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image of a woman in a purple top knitting and sharing skills to women in lockdown.

‘Bereavement Blankets, Hearts, Teddies & Knitted Toys Appeal’

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

I created the ‘Knitted Bereavement Blankets, Hearts, Teddies & Toys Campaigns’ to support the Swan Bereavement Team at Salford Royal NHS Trust. These knitted items help the Swan team to support and care for patients, and their families affected by COVID-19.

The Knitted Bereavement Blankets, Hearts & Teddies campaign‘ runs alongside our hugely popular ‘Knitting for Babies Appeal.’ This campaign began as the effects of the pandemic began to bite. Now, COVID-19’s bite is worse; and its damage is ongoing. As the damage unfolded, we realised that many children in foster care had faced trauma and bereavement due to Covid.

This prompted me to write the ‘Knitted toys give hugs and love to a child in care campaign.’ Thanks to the kindness of over 95 ladies who knit and local knitting groups, including the Glossopdale Charity Crafters, we made a difference. I donated over 5000 Knitted Baby Clothes. hearts, teddies and knitted toys to children and their families supported by Not- for- Profit charities. These included our Sure Start centres and local community centres and groups. I also donated to children in foster care with the not-for-profit charities I support, and finally, the big man himself, Father Christmas.

Sadly, the Swan and the palliative care teams also used the Bereavement Blankets, Hearts, and Teddies, comforting patients in hospitals and children who faced bereavement. A knitted toy, blanket or heart has comforted a child struggling with grief. More importantly, this comfort comes from the kindness of strangers because that was their intent.

lady in a purple top knitting
The Ladies who knit – knitting to provide comfort; thank you, x

Finding a home for the Bereavement Blankets was difficult initially…

Yvonne Simms is a Verve Ambassador. She runs the Salford Food Parcels project, providing food parcels to families in Salford facing food poverty. Yvonne is also a Christian, and she believes her faith guided her throughout the pandemic. It was also the same faith that led the Bereavement blankets to us.

Salford Food Parcels and The Vine Project are projects supported by the Salford Diocese. Both projects dedicate themselves to supporting vulnerable people in Salford throughout the pandemic. However, they know, as I know, the effects of this pandemic, and now, the cost- of living- crisis bites, it will worsen. We must carry on helping each other; wherever and however we can.

Yvonne is a member of the Vine Cafe in Salford. Yvonne told me that Ruth from the cafe had been knitting Bereavement Blankets and the blankets were beautiful. She said, ‘Ruth makes them in unusual colours and styles; however, she asked where she could donate them.’

I had recently seen a Facebook post from a local hospital looking for Bereavement blankets. I told Yvonne about the post and offered to contact them for more information. And I did call, but no one replied. So, I messaged on Facebook, and again, there was no response. I told Yvonne of my efforts and said, for now, the Bereavement blankets were homeless. But I made it my mission to find a much-needed home for them. More importantly, I wanted to find out if they needed anything else.

‘Maxine Casey- you should try the palliative care team at Salford Royal…’

Maxine Casey is a Verve Ambassador and has worked within the Palliative care team in Salford for over a decade. She also coordinates the knitted baby clothes we receive from our ‘Knitting for Babies Appeal. I told Max about Ruth’s blankets; she suggested I try the palliative care team at Salford Royal. She said, ‘they use Bereavement Blankets for COVID patients on the wards I work on.’ Maxine is also my daughter. I know she knows her stuff, and because of this, I did as she suggested; Maxine now supports ‘Our Knitted Baby Clothes to support Mums in Winter campaign,’ too.

‘People choose the Bereavement Blankets they feel, reflect themselves…’

When I called the Swan Team, I spoke with Lisa Jones, head of patient care at SRFT NHS Trust. I explained to Lisa the reason for my call. Lisa said, ‘I’m glad you rang, as we are down to our last few bereavement blankets. The hospital is really busy, and we are running out.’

Lisa told me they use the Bereavement blankets to support their palliative care patients. These blankets brighten the patient’s room, and the patients choose the blanket they feel ‘reflects them.’

Also, they make the room feel homely. This brings them huge comfort.’ Poignantly, she continued, ‘They often stay with patients when they travel on their final journey.’

Lisa said ‘Children use the bereavement blankets; they are a comfort when they visit relatives or family. The blankets and knitted hearts and teddies become keepsakes and memory-making. They are of great comfort to children, and adults, as they face grief.’

Maxine Casey, student nurse at SRFT, NHS Trust.
Maxine Casey, student nurse at SRFT, NHS Trust.

Verve, our Knitting Baby Clothes Appeal.

Eighteen months ago, I set up the Knitting for Babies Appeal, and I began to receive beautiful, knitted baby clothes; donated by the Ladies who Knit in our community. Yvonne, Maxine, and I donated these beautiful baby clothes, blankets, and toys to the not-for-profit charities that supported Mums and their babies during lockdowns.

