hospital stay and I truly believe this is why we processed the trauma of the events and progressed through our grief journey as well as we did.

You never forget the person who came to you with a torch in the darkness and this is how the care during our time with Isla in hospital felt. Advice how to talk to our toddler who was waiting for his sister to come home, support in decision making while suffering acute trauma responses and learning about the impact of memory forming are just some examples which come to my mind.

We felt totally overwhelmed and were not aware of the options available to us or the importance of memory-making in the brief time we had with Isla. We are forever thankful for the skills of our support team providing empathetic care while respecting our wishes without judgement and showing us how to form a lasting connection with Isla while in the NICU.  

However, I have learned through meeting numerous maternity staff and students since that quality bereavement care is not standard practice and the implementation of best practice care remains inconsistent. This was recently confirmed by the Stillbirth CRE at the ISA/ISPID 2021. It was highlighted that at some Australian maternity hospitals training, supervision and mentoring in this space is not well supported and that many care providers have very limited or no bereavement training at all despite having to support bereaved families.  

After I started seeing life in colour again, I began visiting hospitals to give donations of memory forming items we had found helpful when we were with Isla in hospital. It quickly became apparent how services provided to bereaved families and resources available to staff in hospitals differed greatly. The staff I talked to felt a variety of emotions towards looking after bereaved families acknowledging that this is a very challenging part of their work. I wanted to help them feel more informed, offer resources and provide tools which any provider who is caring for bereaved families can use.

I went on to conduct thorough literature reviews, surveyed bereaved families and front-line maternity staff on their experience undertook training in the grief and bereavement support space and became a member of the National Scientific Advisory Group at Red Nose.

2 years into the journey, I launched the ISLA grief & loss service. I have delivered over 40 talks face to face and online to more than 800 maternity staff and university students on the topic of perinatal bereavement support. I developed a resource folder for maternity staff, started a private Facebook NETWORK group for providers and developed different online training packages covering a variety of bereavement topics.

Every letter of our daughter’s name stands for what this service is all about. At ISLA grief & loss we Inform and Support you by being a Leader and an Advocate for the grief and loss space in maternity.

I would love to enhance the care you provide to bereaved families while you learn to consider your own needs in this space.

My vision is for a future where all maternity staff feel supported and are confident to work with bereaved parents. You can play a role in us working towards that goal, for example by e-mailing me ( so I can coordinate sharing my experiences and knowledge at your hospital/university. You could also join our private Facebook group ISLA grief & loss NETWORK to connect with other providers who work in this space, stay informed about recent research, discuss challenges and learn about available perinatal loss resources.

If you enjoy self-directed learning and having resources on hand, then you could order a copy of our Bereavement Support Resource Folder which covers a variety of topics such as communication skills, cultural considerations, grief theories, pregnancy after loss and self-care. Lastly, you could attend one of our online training events for which you can get an exclusive discount through The Nurse Break. I would love to enhance the care you provide to bereaved families while also considering your own individual needs, head to our website to find out more about how we can help.

Get 20% off 3-Part Education-Series events on Perinatal Bereavement for nurses, midwives and students. Go here and search for ISLA Grief & Loss for the discount code and how to redeem it.