The pressure on the family of a child with a life-limiting condition means that often actually being a family will sadly take a back seat to their responsibilities. It is so important that places like Tŷ Hafan can be there to give the families the opportunity to just enjoy the time they have together.
Of course, helping families make the most of the time that they have together is one of the main aspects of what we do at Tŷ Hafan, making memories that can be cherished for a lifetime. Memories reaffirm the continuing existence of loved ones in our hearts and minds and they will always be an important part of who we are.
When a parent loses a child, they cherish items related to the deceased child to help keep their memory alive. Tangible memories that parents appreciate are things they can hold, share and admire with others and can include photographs, scrapbooks, handprint and fingerprint canvases, print jewellery and prints taken in clay or plaster. These opportunities can be invaluable to families throughout the grieving process.
One area that is widely used is hand and foot casts and imprints and we often involve parents and siblings in the process. The child’s hand or foot is placed in an alginate, salt dough or clay to mould their print. These casts are then prepared and painted in the hospice. It’s free of charge to all families at the point of end-of-life care, where possible.
Capturing these prints can come with their difficulties, especially since many of the children have multiple complex conditions, include seizures, cerebral palsy, spasms and hyper touch sensitivity to name a few, all of which can affect the process.
Hand or foot prints allow memory making to continue into the future, as a connection to the child that can be treasured forever. Families are able to display these items in their home or special places as a symbol of their child. One father said that his son’s footprint is kept by the side of their bed and is a lovely memory of Tŷ Hafan. A mother expressed her gratitude for the service offered, saying that:
“Having a hand cast of my son meant a lot more than just a type of ornament. To me it was a very precious gift. It was something that will last a lifetime…finding something, anything so beautiful like this will always make you smile and remember how extremely precious our children are.”