Remembering Jessica at the National Memorial Arboretum

Little Hearts Matter has a tree and a bench at the end of the children’s wood in the National Memorial Arboretum. It’s a place where families can come and remember their children. Each year, there are two memorial events for families who have lost a child with half a working heart. One of these happened to be a couple of days after Jessica’s funeral. We felt that it would be good for us to get away for a couple of days, and to take time to remember Jessica, along with other families who were also remembering their children too.

 

A pink heart with "Jessica" written on it hanging on the Little Hearts Matter tree in the National Memorial Arboretum - "Remembering Jessica at the National Memorial Arboretum"

 

 

As the music started for the brief memorial service, I saw a beautiful big dragonfly settle on Sophie’s hat. It must have stayed there for about thirty seconds or so. The minute I went to reach for my camera though, it flew away. I was sent a copy of The Dragonfly Story, written by Kelly who blogs at Chasing Dragonflies shortly after losing Jessica. It’s a beautiful story to help explain loss to children and why our loved ones can’t come back to us. Every time I see a dragonfly now, it makes me think of Jessica. I couldn’t help but think that this one settling so near us was a sign that Jessica was still with us in some way.

 

The plaque next to the Little Hearts Matter tree

 

During the service, there was the opportunity for parents to share poems or readings. We then hung our hearts in the tree to remember our children that had been taken too soon from us. We’d made Jessica’s heart the day before – a cardboard heart covered with different shades of pink tissue paper, with her name written on each side with a couple of purple butterflies.

 

Sophie hanging Jessica's heart in the tree

 

The hearts only stay on the tree for a short while. After the service, the team from Little Hearts Matter take the hearts down again. They go back to the office and are hung on a tree there until the next memorial event when they are brought back again to be hung on the LHM memorial tree once more. In this way, the children can be remembered at each memorial event even if the parents are unable to attend.

 

Hearts hanging on the Little Hearts Matter tree

 

After the hearts were hung in the tree, there was a moment of remembrance; an opportunity to say our children’s names out loud. For some people, this may be one of the few times they are able to do this. Saying Jessica’s name and talking about her helps me so much. It reminds me that she is still with us, that she existed, that her life mattered.

 

Sophie hanging a heart on a tree in memory of Jessica

 

When the service was over, we moved to the picnic area near the children’s playground and the Evacuees memorial. This was a chance to talk to other bereaved parents and to share our children’s stories and our journeys. As well as chatting to some other parents, we also spent time talking to Suzie, the Chief Executive of Little Hearts Matter. Both hubby and I found this chat really helpful. One of the things that Suzie suggested was to create a safe space for Sophie to go to when she needed time out. Since then, we have set up a pop-up tent in Jessica’s old bedroom with Jessica’s blanket, some of her favourite toys and some cushions. It’s really helped Sophie to have this space to go to.

 

The Evacuees memorial

 

Hubby and I had both got very emotional during the memorial service. Sophie seemed to cope well with it though and enjoyed running around with the other children in the playground during the picnic. She started to get quite cross with us after a while though. This is one of the ways that she tends to express her grief over losing Jessica. I wasn’t surprised when she had a big cry a short while later. It’s hard to see her so upset. However, I think a big cry every now and then does help her get the emotion out. We had a big cuddle and then went for an ice-cream, after which she was much happier again.

 

Sophie with her hobby horse

 

A memorial in the shape of a butterfly

 

We did take some time to look around some of the other memorials at the National Memorial Arboretum. There are more than 350 different memorials, most of which are military ones.

 

A memorial with lots of poppies

 

The Naval memorial

Hubby in the Boys' Brigade memorial garden

 

The Armed Forces Memorial was particularly moving. It lists the names of servicemen and women killed whilst on duty since World War 2. There are over 16,000 names on the memorial so far.

 

Sophie standing by the steps leading up to the Armed Services memorial

 

We only managed to visit a few of the other memorials during our visit. It was an emotional day for us, but it was good to get away from home and to remember our beautiful Jessica in such a lovely setting.

