We talk to Bex Gunn, who, alongside Laura Buckingham, co-founded The Worst Girl Gang Ever, a fast-growing support platform and podcast for miscarriage and baby loss
What inspired The Worst Girl Gang Ever?
“In May 2020, during a routine scan of my fourth baby, alone due to Covid, I heard the words that pulled the bottom out of my world: “I’m sorry, there’s no heartbeat”. I couldn’t believe the pain I felt. I knew the statistics – I knew that one in four pregnancies ended this way, but having already had three children with no problems, I naively thought that I was immune.
“Over the following days and weeks, I realised that no one knew how to talk to me about my experience. No one had the right words and so many tried to minimise my pain with well-meaning platitudes, often with sentences starting with ‘at least’. The topic of miscarriage is not one that I felt was accessible or conversational. The support I looked for online was limited and perfunctory.
“I wanted to change the landscape of this support for women who were feeling, or yet to feel, the darkness, shame, isolation and anger that I was so consumed by.
“I wrote about my experience and shared it publicly. The post went viral and was published by Metro. I started a Facebook group to offer peer support – a platform to share stories, experience and advice. I was amazed to have over 2,000 women join overnight.
“I received a message from Laura Buckingham, a nurse who had been living in the baby loss world for a number of years. She’d experienced seven losses before having her son and she’d been banging the drum and trying to open the conversation to improve the support offered to grieving women and couples. She suggested we get together and formulate a plan to amplify our message.”
“We decided on a podcast. At the time we were in the depths of the pandemic and we felt that the best way to open up the dialogue about this sensitive topic was to simply talk about it.
“We thought it would just be our mums tuning in, but the podcast quickly gained traction and listeners, and before long, we were getting around 1,000 downloads per week. Shortly after launching, we won an award for ‘Best Podcast’ from the GLOMAMA awards, dubbed the baftas for mums.
“Alongside this, we started an Instagram page and a community quickly formed. Our honest, straightforward and unapologetic approach to baby loss and the feelings surrounding it struck a chord with the baby loss community and we are privileged to now have over 50k followers.”
And what about your courses?
“In July 2021, we launched our first course. ‘Pathway to Recovery’ was a six-week online course featuring content from seven experts in different areas, such as grief trauma therapy, gratitude and relationships. The course also included a live weekly drop-in, providing the opportunity for connection through sharing and listening to others with a similar experience.
“Then, in November 2021, we followed up with our ‘Trying to Conceive After Loss’ course, a six-week online course providing both the opportunity for education from our experts in, for example, fertility nutrition and female reproductive health, and the connection and peer to peer support, which is proven, in our experience, to be so crucial in an upward trajectory during recovery.
“We also wrote a course for those pregnant after loss, a uniquely challenging and misunderstood experience. This course involved mindfulness, meditation and gratitude, as well as information on pregnancy as a whole.
“All our courses aimed to give our participants the emotional tools to navigate the challenges in everyday life they may encounter following the loss of their baby.
“In August 2021, we signed a publishing deal with Harper Collins and our book The Worst Girl Gang Ever, a survival guide for navigating miscarriage and pregnancy loss, was published in August 2022, shooting to number one in four different categories in the Amazon Charts”
Tell us about The Worst Girl Gang Ever membership.
“We have always wanted our support to be as widely accessible as possible and decided, therefore, to transition to a more financially viable monthly membership platform, as opposed to the courses. We secured a loan from Virgin StartUp in January 2023 and launched the membership in February.
“Our membership ‘The Warriorship’ contains all the information and content from the courses we have run in the past, as well as live webinars from experts from medical and mental health communities.
“In addition to this, we host creative and interactive events like a book club, a paint club, candle making, wreath making and drag bingo, to name just a few!
“All webinars are recorded and available to watch after the event in our live expert session library so our members benefit from all the content we’ve ever produced as soon as they sign up.
“Within the membership itself, which operates a lot like Facebook, we have the opportunity to share, chat, connect and support real-life events happening for those who want that face-to-face, in-person support. Last weekend saw a wild swim and picnic in North London!
“We also host the all-important weekly live Zoom support sessions for all our members to join. Within these sessions, we have break-out rooms to suit every topic that our members wish to discuss. It is our experience that connecting with others aids recovery hugely. We support and love others until they are strong enough to support and love themselves.”
You offer training and bespoke advice on baby loss and miscarriage to employers too. How does this work?
“25% of employees trying to have a child will be directly affected by baby loss or miscarriage. 67% of people surveyed by Tommy’s in 2022 said they felt their manager wanted to support them following baby loss but 69% also said their managers didn’t know how to provide that support. Not providing the right level of support can lead to low employee motivation and engagement, extended sick leave and absenteeism.
“We offer live webinars for HR/management departments on how to support employees after loss. This includes back-to-work plans, policies and helpful ways in which to interact and openly support, rather than invalidate.
“We also have a webinar for colleagues, covering the basics on what is helpful to say and what is less so, and more importantly, why this is the case, clearing up the common misconceptions on baby loss so that individuals can understand what may be happening in the lives of those going through these traumatic and heartbreaking experiences.
“We offer discounted rates on our membership for our corporate clients so they can offer this to their employees, or employees’ partners. We tend to forget that there are two people involved in pregnancy loss.
“Although the support for men and non-pregnant partners will be different from those physically suffering the loss, the support still needs to be there. Offering our membership to the partner of an employee is an effective way of helping that employee feel more secure in what can be an incredibly helpless situation.”
You’ve recently received an £18,000 Start Up Loan from Virgin StartUp. Can you tell us about that? How are you planning on utilising the funding?
“As mentioned above, the funding received from Virgin StartUp helped us transition to a membership-based platform. We have used the funding for a growth campaign, to help spread our message and support to those who need it, as well as ploughing it into expert content within the membership so we can offer the very best and most up to date in education and support when our members need it the most.”
How has your journey as a startup been?
“Our journey has been long and, at times, very painful. Managing the grief of others on a daily basis can take its toll on our own mental health and we’ve had to be careful to take our own advice and step back when we’ve needed to.
“The biggest challenge has been managing the startup and growth of something so incredible on top of our normal careers (Laura is a nurse and I am a photographer) and families. We’re so blessed to have both had a baby since we started TWGGE in 2020, but life doesn’t just stop and personal circumstances are particularly difficult to navigate when you’re trying hard to fulfil something so important for others.
“Our biggest obvious achievement has been the book. Getting something so incredibly important out into the world was an incredible feeling and provided validation for so many women. Being published by one of the industry powerhouses was incredibly validating and showed how this conversation is ready to be had.
“On a personal level, the daily messages of thanks are what it’s all about for us. We started with the aim of helping just one woman feel less alone through what is undoubtedly one of the most painful and traumatic experiences she’ll go through in life – and essentially, that’s still our aim… except now we want to help every woman feel less alone.”
What does the future hold for The Worst Girl Gang Ever?
“We hope to start transitioning into a charity as we would like to be able to offer our support for free. We don’t quite know how this looks at the moment, but it’s our next project.”