Dr Ros Taylor shares some insight from her work with families during her time at the Hospice of St Francis in Berkhamsted and the Royal Marsden hospital.
We know that those who are left behind hugely treasure memories that have been crafted and created especially for them - this is especially important for children. There are so many creative ways to continue your voice, your hopes, your dreams into the future, and your children or grandchildren will truly treasure this.
It can be really uplifting work but it is also sad and emotional. We have often found that it is best to work with a close friend or family member, or perhaps a hospice nurse or therapist who will have the skills to help you.
There are so many simple, creative ways to capture memories. Involving the children will make the work even more special and keep your memory alive. We know from the work we do with children who have lost their mother how important this is. Children often talk about the creative times when mum was ill - times of real closeness.
If you have young children you may want to consider creating a memory box for them - a special box filled with photographs, memories, treasured objects or souvenirs from trips - whatever you want your children to remember about you and your relationship with them. This can be heartbreaking to do, and easy to put off, but is really treasured by children.
You may want to leave letters to be opened on every birthday. We know a young mum who left a special sum of money in her Will to buy Christmas presents for her children every year.
It is so easy now to make videos on our phones, capturing special moments, or simply sharing thoughts and hopes for your children, perhaps telling a favourite story or remembering a holiday.
There are growing number of mobile apps that can help you collect photos, messages and music on your phone. There are also guides as to how to manage your online assets, to ensure that your messages, photos and social media accounts are saved. The website Dead Social can help advise you about digital end of life planning.
Planning a future for your children
There are often huge practical concerns about your children's future care, particularly if you are a single parent. These may feel like unbearable conversations, trying to imaging your child's life without you - but it is so important to make your mark on these plans. You know so much about your children, what makes them tick, their likes, their hopes and their fears.
Once you know who will be your children's guardians in the future - whether it is your husband, partner, sister - there is so much information you could share that would make the job of bringing up your children easier for those who have that honour. For instance we remember a mum who was really worried that no-one could do her daughter's hair properly - her husband had simply never learnt how to plait it and she was worried that this would be a source of distress. Of course she taught her husband how to do it. These treasured moments can actually bring you closer and make you feel more at ease that your children's lives will perhaps be disrupted a little less.
We know how resilient children are in the fact of loss but we also know how keen they are on routine. It is these routines that need passing on in a systematic way to those who are going to have a big role in your children's lives in the future.
If you need professional help to plan your children's future, or just need advice on how to talk with them, then the local hospice may be a good place to start. If you don't have a hospice near you, your child's school or your local GP will know of local support services.
Support for your children
There are wonderful books, apps and websites that can help children of all ages who are facing loss. These include:
- Winston's Wish
- riprap - for teenagers who are facing the loss of someone special
- The Story Cure by Ella Berthoud, which suggests stories that help children with all sorts of difficulties they might be facing
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Last reviewed: May 2017
Next review: April 2020