 

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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15 Comments

  1. June 4, 2018 / 7:51 pm

    What a lovely way to remember Jessica. I love your story about the dragonfly too, it shows that Jessica is still with you and watching over you and I’m sure she is so proud of you all.
    Nat.x

  2. June 9, 2018 / 6:37 am

    I couldn’t help but smile at the dragonfly. Whenever our family sees white butterflies we always think about my grandad or grandad in the sky as my children know him. It’s lovely. Sounds like a lovely way to remember Jessica xx

  3. June 9, 2018 / 6:39 am

    Oh my what an emotional day that must have been for you, but also what a lovely place to come together with other families. I’ve never been the the National Memorial Arboretum but it really looks like an special place to visit. #countrykids

  4. June 9, 2018 / 8:29 am

    This is such a wonderful a way to remember Jessica and all the other heart children, I can imagine it was a very emotional time. It’s so good that you had other people to talk to who really understand what you are going through. Poor Sophie, I’m sure things will get better in time for her. I love the tree and that they keep the things made to go back on year after year.
    sending love xx
    #countrykids

  5. June 9, 2018 / 11:06 am

    Oh goodness such an emotional post, I’m all welling up too. I can understand why this was an important event to attend for you all. Bless Sophie holding it all together then breaking down later, I think it must hit you all differently at different times. I adore the heart tree, it reminds me of my new wishing tree along our kindness trail. I hope you will had a heart to it when you come to see us. Love the dragonfly incident, I have the feeling you will keep experiencing moments like this, little signs Jessica is still with you. xx

    Thank you for sharing such a heart felt post on #CountryKids

  6. June 9, 2018 / 12:55 pm

    Such a lovely way to remember Jessica. A beautiful post.

    #CountryKids

  7. June 9, 2018 / 12:57 pm

    How lovely to have a day to remember Jessica and other heart children. Glad the dragonfly came to visit. We had a squirrel, who must have been sent by sister-in-law after she passed, visit our backyard on my son’s birthday. It is really special to have your dragonfly bring you a flutter message from Jessica. I have thought about you and your family often. I wish you peace and joy from remembering all of your special family times in the past and the great adventures you have in your future.

  8. June 9, 2018 / 3:42 pm

    Oh Louise, crying just reading this, but such a lovely way for you to remember Jessica and other families too. Sounds like a wonderful support network to have and a great suggestion for Sophie to have her safe place xx #Countrykids

  9. June 9, 2018 / 8:07 pm

    Aww! This is such a lovely way to remember Jessica….The location sounds perfect and everything so well thought out.
    Poor Sophie….It must be so hard for her. Sending love and hugs x

  10. What a lovely way to remember your beautiful daughter, Louise! How emotional it must have been for you, and I can’t even imagine what it’s like for Sophie now, without her big sister. Sending lots of love xx
    #CountryKids

  11. June 13, 2018 / 1:30 pm

    I am so glad you post these updates on remembering Jessica. I have never been to the National Memorial Arboretum, but it is somewhere I have been wanting to go. When I do make it there, I will look for dragonflies.
    Sending you much love x
    #countrykids

  12. June 13, 2018 / 7:37 pm

    What a bittersweet post to read. I am so glad that Jessica is showing you signs that she is still with you through the dragonfly, and that you are really helping Sophie.

  13. June 14, 2018 / 11:23 am

    This is such a moving post. It’s lovely that they keep the hearts year on year and I hope this event gives you some peace. It sounds like a nice way to honour Jessica. #countrykids

  14. June 14, 2018 / 12:57 pm

    It’s good to hear that this event helped you and yours. When we went to see George Michael’s tributes left to him we spotted a robin and someone said they felt he was present.#CountryKids

  15. June 18, 2018 / 8:45 am

    A beautiful way to remember your beautiful Jessica. The dragon fly was trying to show you she is still right near you and always will be xxx

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