Nurse reflects on her own loss to develop ‘bereavement bags’

The distinctive purple colour means teams teams will be able to instantly recognise that the person carrying the bag may be in need of extra care.

Clare Bodell
6 February 2020
Purple bag scheme

New ‘bereavement bags’ are now being rolled out across the hospital.

A senior sister from University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust has turned her own experience of grief into positive change for bereaved relatives.

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As part of the Trust’s Innovation Programme, Ali and a team of innovators have worked together to improve the way personal belongings are returned to families after someone has passed away.

As a result, new ‘bereavement bags’ are being rolled out across the hospital and it is hoped other Trusts across the UK will follow suit.

The distinctive purple colour and design means hospital teams will be able to instantly recognise that the person carrying the bag may be in need of extra care.

Resembling gift bags, which have been chosen to represent gifting back personal belongings and the memories associated with them, the bags have a closing lid so that relatives can take out the contents at a time when they are ready.

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A carrier bag is not representative of care.

Ali said: “This idea was born out of my personal experience of collecting my Mum’s belongings. She died very suddenly and unexpectedly under catastrophic circumstances.

“Her things, including her dressing gown and hairbrush, were presented to me in a carrier bag. When I saw the contents and her hair on the brush, I was overwhelmed. I collapsed in a heap of sadness, and it took me a long time to get past that moment in my own grief journey.

Emphasising; “It didn’t feel like a carrier bag was representative of the care and compassion that we give to families here at the Trust.

“It’s now been 10 years since Mum passed away and the sadness and devastation that we felt as a family. Being able to change the way that belongings are handed over, in a more respectful and caring way, means that potentially tens of thousands of other families – during a really difficult time of losing somebody so beloved to them – may have that moment made a little bit easier.”

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