WHEN a young mum or dad or any beloved relative dies in critical care, the shock for their children can be overwhelming.

But now a scheme at Poole Hospital's Critical Care unit is helping families at this devastating time by handing out Memory Boxes.

Following the death of a young mum in Poole's Critical Care Unit a year ago, staff wanted to help her children and the Memory Box scheme was created. The boxes are offered to families on Poole Hospital’s critical care unit when it has been confirmed a patient will not recover from their illness or injury and the unit has just handed out its tenth.

Staff fill the boxes with items intended to evoke happy memories and include two identical teddies, one for the adult and one for the child, as the unit has arranged with the hospital mortuary for the patient’s teddy to stay them after their death to create an everlasting bond.

Children are also encouraged to add in objects of their own, such as perfume, jewellery, photographs, drawings and letters and the boxes also contain books that help introduce the concept of bereavement to younger children and journals for teenagers to use.

Unit sister, Suzanne Charles, is one of four members of staff involved with the project. “Memory boxes are an extension of the care that we give and can be a positive moment in what is a devastating and upsetting time,” she said.

Initial funding came from a £200 donation by a former patient and approximately £500 has now been donated by charitable contributions.

Sister Charles said: “I gave memory boxes to three children recently who had lost their mother and they threw them open and were thrilled to bits. They left clutching them tight.”

Aaron Eastmond, a technician on the unit, recently lost his son and was given memory boxes for his other two children. He believes they helped his family come to terms with the loss.

“I took the box home and explained to our children what it was for," he said. "My youngest thought it was a great idea and he went up to his room and made a special area for the box."

However, he found the boxes helped him, too. “The boxes are very useful for me as they help explain things to my children and to answer questions that they may have. I'd recommend them without a doubt. It’s a huge help to both adults and children.”