Making Christmas special for grieving families

Pauline Canning at Blackpool Victoria Hospital

A CHRISTMAS tree often tells a story of generations of family members.

Decorations may have been given to us by grandparents or bought as mementoes of family holidays. Some trinkets are handmade by children or bought to celebrate occasions such as a first Christmas.

But for some families, a baby who died too soon is part of that story and this year the annual Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s Special Baby Remembrance Service will have Christmas Trees at its heart.

However brief, a baby’s life is always cherished and the Trust organises a baby remembrance service every year for parents whose babies were miscarried, born asleep, or lived for only hours, days or weeks.

Doing something special in memory of the baby who has died can be an important part of Christmas for families, it helps in the difficult month of December while others are shopping for gifts for their children. Hanging a special decoration on the tree or lighting a candle that burns in their memory are things families can do to remember a lost baby.

Organiser, Megan Murray, Bereavement Support Nurse at the Trust, said: “My tree has many mementoes from loved ones who have died. They are part of my family history. When I stand back and look at my tree, I do so with pride, some sadness and with great memories.

“I hope that each year this service plays a small part in helping families cope with their loss and gives them space to remember in a safe and supportive environment. The society we live in today can be very uncomfortable at acknowledging a family’s grief for a baby that has died. At the service all the parents, those who lost babies recently or in the past, come together to remember in a supportive and beautiful service.”

The memorial service, on Sunday, December 2, in the Baronial Hall in Blackpool’s Winter Gardens, helps parents and families feel they are not alone with their grief at Christmas time.

Christmas decorations to be given to families will have a small tree label attached for families to write personal messages on. People will be able to take the baubles home, put them on the remembrance tree at the service, or place them on remembrance trees at Fylde coast cemeteries.

The service will include some poetry and the story of the fir tree read during the service by a member of the Trust’s Chaplaincy team.

Megan added: “All the local authorities have been amazing as usual by donating trees for all baby areas.”

A memorial Christmas tree will be in Lytham’s Forget Me Not Garden courtesy of Fylde Borough Council and Wyre Borough Council will put trees in the baby areas of both Poulton and Fleetwood Cemeteries.

The tree from the memorial service itself, donated by Blackpool Borough Council, will be displayed at Carleton Crematorium baby area.

These trees also allow children to add baubles for siblings who have died. Children often want to do something for their brother or sister and this is a way it can be shared with all the family supporting one another.

The trees will be erected in the first week of December and parents who place baubles on the cemetery trees are asked to collect them, if they wish to keep their decoration, before the trees are removed during the first week of January.

The Baronial Hall doors will open at 2.40pm on December 2nd and the service will start about 3pm. The event will feature music from Eve Murray singing a beautiful rendition of REM’s Everybody Hurts and Cyndi Lauper’s True Colours.

As well as the Families Division of the Trust, a number of organisations who can help grieving families will be represented at the service, including SANDS, the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity and the Miscarriage Association.

Chair and Befriender at Blackpool and Preston SANDS, Claire Maxwell said: “This event is very important as it can help support families at such a difficult time.

“I went to my first service in 2010, just a few weeks after I lost my baby. It helped me so much to be around other people who had been through the same experience,” Claire explained. “I have been every year since.”

SANDS will be bringing their memory boxes for families to take away from the service.

Megan said: “All members of the family are welcome; parents, siblings or grandparents, the service is for people to remember their loss surrounded by others who understand what they are going through.

For more information about the event contact the Trust’s bereavement officer on (01253) 956877.

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