My daughter, Thea, died in February 2019. 

We spoke to Gabriella Lake Walker, Mother to Thea who sadly died in February 2019 about how important the CuddleBlanket was to her family, and how she practices self care as she prepares herself for Mothers Day, birthdays and anniversaries.

“This will be our fifth Mother’s Day without her. We were lucky that, having taken the difficult but what turned out to be best decision to accept a referral to a hospice years earlier, we had had access to a CuddleBlanket on the night that she died. The CuddleBlanket keeps the body of a child who dies cool so that you can spend time with them after they have died and slowly get used to your new reality.”

Having worked in health policy and planning for all of her career, Gabriella recently left the NHS to establish a social enterprise focused on high quality research and development of models of care for families of children with complex needs. The importance of time with a loved one after they have died can be incredibly important to families as they navigate their grief and make the necessary arrangements.

monarch butterfly perching on red flower

“I will always be glad we were able to take a few days before having to really say goodbye, she had her own room in the little apartment at the hospice and it really helped to have her close to us for that time.

“Although it has been hard since she died, I have found coping mechanisms for days like Mother’s Day and other days can be harder than most, like birthdays and anniversaries.”  

“There isn’t one specific strategy that works, I think it probably depends on my more general mood, and what the significance of the day it.  For me, Mothers Day is often one of the hardest.”  

assorted color sequins

“On her birthday we always aim to have the most fun possible and do whatever we think we would have done if Thea was still with us.  Last year we went to the new music museum in Liverpool, and her birthday just happened to fall when Eurovision was on so the whole city was awash with rainbows and sparkles, all of Thea’s favourite things!  But other than her birthday, I tend to see what mood I am in and what I think I will be able to manage.  Often we like to do days out and things we think she will have enjoyed, but I have done challenging long runs on my own in bad weather (good when you’re angry!), quiet family walks in nature -often with a picnic and homemade cupcakes, and had a duvet day.”

woman about to run during golden hour

“Over the years, I think I have learned a few things about how to make days like Mothers Day a little easier.  I have found that by being aware of any events, days or circumstances I might find difficult means I can plan ways to manage.  We also always try and talk about them as a family and each say how we are feeling about it and how we might want to handle it.  Sometimes we have similar ideas and sometimes they are different, but we always try and accommodate everyone’s thoughts.”

“Being prepared helps in other ways too -significant days themselves are hard, and no matter what you do there will always be moments where you need to take a deep breath, or cry, or just do what you can to get through the next few moments, but through having at least an outline plan for the day, it takes the thinking out of everything.  This takes at least some potential stressors -like decisions- out of these days when your emotions are likely to be heightened.”

“Finally, and probably most importantly, I’ve learned always to find ways, big or small, to bring Thea into the day.  Whether it is what we do, where we go, what we eat or what we watch.  Having her with us always adds happiness, no matter how hard the day can also be.”

family sitting on grass near building

In summary:

  1. Be prepared for days or occurrences that you might find hard and think about how you might want to spend them
  2. Discuss with others what you feel is right for you for the day, and be open about what you will need from them
  3. Plan what you will do in advance to take the thinking out of the day
  4. Do something for you, ideally something that will make you smile
  5. Do little things that bring the person you lost into the day

“I would always advise friends and family to contact the child’s family and acknowledge the child in an appropriate but positive way.  Knowing other people still think about Thea is something that makes me smile.  But again, it is important to take the lead from the person and I would always say never be afraid to ask.”

Gabriella Lake Walker

women hugging each other

If you or someone you love is experiencing grief, it’s important to reach out to family friends and organisations who specialise in bereavement support. 

To talk to a qualified bereavement counsellor for free, or for helpful links visit: CuddleCot.com/grieving

 

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