Making memories for grieving children

by WINDMILLS - ACUTE BEREAVEMENT SUPPORT FOR CHILDREN & YOUNG PEOPLE IN STAFFORDSHIRE in Stoke-on-Trent, , United Kingdom

Making memories for grieving children

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Windmills provides direct support to help children/young people experiencing the imminent or recent death of a loved one.

Project by WINDMILLS - ACUTE BEREAVEMENT SUPPORT FOR CHILDREN & YOUNG PEOPLE IN STAFFORDSHIRE

 donated match funding
BA Better World Community Fund is providing live match funding

“Windmills were there for Sienna and I at the most vulnerable time any parent or child of 4  can imagine. Windmills are the ‘bridge’. They can’t numb the pain; they can’t make things ‘go away’. They can’t help with what has happened and they can’t help you with the rest of your life and how to navigate being the author of what happens next. What they can do is offer someone at their most desperate time, a little bridge between the two. A way to step from despair to having a little structure back in your life to enable you to start the process to rebuild.”

Windmills is a young and successful charity that provides the expert, supportive one-to-one care that helps children and young people experiencing the imminent or recent death of a loved one, to find a caring and positive pathway through their grieving, which enables strong, loving and sustaining memories to be built, and death’s impacts to be managed and appeased.

Our Specialist Acute Bereavement Practitioners provide a 24hr direct, caring support to children and young people during the final months/weeks/days leading up to a loved one’s death, or helping the child through the grieving time after the death. This care and support may be at home, hospice or hospital  - and for as long as it is needed.

This might be the sudden, often unexpected death of a sibling, parent, or friend, or of a limited-life diagnosis of a loved-one due to a terminal illness. There are no other specialist acute bereavement services available in the Staffordshire region (either charity or NHS) that provide the direct caring service and memory making therapies that are unique to Windmills.

Since it started, demand for Windmills services has grown dramatically. In 2021 we supported 28 children, in 2022, 121 and by July 2023 we have already received 150 referrals. The local need for our unique service is demonstrated by ever increasing referral numbers from professionals recognising the value of our work. 

Windmills is part of Childhood Bereavement Network UK and the sector recognises that children and young people experience many emotions, dependant on age and level of understanding, when faced with the reality of death and dying. For many families the stark and emotionally fraught realities of death is a subject to be avoided or ignored. 

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Families can often feel uncomfortable talking about death with their children and the subject can become taboo, leaving the child even more confused and uninformed.  This lack of communication with the child can be the opposite of what’s best for them, not talking about important issues and events can be more harmful than talking about them. For sensitive, vulnerable, and confused children the impacts and emotional response to death can become even more devastating because of this lack of information,  understanding and preparation. 


When children are excluded from such difficult conversations they will begin to shape and imagine all manner of misinterpretations and unfounded thoughts as to why the death occurred or why it is happening – often these misconceptions can result in the child thinking that it was their fault because “they were” bad.

Facing the sudden reality or news of the death of such a loved one can be deeply traumatic and disorientating for the surviving child. Often the response is a cauldron of confusions and emotions; anger, disbelief, guilt, anguish, withdrawal, detachment and numbing fears for all that is yet to come. Without  expert and trusted care and support such responses can irrevocably scar and derail a young person’s life and outlook and negatively shape their relationships, not only with death itself, but with life and living, themselves, their family, and their friends and the wider community.

It is a direct, caring, unique and much needed service that helps children and young people through the grieving times and helps keep their departed loved ones close and their new-made fond memories even closer.


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Delivery

A key outcome for our care sessions is that the child begins to understand and accept the reality and inevitability of death, and to begin to build a more positive and stronger memory of the departed loved-one. This is done by talking, by being there, by confronting the situation and sharing and working with the child to create sustaining memory boxes and memorial portfolios, and so establish a more positive, managed, and permanent memory of the loved one.

Windmills is now in its third year of operation. It was founded by two experienced and expert acute bereavement nurses who saw first-hand how death can wreck and derail young lives. There are no other specialist acute bereavement services available in the Staffordshire region (charity or NHS) that provide the direct caring service and memory making therapies that are unique to Windmills. 

It is a care and therapy approach that has proven its value over the last three years for so many children, their families and a growing number of healthcare organisations and institutions. 

The focus of the support service is to help the child or young person to confront and understand the impact and reality of death and its permanency, while also creating personal and lasting memories that will help the child to move forward in their lives. The charity is called Windmills because it turns the impact of death for the vulnerable child from one of destructive negativity to one of managed positivity. 

The two founding nurses currently deliver Windmills services on a voluntary basis while working as NHS Agency staff. Windmills services access is available 24/7 and appointments are scheduled in between agency working hours; this often means evening sessions and nimble diaries.

Windmills’ specialist acute bereavement nurses work one-to-one with the bereaved child and their family and helps them turn the anger, trauma and negativity shaping death’s sudden arrival into a positive, managed and contained acceptance of death’s inevitability and the building of sustaining and fulfilling fond memories. Death is a reality we all face and which cannot be avoided, but for young people in Windmills care it can be resolutely faced, its emotions controlled and managed, and its impact greatly appeased.

Windmills nurses will often be the first ones to share with the child the news about the death, or its imminence. The nurses provide caring, empathetic and expert support to the child and will help guide them through all the confusions and emotions that news of a loved-one’s death will inevitably bring. Each child is given the time and care they need to help begin to come to terms and an understanding of the impact that death brings to their lives. For some children this will be a few sessions, for others it will be many sessions over several months.

The impact of the Windmills service and care will not negate death’s devastation in the lives and minds of those children who become victim to it, but it can manage and calm and, through building strong new memories, begin to pave the positive, fond pathway away from it.

Our founding nurses see the impact of their work and approach with so many of their young, distressed charges.  The gradual change from grieving despair to a new and managed fond remembrance and resilience of heart. It is a service of care that changes young lives

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