Herefordshire People: Noahs Ark Trust - Christmas Without Mum

PUBLISHED: 17:18 09 February 2010 | UPDATED: 15:38 20 February 2013

A Noah's Ark Christmas party

A Noah's Ark Christmas party

Elizabeth Collins describes how Noah's Ark Trust is helping bereaved children at Christmas time

Elizabeth Collins describes how Noah's Ark Trust is helping bereaved children at Christmas time

Christmas is an occasion for families to celebrate together. For bereaved children, facing a future without their mum or dad or sibling is difficult enough, but coping with this special time of year can prove particularly challenging. They often feel guilty because on the one hand they are looking forward to celebrating by receiving and giving presents, but on the other they are very aware that a special person is no longer there to share the festivities with them.

Noah's Ark Trust provide bereavement support for children, young people and their families throughout Herefordshire and Worcestershire. The charity was established in recognition of the needs of younger people who are affected by a close bereavement in their lives. A team of trained bereavement service co-ordinators and family mentors provide a programme of support based on individual need, which includes one-to-one counseling and participation in a residential family weekend.

The bereavement team appreciates that Christmas can be difficult and so offer a range of strategies which can help children cope more effectively with the additional stress that they feel at this time. Tina Harris, one of the bereavement team in Hereford, says: "It's important for children to know that it is OK to have fun on Christmas Day and to feel excited, and that there are things that they can do to remember the loved one that they have lost."

It is important to acknowledge the feelings of the whole family at this time of year and not individuals in isolation. So involving everyone in a range of activities can be helpful. Family members can decorate baubles and put a personal message inside them before hanging them on the tree, whilst lighting a candle and leaving it to burn for the duration of Christmas Day can help to acknowledge the person who is no longer with them.

"At school it is vital that children be allowed to make things such as cards for their missing parent or sibling," says Tina. "Although they may not be there to receive it, the art of giving something to the person who has died is very important to the child, so they shouldn't be excluded from this activity."

Painting or decorating a smooth pebble to take to the grave on Christmas Day can be very therapeutic and if it is varnished it will last for a long time. It is also possible to build a pebble wall in the garden, which can be added to year after year. Writing a special Christmas letter or releasing a helium balloon can also be therapeutic at this time of year.

One of the activities that all children are encouraged to do is to make a memory box containing objects relating to the person who has died. The creation of these boxes can be an important part of the process of moving forward, and helps to emphasise the value of keeping memories alive, including those associated with special times of the year. Children often spend time at Christmas looking at the contents of their special box and cherishing the memories it brings back.

Hereford Round Table have recently provided funding for 500 of these boxes. Jonathan Fennesey, Chairman of the Tablers, says: "It's great to support a local charity where our involvement can directly affect the children they work with and will benefit them for a long time to come."

"Christmas can be a wobbly time for the whole family," says Tina, "but the anticipation can often be far worse than the actual event. The day itself is often so busy that it's over very quickly. Younger children will always look forward to opening their presents but will still miss the person who is absent. Teenagers, however, will often need space and time alone with their thoughts, and for reflection. It's important that this is respected, no matter how busy the day is."

To find out more about Noah's Ark Trust or the way in which the local community can become involved in helping them contact Liz Collins on 01432 264555 or visit

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