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Butterfly Garden to support grieving families


"At a time you never imagine you will have to go through in your life, you need things around you that are comforting, and I think that this will make a big difference to families who find themselves in the same position as we were"

These are the words of Jude Williams from Chipping Norton. Jude and her partner Mark Murphy were devastated when their one day old baby, Jacob, passed away in May 2021.

The couple say they will never forget how important the Bereavement Suites at the John Radcliffe Hospital's Women's Centre were to them, when they spent time at the Oxford hospital, part of Oxford University Hospitals (OUH), so they could say goodbye to their little boy in privacy and without any rush.

Since then they have been determined to remember their son and raise funds to help other families facing similar grief.

The couple, friends and family – calling themselves 'the J Team', in Jacob's memory – took on a number of challenges such as 'Tough Mudders' and have raised over £30,000 so far in doing so.

Their fundraising has now helped to create the Butterfly Suite Garden, turning a previously uninspiring outside space next to the Bereavement Suites into a beautiful environment, brimming with colour and hope.

Award-winning artist and designer Ella Doran worked closely with the maternity bereavement team and Murphy family to create this very special space.

Ruth Charity, Arts Lead at Oxford Hospitals Charity, said: "We are really delighted at how this area has been transformed and incredibly grateful to the artists who have put their heart and soul into this important project. Ella has created a decorative meadow of flowers and butterflies on vinyl artwork on the windows to the garden, bringing colour and imagery to brighten the space in all seasons. This artwork is echoed in a series of canvas artworks for all patient rooms in the suite.

"And in the garden area, Ella collaborated with metalworker Lara Sparey to create a wall-based memorial sculpture focused on a flight of butterflies. Butterflies are often the symbol of baby loss, and staff were keen to use this as a basis of the work.

"It is so important to give families the time, space and privacy to start the grieving process – and providing the right environment and support is key to that. We are really thankful to all those special families who have helped us make this whole area really special, and would like to thank the Murphys for this latest beautiful improvement."

Paula Gallacher, Bereavement Specialist Midwife and Rainbow Midwife at OUH, said: "It is so important to give families the time, space and privacy to start the grieving process – and providing the right environment and support is key to that."

Families in need of support in this area will also be gifted a box with a small metal butterfly – that echoes those on the wall – to take home with them, giving them something tangible to keep at this time of sadness and loss.

Mark, Jacob's dad, said: "It is amazing to see the difference in the garden and how it feels up here. It is such a calming area and has totally changed the feel of the space.

"Jacob was a little ray of sunshine who touched the hearts of so many who were yet to meet him and this space is the perfect way to honour his memory.

"We would like to thank our friends and family, for helping us to raise so much money for this amazing area of the hospital. It is thanks to them that we have been able to complete this project.

"And we would also like to say a special thank you to the kind generosity of Dave Tilbury from Memoria, who has enhanced the space by replanting the plants in the planters. He has kindly offered to maintain the garden going forward to keep it looking its best."

David Child, from Oxford Hospitals Charity, said: "It is the utmost privilege to know Mark and Jude. They and all their family and friends in 'the J Team’ are truly inspirational people, whose stunning efforts are making a huge difference to the bereavement suite at the John Radcliffe.

"Their brilliant fundraising total continues to grow thanks to everyone who is donating to and fundraising for this incredible family."