Our annual ‘Making Time for Memories’ event is held in the spring.
Bereaved children and families are invited to come together to share memories of their loved ones in a creative, fun, child-friendly space. Sally Cotterell, a counsellor on Martlets’ family support team, remembers last year’s event.
We held our first family day in March of last year and it went really well. Parents and carers were invited alongside their children and it was an opportunity for families to come together to talk about their loved ones. We wanted to create a safe space where it would be ok to remember different memories – happy and sad – and to feel a range of emotions.
It’s understandable that it can be scary coming to an event where you’re touching on painful memories as well as happy ones, but the feedback we received was positive, with participants saying that it can be a comfort to meet others who are going through a similar process. Although everyone’s grief is unique to them there is a commonality because everyone present has lost somebody they’ve loved.
‘A comforting and warm approach’
Having adults and children at the same event meant that we could support everyone in knowing that it’s ok to feel sad and that they will come through it and they’re not alone; there are other families who are also grieving. Children were able to talk with others their age who had lost their loved ones, and the parents and carers could share experiences – they have lost someone close, but are also having to support their children too. It can be complex for those who are having to parent children. They are coping with having lost their own parent or partner. This is what Sarah*, one of the parents attending, had to say:
“The ‘losing a loved one’ workshop was fantastic. We did activities that helped us talk openly about our memories of Mum/Nanny. It was a very comforting and warm approach – it was about saying that I know I’m not the only one as an adult who misses their Mummy.”
It was important to acknowledge this – that Sarah* had lost her mum, but was also having to be a mum too.
We started with a family activity. We were painting bags and getting everyone thinking of things they’d done together with the person they were remembering. The decorated bags were beautiful and each family member created images that were very meaningful to them. The activity started the conversation that ‘oh, my memories are different to your memories’. And yet they were remembering the same person. It’s a big thing that families can continue to learn from each other about the person who’s died.
We also made memory jars and candle holders and created a memory table that we placed everything on. Memory jars are a simple yet powerful way to remember a loved one, especially for children. You think of five special memories and then divide salt into five sections, rubbing pastels into each so they are different colours. This can feel symbolic as people will say ‘I’ve lost all the colour in my life’, but then the colours return as something very tangible that they can see. It puts them in touch with memories and feelings for that loved one.
Children and adults worry that they’ll forget their memories so the memory jar is a really easy way to remember; you’ve always got a reminder of those memories there and you can just go and touch them and hold on to them, and the memories live on.
There was also time for a book reading and for the children to play outside and have fun together playing. The children who came along were aged between 4 and 12. We’d really like to have an adolescent group the next time too. Grieving in adolescence can be a confusing and difficult time. It’s important they find a safe place to share all aspects of themselves including their vulnerabilities.
If you’ve lost someone close to you, please do join us for this year’s event on Saturday 28 March, 10am—1pm. We look forward to welcoming you and your family.
*To maintain anonymity we have changed the participant’s name
Useful Services and information:
Cruse Bereavement Service
Cruse offer a bereavement helpline to give support as you need it. In addition you can also find resources on how to support your child on their website.
Winston’s Wish has a wealth of resources and advice on how to support your child through bereavement. This is whilst also dealing with your own grief. They also have a free phone helpline you can call.
Childhood Bereavement UK
Child Bereavement UK supports families and educates professionals when a baby or child of any age dies or is dying. They also support when a child is facing bereavement.