By Denzil McDaniel 

Picture this scene on the main street; a young couple emerge from a shop. They both look upset and tearful, and the young husband is comforting his clearly upset wife who is clutching one of those balloons with a message on it. You happen to know that they have just lost their baby, who was stillborn, and the balloon has the little one’s name on it as the distressed couple prepare to go to the cemetery where they buried their precious child in a little white coffin.

A man approaches the couple and even though he knows what happened to them, he screams abuse into their faces and snarls at them: “F**king morons.”

Do you consider his behaviour acceptable? I can’t imagine many of you would.

But this happened; well, not in the physical world, but in the cyber world of social media where it seems to be more and more common.

In my opinion, abusing grieving people from a safe distance in your own home, unseen and with a device and a screen is just as horrible as someone who’d do it on the street.

Why would they do that? Let’s explore further.

Last week, my colleague Sabrina Sweeney wrote eloquently in this newspaper about baby loss awareness week, and highlighted the thousands of babies lost through miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal deaths every year, and the devastation it has on families.

Sabrina, a mum herself, wrote: I can’t even begin to imagine the pain of losing a child at any stage of life; it is inconceivable for those who have never suffered such a loss.”

Indeed it is. Dispatches on Channel Four also featured some of the stories on “Child of Mine” and brave couples allowed the cameras to record their heart rending experiences. The films would bring tear to a stone, but even then it’s hard to fully comprehend how tough it is.

As Sabrina said, it’s important to acknowledge this and allow people who have suffered loss to talk about it and remember their little ones.

However, at least one group of the bereaved has come in for particularly tough and distasteful treatment. Life After Loss held its annual balloon release in Belfast, where hundreds of parents came along to get some comfort. This has led to some controversy from the environmental lobby who disagree with balloon releases.

It started a few years ago, with one campaigner calling for the event to be cancelled and it has grown with increasing horror stories to the point where those opposed to the release now engage in awful language and hurtful trolling of people who are going through upsetting circumstances of their lives.

Let me be clear, I get the environmental concerns that people have, in these days of serious climate change and the dreadful damage that plastic does particularly in the seas and oceans. I really do get that.

And I do respect environmental campaigners; but the section of them who have been attacking this particular balloon release have lost the run of themselves by hyping up stories of “potential” damage to wildlife. In one story a few years ago, a campaigner told a dramatic tale of a whale being effectively choked by a balloon. Except that the incident involved a three-foot Mylar balloon not one of the small types used in the release.

Sadly, as the stories, all involving potential or believed incidents and never proven, became ever more dramatic there was a corresponding increase in abuse from people who allowed their opinion to become fact.

Indeed, even when facts were put across to them, they were ignored.

Life After Loss did address the concerns of their detractors. No string is used, the tags with messages were made of paper and the material in the balloon biodegrades very quickly. In fact, a major report by the UK Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) says that the impact from balloons is “negligible”.

Perhaps you may think that the bereaved parents should consider another way of remembering. Possibly. But if you have ever attended a balloon release and watched the emotion of parents who write a little message to their lost baby and watch as it floats heavenward, you will understand one of the parents, Gemma Antell when she describes it as an apt way of remembering.

In a blog she wrote some years ago, Gemma said: “It evokes a powerful visual and mental image, seeing and thinking that each balloon is a baby lost to pregnancy and infant loss, and that even with all those balloons, it does not scratch the surface of the true number of losses.”

So, with all the obvious pain and grief, and the facts showing them on the wrong side of the argument, the keyboard warriors invade Life After Loss social media outlets, deepen the hurt of parents and even try to sabotage their funding which provides a range of support services to bereaved parents in coping with their loss.

And they do it in such a disgusting, vitriolic way.

One woman posted “You selfish b***tards absorbed so much in your own loss you don’t give a f**k about anything else”.

A man described the bereaved parents as a “bunch of braindead Cretans” and asked “Are your brains so small that you think a balloon release will help your cause? F**king morons.” He promised to do what he could to close the organisation down.

Another abusive post complained about having to pick up pieces of the balloon from his local beach.

He should try picking up the pieces of life after the devastating loss of a child.

Feeling entitled to abuse people, especially such vulnerable people, seems to be a modern phenomenon.

Disagree all you want, but surely there’s a time for calm, a time to respect other people. If you can’t win your argument with truth, and with rationale, it’s not much of an argument.

Perhaps there are some of you who have doubts about the validity of what organisations like Life After Loss are doing with their balloon release. But please, give these people space to grieve and go back to the opening of this article and see what out of control campaigners are doing to intimidate them.