Strands of willow and layers of delicate tissue paper were transformed into beautiful memory lanterns at a Family Support workshop in Hexham.

A group of 10 bereaved children and their parents gathered at the Hexham Community Centre on a cold, dark February morning to make memory lanterns.

At first glimpse this group of children aged from 4-18 seemed to have little in common. But all of them understand how it feels to have a parent die.

The majority of the group have experienced the death of a parent by cancer but one 13-year-old girl is grieving the death of her father by drowning. And a 14-year-old boy is grieving the sudden death of his father who fell down the stairs at home, sustaining a fatal head injury.

For many bereaved children, grief can be very isolating. They may not have met anyone else, their age, who understands what it means to be bereaved of a parent. So it can be incredibly comforting to spend time with a group of people who “just get it.”

“You can see the relief on children’s faces when they look around the room and realise they are not alone,” said Family Support Practitioner Emma Andrews.

Every child at the February workshop has received one-to-one and/or family support at Tynedale Hospice at Home where they have been encouraged to gently explore their stories so they can develop a better understanding of not only what has happened to them but how they feel.

As part of their ongoing support, many children like to make things in memory of their special person – and memory lanterns, with their flickering golden lights shining through layers of tissue paper, are a particularly beautiful way of paying tribute to the parent who has died.

Workshop leader Deni Riach set the scene with brightly coloured tablecloths and music before taking families through the creative lantern making process.

Long strands of willow were trimmed to create 3 long pieces and 3 shorter pieces for each lantern. Masking tape was used to seal the joints as the shape of the lantern emerged.

“The beauty of willow is that it can bend and curve, creating beautiful shapes, ensuring every lantern is different,” said Deni.

Layers of a special, reinforced type of tissue paper, brushed with PVA glue and water, were stretched across the willow while masking tape helped to create a strong base for a battery-operated tea light to sit safely in.

Deni had also brought along some coloured tissue paper to help people individualise their lanterns and soon red and pink hearts, blue waves, delicate green leaves, yellow stars and even orange star fish were emerging as people let their imaginations run riot!

The results were absolutely breath-taking! As were the proud smiles on the faces of the children and their parents!

We ended the session with a minute’s silence in memory of our loved ones. With the curtains closed and lights switched off the sight of those little lights flickering in the darkness will never be forgotten.