A long tradition

About our foundation

After years of hoping and praying, we were overjoyed to find out we were expecting our first-born child on 11th January, 2004. The months leading up to our child’s arrival were full of anticipation, happiness and preparation. I pinched myself every day at the thought of a new life growing within me. Every little flutter, and with every movement our hearts went into somersault mode as we beamed with love and pride.

Our beautiful baby boy was delivered by emergency caesarean on Wednesday 12th November 2013. Our baby was prematurely born at 29 weeks and 4 days. We were unable to hold him or see him as he was taken straight to the special care baby unit. We immediately went into parent protection mode and accepted what was best for our child; after all we had a lifetime of joy and love to follow. For one hour our world was complete, calls were made to family and friends announcing the proud arrival of our son. Flowers, text messages and more calls arrived whilst we excitedly waited to meet our son. The doctors arrived and we looked at them with such gratitude in the part they played in welcoming our son into the world. In a blink of an eyelid our world of jubilation turned in to a living nightmare. We heard the doctors say they were complications and then everything else they said felt cold and jumbled as if I was in a hollow cave where my body turned to stone and I was unable to think or bring to surface my silent screams.

I was wheeled over to my son and he was placed in my arms for the first time the day after he was born at which time, we had to do what no parent should ever have to. In that moment before we had to turn off his life support machine, we showered upon him the love of a lifetime, we kissed him and wondered so desperately if he knew we were with him and if he could feel our deep and desperate love.

The worst part at the time was having to turn off his life support machine with our own hands, the life we had created, the life that we loved like no other, we welcomed him and said farewell in the same breath and turned off the heartbeat that was our world…was it his heartbeat that was slipping in that moment or ours? That was the worst part then, yet now it feels as though it was the best part as we got to hold our baby within our arms for that one time.

Our son never came home with us. We don’t know when we made phone calls to all our loved ones to let them know they could come and say farewell. We don’t know how they all got to the hospital so quickly. All I know is that in one roll of the dice, we were robbed of every milestone that should have been ours to savour. The aching love, longing, and nurturing for our son was rife within us but sadly we were unable to give any of this to the one person we craved. I imagined his first birthday, first day at school, and the love he would have received by so many, his friends coming to hang out, the wedding. All future emotions vanished in a heartbeat. Yet, tragically, this is a reality for so many.

Remembering them... Supporting you...

We named our son Vishaal; meaning Infinite. Whilst we only had Vishaal on earth with us for one day, he is infinite, as is the love that anyone who has lost a child will testify to. As time passed it saddened me to see how quickly we were expected to move on and how nobody wanted to speak of our loss. We lost our son, and in that loss, we were stripped of the most precious title…Ma and Papa. We were caught in this tsunami from which everybody seemed to be moving to shore yet try as we might we continued to move backwards.

We were constantly told it was time to move on, get over it as you will have another one. I wanted to know how we were expected to move on; the truth was my son had been taken from us yet he was our life and lived within our every movement and heartbeat. I found it so difficult that we and others like us had to come to terms with the loss of our baby without having any means to honour the life that was. It is this thought that led me to form the annual ‘Little Angels Memorial Service’ and thereafter a charitable trust called ‘The Vishaal Foundation’.

Through the unwavering support of E Sargeant & Son Funeral Directors and Slough Borough Council, as well as the many other partners who have helped us along the way, ‘The Vishaal Foundation’ has held several interfaith remembrance events. Our aim is simply to acknowledge the existence of our angels. We help to reduce the emotional distress of those who have experienced untimely loss in respect of the short-lived life of an infant or child due to miscarriage, neonatal death, or other tragic causes and circumstances by offering genuine understanding, support and sign-posting where appropriate.

Through the unwavering support of E Sargeant & Son Funeral Directors and Slough Borough Council, as well as the many other partners who have helped us along the way, ‘The Vishaal Foundation’ has held several interfaith remembrance events. Our aim is simply to acknowledge the existence of our angels. We help to reduce the emotional distress of those who have experienced untimely loss in respect of the short-lived life of an infant or child due to miscarriage, neonatal death, or other tragic causes and circumstances by offering genuine understanding, support and sign-posting where appropriate.

What’s in a Number?

Miscarriage

More than one in 5 pregnancies ends in miscarriage making the yearly figure 250,000. Most miscarriages happen in the first 3 months of pregnancy however this term is used up until the 24th week of pregnancy as it is only at this time in medical terms a baby is seen as viable even though they are fully formed weeks before this.

Stillbirth

Stillbirth is more common than perceived by most. Every year there are more than 3,600 stillbirths in the UK. One in every 200 births ends in a stillbirth. Every day 11 babies arrive stillborn in the UK, making it 15 times more common than cot death.

All births where the child shows signs of life or is born after 24 completed weeks of pregnancy must be registered with the Registrar of births and deaths which means a parent has to go through further immense heartache as they must first register the birth of their child in order to enable the registration of death.

Neonatal Death

Neonatal death is the term for babies that die within four weeks of birth. Most neonatal deaths happen within one week of the birth – in the UK this represents 1 in 100 births.