Yvonne and I recently visited Lisa Jones, Swan Bereavement Nurse and Trainer for Children & Families at the Salford Royal NHS Trust to deliver the Bereavement Blankets, knitted toys and premature baby clothes donated to us. Lisa said she would forward the knitted clothes to the Royal Oldham Hospital and St. Marys Hospital, Manchester, ensuring the knitted items would reach the premature babies who need them most.

Val Hogan and a nurse wearing face masks from the SRFT NHS discussing and holding bereavement blankets.
Val Hogan delivering bereavement blankets, knitted hearts & teddies to SRFT NHS Trust.

‘We are not a maternity hospital and only accept a small number of baby clothes…’

Lisa explained, ‘Although we are not a maternity hospital and only have a paediatric A&E department, we accept a small amount of children/baby clothes and blankets. Unfortunately, we occasionally have sudden infant deaths, which attend our A&E, and the bereavement team will support the family; these items are used when we care for the child. The donation received yesterday will help us for a while now, so thank you.’

‘The Swan model of end-of-life & bereavement care is used to support and guide the care of patients and their loved ones that we care for at the end of life, and after they have died.’

SWAN Model of Care (pat.nhs.uk)

‘Thank you for the knitted and crocheted donations…’

Lisa added,’ a massive thank you for the donations yesterday; we are so lucky to have such support. We currently have a small supply of wool if anyone would like this, as we know this may be an expense?’

If anyone is keen to join/continue to do this, knitted hearts are our most popularly used keepsake, followed by bears and blankets. The items don’t need to be knitted; we ask that they match. A matching pair is brilliant, but it is even better when large multiples match.’

knitted hearts and teddies with a image of the logo of the Swan Team.
Knitted hearts and teddies campaign – SRFT NHS.

The joy of a knitted toy for any child is lovely; however, the comfort these toys bring to grieving children is immense. When I initially spoke with Lisa Jones, she asked if we ever had any knitted toys donated. I was delighted to say,’ yes, we did. And more importantly, the foster children love them.’

Sadly, many children suffered bereavement due to COVID-19.

I recruit foster carers for the Not for Profit charity sector. Sadly, some children in foster care suffered grief and bereavement due to COVID-19. A hug or cuddle from a knitted toy made these children feel loved and safe; they are also a massive part of their healing process.

The impact that COVID has made on all our lives is traumatic, and as adults, we face reality. We make changes and adapt to cope, but this is impossible for children. These children need specialist support, and more than ever, they need comfort from those they feel safe with.

knitted toys, teddies and hearts on a table.
Now children choose a knitted teddy and toy that suits them most; thank you. x

The comfort children feel from a knitted friend is immense.

Many people who apply to foster know that many children in care have suffered bereavement. These children need not only specialist support, and the charities we work with have outstanding support to help them. More importantly, they understand the power of a cuddle or hug from a knitted toy or teddy is immense to a child suffering.

However, we still need more blankets, and the Swan team now needs more hearts and teddies. I have knitting patterns for both the hearts and teddies. Email me at val@ververecruitment.org, and I will happily send them to you. Also, the dimensions for the Bereavement blankets are approx. 36″ – 40″ square for adults, 36″ square for children and 24 “-30” square for babies.

Bereavement blankets usually rest over a patient’s shoulders.

The Bereavement blankets usually rest over the patient’s shoulders and arms. The patients choose the blanket they feel reflects them most. Therefore, the more colourful and softer you can make them, the better the choice. As Lisa has said, we have wool and patterns; we need help. The coronavirus has not gone away, and many affected by long Covid face a daily struggle with everyday tasks.

Sadly, more children than ever need a hug or cuddle from a knitted friend. Not just children in foster care but children whose families are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis. For a parent with worries about whether to heat or eat, Christmas presents are another worry they don’t need. But we can ensure that all the Sure Start centres have knitted toys to give Father Christmas a hand, can’t we? I hope so. Life is tough enough, and our children have been wonderful; who remembers the rainbows?

child looking through a rainbow.
Who remembers the rainbows?

We know that life is hard; your support is appreciated.

The quality of life for many affected by COVID-19, which once was taken for granted, has gone. We also understand that you are busier than ever for others, especially within our NHS and caring profession. However, if you could help, you would make a massive difference in people’s lives in hospitals; or at home as people and children attempt to adjust to life again.

Donations can be sent directly to the hospital if it’s easier for you. The address is the Swan Unit, Pam Woods Suite, Salford Royal NHS Trust, Stott Lane, Salford. M6 8HD. Alternatively, if you could help with our Knitting for Babies,’ campaigns or ‘Knitted Toys Appeal’, please get in touch with me on the form below. If you are local, I will happily collect from you; if not, we’ll sort something out.

Finally, the elephant in the room…

Finally, Verve CIC does not apply for funding and grants; we use the income generated from foster care recruitment to pay our way. We recognise that for many of us, without the support of Not-for-Profit charities and community centres, such as our Sure Start centres and local food banks; we would struggle.

For me, they need funding and grants to continue their vital work. However, we accept donations, and my website has a donate page. Thank you.


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Every Child Matters