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Memory box project helps children cope with the loss of a family member

A project which helps children come to terms with the loss of a parent has recently handed out its 10th box.

Memory boxes are small containers that are filled with items intended to evoke happy memories of a deceased mother or father.

They are offered to parents on Poole Hospital’s critical care unit when it has been confirmed that a patient will not recover from an illness or injury.

The contents of the boxes are provided by the unit and include books that help introduce the concept of bereavement to younger children and journals for teenagers to use as a space to express feelings as well as teddies, which often have clothes knitted in different colours such as a favourite sports team.

Two identical teddies, one for the adult and one for the child, are offered as the unit has arranged with the hospital mortuary for the patient’s teddy to stay them after their death to create an everlasting bond.

Children are also encouraged to add in objects of their own such as perfume, jewellery, photographs, drawings and letters.

The scheme started just over a year ago when a patient on the unit, who had very young pre-school children, died suddenly and staff wanted to do something for her children.

Initially staff created their own memory boxes with help from the hospital’s children’s unit who have a similar initiative that helps grieving parents.

However, the boxes are now purchased from childhood bereavement charity, Winston’s Wish, as the unit staff liked the design of the boxes they offered.

The boxes are bought empty from the charity and the contents are still provided by the staff and the patient’s family.  

The funding for the boxes came from a £200 donation by a former patient and approximately £500 has now been donated by charitable contributions.

Suzanne Charles, a sister on the unit, is one of four members of staff involved with the project.

“Memory boxes are an extension of the care that we give and can be a positive moment on what is a devastating and upsetting time,” she said.

“I gave memory boxes to three children recently who had lost their mother and they threw them open and were thrilled to bits.

“They left clutching them tight.”

Aaron Eastmond, a technician on the unit, recently lost his son and was given memory boxes for his other two children. He believes they have helped the family come to terms with the loss.

“I took the box home and explained to our children what it was for. My youngest thought it was a great idea and he went up to his room and made a special area for the box,” he said.

“One of the best parts were the books, which provide support for my son when he’s at school and may need to take a moment.

“The boxes are very useful for me too as it helps explain things to my children and to answer questions that they may have.

“They are so good and I would recommend them without a doubt. It’s a huge help to both adults and children.”

BBC News came into the hospital in May 2018 to capture a video on how memory boxes help children deal with grief. You can see the film here.

If you would like to donate towards a box or knit a teddy, contact

Critical care unit memory boxes

Suzanne Charles, sister, Teresa Shiner, healthcare assistant, and Joanna Glover, staff nurse


Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Longfleet Road, Poole, Dorset BH15 2JB. Tel: 01202 665511

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