When I learned about Jamilla McCoy and her ‘Seeds For Siblings‘ organisation, I had to reach out and find out more. Jamilla has created a most heartwarming not-for-profit initiative that not only recognises and respects the sad experience of lost babies and children but also offers a positive action for those experiencing grief, especially siblings of still borns and deceased infants and children.
Jamilla both a University student and a Nanny, works tirelessly to ensure that others can create a deserving memorial for their loved ones and we believe that she is making a really positive impact on the often unspoken and misunderstood subject of grief. For anyone who has been through miscarriage, stillbirth or the death of a child, this beautiful project might be just for you…
Leigh: Seeds For Siblings was created for a very special personal reason. Can you please tell us about that?
Jamilla McCoy: Last year, very close family friends, experienced the stillbirth of their twins, Nelson and Selma. Their older sister, Indira who was four at the time struggled with her grief and we found limited support and resources available for children who had experienced this specific type of loss. After their death I felt compelled to create something in their memory, as a way to not only feel closer to them but to also honour their lives. I met with Sharon, the head of ‘Grief and Loss’ at The Royal Woman’s Hospital and from there I developed the idea for Seeds for Siblings. It was a way that I could support grieving children and also acknowledge and create awareness about the impact the loss of a baby can have on their siblings. Every element of the project is a little nod to Indira, Nelson, Selma and their parents Meneka and John. From the Australian native inspired fabric to the origami seed packet, each has been a deliberate and conscious choice.
LV: What is included in a ‘Seeds For Siblings‘ pack?
JM: The packs include a small hand painted stone, a packet of Sunflower Seeds and planting instructions. The fabric that the bags are made from has been generously donated by two local businesses’, Ink and Spindle and Maze and Vale. Both companies screen-print the fabric by hand using water-based inks on sustainable, organic and fair trade cloth. The seeds included in the bags have also been donated by small businesses. I think we often lack rich and personal connections with people, so collaborating with small local businesses and getting to know the person behind the product is something I deeply believe in. I get to visit their studio spaces, share stories and cups of tea. I see how hard they work and see the passion and pride they have for their work and product. They aren’t just a brand or an email address, they are the community that has provided this project with the strength and support to grow and flourish.
The seed packets are hand folded into little origami pockets, usually when I am reading over Uni work or when the children I nanny are napping. There are no 9-5 type hours for Seeds For Siblings, I grab moments to fold, paint or sew wherever I can.
The stones are my favourite part of the bag. I handpick and paint each one, so they are all a little different. The Sunflower design that is painted on them, was drawn by a four year old and initially my idea was to use the stone as a garden marker but many siblings who receive a bag like to carry the stone with them to remind them of their baby brother or sister. I love that. When I started the project I thought I would just be distributing through hospitals but now I have more individual orders than hospital ones. This has been a welcome surprise as I am able to get to know and connect with families as they share part of their story. For individual orders I also personalise them by painting the babies name on the back of the stone.
LV: Why were Sunflowers the flower you chose?
JM: Sunflowers are aesthetically pleasing with their bright and joyful head so most children love them. They aren’t overly complicated to grow and will grow relatively quickly. So on a surface level they are a great flower for children to grow.
The reason I chose them though is not only because Indira loves them but because to me Sunflowers truly capture the heart of the project. At the end of Summer when the Sunflower begins to wilt, children can dry the head and save the seeds. The seeds can be planted again the following Spring and distributed to other family and friends to plant in memory of their baby sibling. Families have also offered to post some seeds back to me to pass onto other families. The ability to share the seeds will hopefully create a space for family and friends to spend time together in the garden and feel connected to their baby who is no longer here.
The head of a Sunflower is made up of thousands of tiny flowers, which you can only see if you look closely. To me, each of those tiny blooms represent the many stories families have shared with me, the small like minded business’ that generously give their products and time and the individuals who support Seeds for Siblings in so many different ways. Each bloom, contributes its part to the beauty of the whole Sunflower. This project is not a product of one, but of many.
LV: This is such a beautiful cause. Where do you hope to see the ‘Seeds For Siblings‘ project evolve in the coming years?
JM: When I began this project the sole intention was to provide children with Sunflower seeds. As it has grown, the project has developed a solid trunk that I am now able to branch out from. There are good resources, literature and support programs available for parents who have experienced the death of a baby but not so much for siblings. This has been an area I have wanted to develop further since that first meeting with Sharon and am now in a position where that is possible. I also hope to work more closely with foundations and charities like Rafael’s Reach and Still Aware to continue to bring awareness to stillbirth and stillbirth prevention. I am excited about what the next year holds for Seeds for Siblings.