Scotty's 'Time to Reflect' at the National Memorial Arboretum

2022-05-31

The Scotty’s Team attended ‘Time to Reflect’ at the National Memorial Arboretum. We were loaded with bottles of bubbles, commemorative certificates, memory bricks and cuddly English bulldogs in our van – all the resources we would need to support bereaved military children and young people.

Nikki, Mark and Lorna in ther Scotty tops in the NMA car park

Nikki, Mark and Lorna representing Scotty's Families Team

The event was arranged by the Defence Bereaved Families Group to bring families together and honour their loved ones who have died in military service, from any cause of death. The invitation was extended to our Scotty members as they are all grieving the loss of a military parent who had served. These children and young people are proud of their parent’s military service and seek a continuing connection and bond to their loved one. We wanted to help them maintain that link, and where better than the National Memorial Arboretum, a venue dedicated to ensuring those who served their country are not forgotten.

One way we helped children feel included was by giving them a bottle of bubbles to blow after an open-air Service of Remembrance. The bubbles floated up into the sky while thoughts of their loved ones filled the air – a way for children to express their feelings and emotions. 

Lorna speaking to one of the Scotty families attending

Our Families Team Project Manager, Lorna, speaking to a family attending the event

So why did we, a charity for bereaved Forces children, take cuddly Bulldog toys? What does that have to do with bereavement support? Well, an English Bulldog can often be found sporting a Union Flag harness or bandana. The union flag is a symbol of the Armed Forces and their service to the Crown. By encouraging bereaved children and young people to name their cuddly bulldog, it opened a conversation about who they had come to remember that day and what that person’s name was. It broke the ice and allowed us to ask those lesser asked questions: ‘What Regiment, Unit, Squadron or Ship did they serve with?’ or ‘Do you mind telling me how they died?’   

The children readily answered as they clutched their new soft toy, pleased that we had shown an interest and asked. We understand these can seem like tough questions, but they’re important ones that created a dialogue and helped the children feel comfortable. Many of them even started telling us stories about their loved ones they had been holding on to and wanted to share. 

Scotty's English Bulldog cuddly toys and Union Jack stationery

Scotty's English Bulldog cuddly toys and Union Jack stationery

The conversations flowed and we encouraged children to complete a certificate to take home, identifying where their parent or loved one is commemorated at the Arboretum. There were so many memorials to help us all to remember, and no service personnel were forgotten. 

We mention ‘or loved one’ as we were also able to speak to some wonderful children and young people who were not Scotty members, as someone other than their parent had died. We felt privileged to hear stories of uncles and siblings amongst those being remembered.  Our bereavement support activities were still so relevant, as we were able to signpost those families to additional support.  

Scotty's Families Team showcasing the support we offer

Scotty's Families Team showcasing the support we offer

Finally, we encouraged the children and young people to reflect on memories of their loved one and write them messages if they wanted to do so. They were given a cardboard memory brick to write on and we placed them all on top of each other, building a wall to show them that no one is alone. The children were able to share their collective grief and even the accompanying adults felt the urge to connect as well, adding their own bricks to our wall.  

We loved seeing some of our members, and other guests, face to face and sharing stories, celebrating the role their parent or loved one served in the military. It was a poignant day, and one where the Scotty’s Bereavement Support Team made a real difference.

Scotty's memory bricks

Scotty's memory bricks

Scotty’s Little Soldiers is a charity dedicated to supporting children and young people (0 to 25 years) who have experienced the death of a parent who served in the British Armed Forces. 

Inspired by the experience of Army widow Nikki Scott, following the death of her husband Corporal Lee Scott in Afghanistan in 2009, the charity, which was set up in 2010, provides support and guidance to hundreds of bereaved military children and young people throughout their childhood. 

Scotty’s provides its members with access to bereavement support, outstanding development opportunities and the chance to smile again. 

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