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Wednesday 7 February 2018

Earlier this year, second year BA (Hons) Social Work student Jo Fox published her first book, aimed at explaining stillbirth and pregnancy loss to young children.

Playground in the Sky came about after Jo lost her baby, Alfie, 34 weeks into her pregnancy. With two children aged three and four, she needed to find a way to explain the loss in terms they could understand.

Jo explains: “When we left the hospital, we were given a memory box with two teddy bears. The idea was that we would keep one and bury the other with Alfie, but we did something else instead.

“We took Freddie and Ellie to a balloon shop. They chose a balloon, and we released them with messages as a way of saying goodbye. When they got home, the teddy bears had appeared on their bed; a thank you from Alfie.”

Jo’s book is based around this premise, and comes with a teddy bear that looks the same as the illustrations within the book. There are different versions tailored to the family member lost, and is suitable for children up to the age of six.

playground

On writing the book, Jo says: "It took 10 minutes to write the book itself; it's a poem I wrote reflecting how I told my children. It was the illustrations that took time; I asked a friend to do them, and the pictures were more than what I was expecting. By pure luck, the drawings of the teddy ended up as an exact replica of the teddy we send out with it."

With 30 books having sold since the launch in January, Jo hopes to get copies of Playground in the Sky in libraries and hospitals, and has set up the charity Alfie’s Angels to give support to bereaved parents.

She says: “Our main aim is for parents in my position to be offered the books for free. I’ve found that the bears have given the children a link between reality and the book, so they can make sense of what’s happened.

“At the moment we’re looking for a patron to work with, in order to get the books distributed to more places. In the future, we’d like to have a neutral hub that parents can use to meet social workers, bereavement counsellors, midwives and other medical professionals. It could be a normal café with a play area that saves them from having to go to a hospital.”

While Jo’s original aspiration was to study child psychology, she now sees her future as running Alfie’s Angels, but adds: “Studying social work has really helped me understand how what has happened has affected the children.”