Woodland Memorial Created to Remember Precious Babies

20th February 2023
Chairman Jonathan Patton With Members Of The Forget Me Not Group And Bereavement Midwives Susan Stitt And Jacqueline Dorrian

The Forget-Me-Not Bereaved Parents Liaison Group has launched a new memorial ‘Woodland Tree Planting Project’ to support families who have been bereaved by the loss of a pregnancy or the death of a child.

This project will give families a special place to visit to quietly reflect and remember their precious children. The ‘Woodland Tree Planting Project’ is located in the Billy Neill MBE Country Park, a beautiful location close to the Ulster Hospital. The trees have been planted on an elevated plot overlooking the lake.

This project has opened up the opportunity for the South Eastern HSC Trust, the Forget-me-not group and the Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council to work in partnership with each other in the planning and implementation of this project. Council employee Gill Bann has been instrumental in the development of this unique memorial, working alongside her close friend and South Eastern HSC Trust Maternity Sister, Katherine Robinson.

Gill works with the South Eastern HSC Trust providing antenatal yoga and is involved with the pregnancy and baby journey of many parents. As a yoga instructor she encourages parents to sow a seed in their minds for something they wish to happen and then provides them with seeds from Ireland’s native trees to grow. She was queried by a couple who received a seed and asked where they should plant their seed, as they lived in an apartment and had no garden, this got her thinking outside the box and the seeds of this amazing project were sown. Gill was put into contact with the council’s Senior Groundsman, Stephen Mackle who explained to her that the Government had allocated money for the council to increase the number of native trees in the local council area.  A plot of land was secured, and Gill kindly thought of the bereaved families from the Forget-me-not group and how this woodland will be a legacy for their future.

This will be ongoing project for bereaved families, there is room to plant 100 native trees at the site and the Council have suggested other areas of land that can availed of in the future, including a plot of land in the Lisburn area.

Families were able to purchase a mature memorial tree from a selection of native trees; each tree has its own special meaning:

Rowan Tree: symbolises courage, wisdom, and protection

Alder Tree: symbolises strength, protection, determination, and confidence

Scots Pine Tree: symbolises fertility and immortality

Silver Birch Tree: symbolises new beginnings and protection

Hazel Tree: symbolises wisdom and inspiration

The woodland area has been a long sought after dream for Bereavement Midwives, Jacqueline Dorrian and Susan Stitt, they explained, “The memorial tree is a physical reminder for families that their child’s legacy continues even after their passing. Nothing can take away the heartache that parents feel but being able to offer them a place to visit, reflect, remember and honour their child brings us great joy. We would like to convey special thanks to Gill, Katherine and James Rodgers, along with his entire team in the Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council for all of their help, guidance and hard work in making this project a reality.”

South Eastern HSC Trust Chairman, Jonathan Patton joined the event to support families and staff, he added, “It has been a privilege to be here today with families to assist with the planting of the first trees of this wonderful memorial project. The woodlands location is very peaceful and scenic, it will give families a dedicated space to visit and remember their precious child for many generations to come.

“I would like to thank the Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council for working in partnership with the Trust and the Forget-me-not group to get this special project off the ground.”

A total of 32 trees, that were lovingly selected, have been planted by bereaved families and by each ward within the South Eastern Trust’s Women and Acute Child Health Department, to represent the care and dedication that nursing and midwifery staff provide to bereaved families. This is a collaborative initiative and colleagues from the Royal Jubilee Maternity Hospital were also offered the opportunity to purchase a memorial tree along with the Royal College of Midwives.

A special Hazel tree has also been planted in memory of beloved Midwife, Hazel McCalister who sadly passed away in 2021. Hazel dedicated her life to midwifery and caring for parents and babies so it is fitting that her tree will overlook and protect all trees planted to represent the precious babies that have died. Hazel’s husband John chose the tree to be planted in Hazel’s memory and he brought their daughter Amy along to help him plant the tree.

The Forget-me-not group provides support and bereavement care to families from a unique perspective of lived experience. The group is operated by parents who have been bereaved and therefore understand the difficulties that recently bereaved families face. If you would like more information on the Forget-me-not Woodland Project or would like to join the Forget-me-not group, please contact the Bereavement Support Midwives Jacqueline or Susan by either telephone; (028) 9056 4717 or by email: BereavementSupport.Midwives@setrust.hscni.net