This presentation explores the meaning of Remembrance Days for families whose child or children have died at a hospice for children or young adults. These days have been held regularly since Helen House opened over 30 years ago. Families of those who have died at either Helen House or Douglas House are invited back once a year for a day of remembrance.
Despite the long-standing nature of these events, and their replication in many other hospices for children, we have very limited understanding of the role they play for parents and other family members as they live with their grief. We carried out an in-depth survey with all parents in January 2014. Through their responses, we have gained a richer understanding both of their experiences of loss over months and years, and the role of Remembrance Days within that wider context.
Overall, the vast majority of respondents found Remembrance Days to be important and valuable to them. Analysis on the role of Remembrance Days in relation to parental grief is offered across five key themes: making time for grief and time as a marker; the importance of place; remembering our child (ren); comfort, connexion and community and feeling safe to express emotions.
The impression we are left with is of parents, coping more or less well with busy, perhaps lonely, somehow fractured lives. They are not able – practically or emotionally – to live with their grief at the forefront of their day to day lives. Nevertheless, they feel very strongly the need to reconnect in some way with their child and their feelings around their child’s life and death. For some, Remembrance Days provide them with the opportunity to do this.
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