Muddy Footprints, funded by Children in Need, is an innovative new model based on the principles of social learning; supporting children and their families who have experienced parental bereavement. Run in partnership with a local forest school, Muddy Footprints aims to be an inclusive and easy to access therapeutic approach. In opposition to methodologies which separate bereaved children from their remaining parent, this model keeps the remaining family together. The day takes place in the naturally therapeutic environment of the woods and allows parentally bereaved families to come together and share their stories, reducing isolation and normalising their experience.
The day starts around the campfire where families introduce themselves, and name the person they have come to remember. A range of woodland craft activities designed to offer remembrance tools, such as lantern making, are available for families throughout the day. However the true magic happens when the children create their own activities; either with their new group of friends, digging a remembrance island into the mud or building a den; just their own family, swinging in a hammock, or cooking in the mud kitchen; or taking some time on their own to sit under a tree or toast a marshmallow. This non-directive approach allows the children to both access and shape the support that best meets their needs.
The adults talk about how relaxing the day is, which as a bereaved and therefore often single parent is very precious. All family members report the value of having protected time together to re-group, talk and play, away from the day-to-day pressures and distractions of life, and the children talk about making friends with others who understand. But by far, the main comment we receive at the end of the day is ‘I want to come back again’!
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