Monday, January 29, 2018

Stars for children who die, and those who remember

By Louise Kinross

In 2012, Connor McHardy, 7, “got his star,” says his mother Mindy. It’s one of 370 glass stars on the wall in the playroom at Roger Neilson House in Ottawa, a hospice for children named after the NHL hockey coach.

“It’s the idea that although a child has died, his or her star shines brightly at Roger Neilson House, which provides comfort to many,” Mindy says. “It’s one of those spaces you ‘feel,’ and many find it hard to describe. It’s a definite feature both in beauty and meaning for families, staff and volunteers.”

Families whose child has died are invited to come back to the hospice for a ceremony that involves revealing the child’s star.

“It’s important for families to know that we honour and love their children and maintain that legacy for them,” says Megan Wright, the hospice’s executive director. Almost 20 years ago, Megan was operations manager for two units at the old Bloorview site of Holland Bloorview.

“The wall is beautiful and powerful and impactful,” she says. “Many families come back often, and some come back on birthdays or on the anniversary of their child’s death. Roger Neilson’s star is at the very top. Roger is a big part of our history and legacy and it’s like he’s looking over the children. It’s helpful for staff to know their work has meaning long after a child has died.”

After their child's death, families continue to come to Roger Neilson House for grief counselling and other supports. “The star wall is an important connection to the place where they spent the most time with their child, or the last few minutes with their child.”

Some parents come to monthly drop-in groups years after their child died, Megan says. “After the death of a child there is a secondary loss to the people in the organizations that were so much a part of the child’s life. We always invite our families to come back.

Roger Neilson House is located on the property of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and works with the CHEO palliative care outreach team.

Mindy took the photo below the day her son Connor's star was added.


Thank you for sharing this Louise!

Social Worker