‘When you lose a baby, all you are left with is memories’ – bereaved mum’s bid to help others with Forget Me Not boxes

Deniece Colley and a Forget Me Not memory box at Grovehill Community Centre
Deniece Colley and a Forget Me Not memory box at Grovehill Community Centre

A mum who suffered the heartbreak of losing a baby is turning her experiences into a project which she hopes will help other bereaved parents.

Deniece Colley, 35, and her husband Matthew, 33, were given the devastating news that their unborn son Reece had no heartbeat at their 26-week scan in April 2011.

Reece Colley PNL-150220-114510001

Reece Colley PNL-150220-114510001

Almost four years have passed and Deniece – who lives near the Old Town in Hemel Hempstead – says it is still incredibly difficult to talk of their loss, but she has summoned the strength to create a new scheme in the hope of easing the unimaginable pain for others in their position.

At the time of Reece’s passing, a charity at Watford General Hospital’s maternity unit provided a ‘memory box’ for Deniece and Matthew, which allowed them to keep and record memories of their son during what was an extremely traumatic time.

Though the charity lapsed, personal trainer Deniece now hopes to relaunch the idea with her own Forget Me Not memory boxes, which she will fund through donations and cash raised from a weekly playgroup at Grovehill Community Centre.

Deniece, who had sons Nathan, 14, and Marshall, nine, with Matthew before Reece, said: “When you walk out of the hospital and you have to leave your baby behind, you leave with nothing.

Reece Colley PNL-150220-114510001

Reece Colley PNL-150220-114510001

“With the memory boxes, you have got something you can take away and look at, when you are ready.

“Four years later I still can’t open Reece’s box, but I know it is there when I want to.”

Deniece’s boxes – which include a blanket, scented candle, forget-me-not seeds, an inkless footprint kit and a notebook – cost around £15 each to make and will be donated to the maternity unit once they can be purchased.

The boxes also include a camera chip to record photographs of parents with their baby – using a digital camera which Deniece is also donating to the ward – as well as two identical teddies, one for the baby and one for mums and dads to keep.

Deniece and Matthew have gone on to have two more children since losing Reece – two-and-a-half-year-old Riley and Aurora, four months.

Deniece said: “Reece is still very much part of our family. We still talk about him and his brothers and sister will know about him.

“When you lose a baby, all you are left with is your memories – so with these boxes you can preserve those. It never goes away, it will never leave you, but you find a way to cope and exist and not fall apart every time their name is mentioned.

“We can give a family that’s bereaved a lifetime of memories – that’s what I’m focusing on at the moment.”

Deniece has already received an anonymous donation facilitated through Hemel Hempstead MP Mike Penning, and her weekly parent and toddler classes include secondhand baby clothes and others items for sale to help increase funds for the boxes.

The Forget Me Not Stay and Play group is held at Grovehill Community Centre on Mondays from 9.15am to 11.30am.

Other bereaved parents who wish to donate a box in the name of their child can do so by contacting Deniece.

Click here to visit the Facebook page for the toddler group or here for more about the memory boxes.