Up to two thirds of newborn deaths can be prevented if effective health measures are provided at birth and during the first week of life. Of the 8.2 million under aged 5 world child deaths per year, about 3.3 million occur during the neonatal period, in the first four weeks of life.

Child Mortality

Child mortality refers to the death of infants and children under the age of five. Many deaths in the majority of the world go unreported since many poor families cannot afford to register their babies in the government registry.

Studies show 45% of parents do not feel well informed about what was happening to them and only 29% of parents feel well cared for emotionally. Nearly four out of five (79%) of parents receive no aftercare and feel completely isolated in their grief.

Just a Window

The above small snapshot of statistics may have surprised you.

The detail of how timely action could change things is insurmountable. At the moment in time The Vishaal Foundation cannot change many facts and figures but what we can do at a local level is to work with all gate keepers to show that within every number and every statistic there is a story of love, longing and heartache, of a heartbeat that stopped beating way before its time. We hope that you will leave here today not just seeing these numbers as statistics but as children that have grown wings and parents that need our support to help them through this awful loss.

Meet our founders

Founders stories

We get a lot of help from

Our Partners

‘During pregnancy planning commences for the new gift of love and life, list upon lists are made of all the new purchases – the pram, a cot, clothes, what name, girl or boy – So many exciting decisions. Then out of nowhere a full stop to plans – your baby dies and then sets in the harrowing reality of a different plan and decisions about organising your child’s funeral – which funeral directors, coffins, death certificates, flowers, what to say about your child at the funeral…

We turned to E Sargeant & Son for Vishaal’s funeral. The emotional support and understanding they gave us was exactly what we needed at the time. They also gave me the comfort of knowing Vishaal was being looked after with great care as well as allowing our family and friends to spend time with Vishaal throughout the day and night. They supported us from the day we called them to the day Vishaal was buried and beyond. When I thought of doing something in recognition of our babies, E Sargeant & Son came to mind and I called them to explain my vision. From that very first call they have continued to support the Foundation and if it were not for their dedication & commitment, we would be unable to hold the services we do.’

Madhu Bedi

E Sargeant & Son, Funeral Directors

E Sargeant & Son, Funeral Directors, was established in 1712 and is one of the oldest businesses in Slough. An office has been at 40 Church Street, Slough since 1922 with the office in Windsor being acquired in 1923. The third office, located in Maidenhead, was opened in 1991.

Following the death of Mr Edward Sargeant in 1988, the business was acquired by Pat and James O’Neill, Pat having worked for Mr Sargeant since 1961. She continued to run the business until just a few months before her death in December 2009.
In August 2009, the ownership of E Sargeant & Son passed to Funeral Partners Limited, securing the future for both the business and the staff. An extensive programme of refurbishment took place upgrading the premises in Windsor followed by the facilities in Maidenhead. An extensive refurbishment of 40 Church Street, Slough was completed in October 2012.

With the extensive history and presence of E Sargeant & Son covering over 300 years the Company feels it is vitally important that it supports the local community wherever possible. The Company has been a supporter of The Vishaal Foundation since 2011 and holds the values and aims of The Foundation close to its heart. E Sargeant & Son understands the importance of the nurturing work completed by the Foundation and commits to support this work for years to come.

Slough Borough Council

Slough Borough Council formed a partnership with The Vishaal Foundation when approached by Madhu in 2012 to help host a memorial service in our chapel followed by the lighting of candles and a balloon release within our grounds. Since then we have supported the foundation in hosting their annual Little Angels Memorial Service by supplying the chapel and staff at no cost and have been on hand to help throughout the event to ensure it is a memorable occasion for all attending. We are happy to help in other ways such as erecting posters around the cemetery grounds and within the crematorium memorial gardens prior to the Foundations events.

We have now hosted The Little Angels Memorial Service for 3 years and it is a pleasure to see it grow with the help of local funeral directors, ministers and volunteers who give their time freely to help support families who have suffered the loss of their child.

Occasions Singers

Occasions Singers have been supporting the valuable work of The Vishaal Foundation for 4 years. The group comprises highly experienced singers bonded together by their love of choral music. They perform at special events and memorials throughout the year, and can all personally testify to the soothing and healing qualities of choral music.

The group provides inspiring and uplifting choral harmonies at the Little Angels Memorial Services, and always feels privileged to draw alongside those who are suffering loss whether recently, or in years gone by.
Each singer carries their own experience of loss, and recognises that, with time, the pain may diminish but never goes away. Occasions Singers provide a sensitive choral backdrop, enabling those who attend the Memorial Service to feel comforted and in a safe place; a place where memories and emotions can be shared with those who understand.

Herschel Park volunteer group

‘It gives me and all the volunteers and friends of Herschel Park great pride that the Vishaal foundation has chosen to hold some of its services in our park. We take pleasure in our ability to help out in a small way by facilitating these serene services in the grounds of our beautiful park.

The tranquil setting makes the perfect backdrop to the emotional and moving services and helps to set the tone for people to express their feelings. We are totally committed to the events organised by the Foundation and our hope is to continue working with the trustees to ensure we provide a place for families to feel at home enough to come back to the park at any time to reflect and enjoy the surroundings as well as their memories.’ Herschel Park Management Officer, Ian Judd