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  • Writer's pictureDows

Our partnership with Forget Me Not

Updated: Mar 3, 2023

Bereaved parents’ charity has partnered with Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice to fund UK’s first dedicated support worker for those whose child dies suddenly.

The ground-breaking service for families whose child has died suddenly, is the first of its kind in the UK and finally fulfils the ambition of the Kerslakes, a bereaved family who wanted to transform the support families like theirs received, following the unexpected death of their two-year-old son Elliot in 2013.

The charity founded in their son’s name, Elliot’s Footprint, is working in partnership with Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice in Huddersfield to provide a dedicated support worker to offer the care, practical help and guidance bereaved families so desperately need.

When Elliot died, Andrea and John Kerslake quickly discovered how little support was available for those experiencing what must be every family’s worst nightmare.

“When we left the hospital that day with only an advice leaflet in our hands,” Andrea said, “we felt completely alone. Alone in that we had to contemplate facing the future without our gorgeous little boy, but also alone in how we were supposed to support his sister and brother in their grief, support each other as a couple, deal with our individual grief and keep our family together. We were forced to try and find a way through this terrible situation and keep going the best we could, whilst dealing with a system that almost broke us.”

Tragically, between 60 to 70 children under 18 die suddenly in West Yorkshire each year, from a range of causes including car accidents, fires and illness. Leaving their families bereft and traumatised, while also often having to deal with the various agencies that might be involved, like the police, hospital, coroner’s office, courts etc, on their own. Until now there hasn’t been any specialised support for these families.

It was this that led the Kerslakes to set up Elliot’s Footprint exactly one year after Elliot’s death.

“The lack of accessible, professional bereavement support made the worst possible situation parents can ever endure so much more unbearable. We founded Elliot’s Footprint to campaign and fundraise for better bereavement services to ensure that no other parents have to cope with the devastation of losing their child alone.”

Research conducted by Elliot’s Footprint identified the need for a dedicated support worker. Following three years of fundraising, they have finally seen this dream come to fruition, by part-funding the role at Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice, which already provides bereavement support, counselling and other specialist services to families of children with life-shortening conditions.

Helen Wilson, Head of Family Support at Forget Me Not, said:

“Losing a child suddenly is a devastating experience, leaving families distraught and feeling completely powerless. Our dedicated support worker – the first one in the UK – will be there for families in whatever way they need, helping them regain a little bit of control.

They’ll be there to help families through the first days, weeks and months if needed, offering emotional support and practical help. They might help them work out what to tell their children, who to contact to arrange a funeral or to explain the coroner’s process. They’ll also help guide families to other services they may need – like counselling.

Thankfully, most of us will never have to go through this terrible experience. But for those that sadly do, it’s about time they received the support and help they so desperately need. Thanks to Elliot’s Footprint, we’re incredibly proud that Forget Me Not is now able to step in and fill this gap.”

Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice supports children with life-shortening conditions and their families across West Yorkshire. The charity has become known for taking a pioneering approach to the services it provides - it was the first children’s hospice in Europe, for instance, to employ a midwife to support families confronted with a life-shortening diagnosis during pregnancy. Professionals such as GPs, hospitals, police, social workers, schools, bereavement services are asked to contact Forget Me Not (01484 411041) for more information on how the children’s hospice will support families whose child has died suddenly and for details on how to make a referral.

The support worker role is fixed term and subject to funding. Elliot’s Footprint and Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice are hoping that with continued fundraising efforts the support to families can be further extended.

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