Memory boxes to help children after their brothers and sisters die in hospital

Memory boxes are to be given to children to help them cope with the death of a brother, sister or parent at hospitals in Hull, North Lincolnshire and South Yorkshire..

Abbie’s Fund, set up by Katy Cowell in memory of her daughter, has donated white, pink and blue boxes for brothers and sisters of babies and children who die at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, the Labour & Delivery Suite, the Children’s Emergency Department or the Children’s Wards at Hull Royal Infirmary,

“Hug Me” hearts, where children struggling to ask for a hug can simply present the heart to a trusted adult to show what they need will be put inside the boxes.

Boxes will also be delivered to Adult Intensive Care Units at Hull and Grimsby to help children experiencing the death of a mother or father and to neonatal units in Doncaster and Scunthorpe.

Family finger print pictures, where every member of the family contributes their fingerprint to a family tree alongside their loved one, “heart in the hand” keyrings, teddies, clay moulds for hand and foot prints are among the items included in the box.

Anne Dalby, Sister on Ward 130 at Hull Royal Infirmary, said: “We are so grateful to Katy for all she has done to help families experiencing the death of a loved one.

“We hope they will help children to process their grief when their brother or sister dies and come to terms with their loss in a personal way.

“The boxes will allow them to feel close to their brother or sister, keeping their memories of them close and in a way that we hope will give them comfort.”

Katy and her husband Paul set up Abbie’s fund after their daughter Abbie Grace was stillborn at 38 weeks at Hull Women and Children’s Hospital in October 2010. She weighed 5lbs 4oz, was absolutely perfect but had died in the womb after the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck five times.

Katy and Paul spent two days in the hospital’s bereavement room with Abbie in a cold cot to allow them to spend precious time with their little girl.

They were given a memory box by a midwife shortly after Abbie was born, containing her hand and footprints and a lock of her hair.

Katy said: “We had planned to buy a memory box after we had left hospital but this removed the emotional trauma of searching for one at a time when we were consumed with grief.  We were extremely grateful.

“From our experiences following Abbie’s death, we have put together a box of keepsakes and ideas that we hope will help parents who find themselves in this situation to make precious memories.”

Katy recently joined the Paediatric Unit Bereavement Group working with nurses and play specialists to look at ways to support bereaved parents and grandparents, brothers and sisters.

Play specialist Gina Kirk said: “This can be a child’s special box where they can keep their memories. It can be useful straight away but it can also be something they can keep to help them.

“Katy has done an amazing thing to help other families and we’re so grateful for what she has done and the support she gives us.”

Katy said: “Abbie’s Fund has supported families who have lost a baby since 2010 and had recently developed memory boxes for siblings so we were in a great position to develop memory boxes for parents of older children, older siblings and for children who lose a parent.

“It has been an honour to be part of this group and we are really proud of the support we are able to give to many more local families who find themselves in this devastating situation.”