Grieving mum forced to take down stillborn daughter’s grave decorations after being threatened by council


by Emma Dodds |
Published on

Serina Pickering has been forced to take down the decorations she had put over her stillborn daughter's grave by the council

To lose a baby before they have even drawn their first breath must be one of the most terrible things imaginable.

Grieving parents deal with the death of a child in different ways - and Serina Pickering from Skegness, Lincolnshire, dealt with her grief by decorating her daughter's grave with toys and a miniature picket fence.

Serina Pickering with a photo collage to remember her stillborn daughter Brittney (Credit: SWNS) ©SWNS

However - she has now been forced to take down the decorations by the council, who have threatened to tear them down for "breaking cemetery rules".

Serina, 33, lost her stillborn baby Brittney Cheryl Louis Pickering on July 27, 2000. Since then, she has visited the grave at St Mary's Church in Winthorpe every so often and put down toys and flowers to help her deal with her grief.

But she was devastated to find that Skegness Town council requested that she remove the items in order to "comply with cemetery rules".

Serina was forced to clear the decorations from her daughter's grave (Credit: SWNS) ©SWNS

And the council are stepping up their threats to Serina with a notice that was put on the grave two weeks ago saying that, unless the items were removed by May 1, the council would take them away.

She tragically complied with their wishes on Saturday - just a day before Mother's Day - removing all the toys and candles which she had lovingly placed there.

Serina, who has four other children, asked a friend to film her taking down the decorations, and Serina can be seen absolutely distraught whilst she clears the grave of its decorations, which have now been moved to her own back garden.

Selina with three of her children (Credit: Facebook/ Serina Pickering) ©Facebook/ Serina Pickering

In the video, Serina tearingly says: "Little Christmas tree, fairies, little teddies, cards - these are the things I am never going to be able to give our own children.

"It just brings it all back. Unless you've lost a child, then no-one will understand the pain. To think that you're going to become a mum and look after that child for the rest of its life, to be told that your baby is not coming home with you."

Skegness Town Council brought in new rules regarding the upkeep of the churchyard on Friday 17 March, with town clerk Steve Larner saying: "Unfortunately, several families are choosing to put artefacts across the graves, including fences, kerbstones, planted shrubs, beads, stones solar powered lights, toys and even beer cans.

"Some have even dug up the grass that was sown when the grave was levelled. This blocks free access to other graves and makes maintenance more difficult, time-consuming and expensive.

"As a result, the Council has decided to remove any items that contravene the cemetery rules as from May 1."

But Serina is not happy with this. She said: "We have to pay for a plot. I chose to have my daughter buried so that I had somewhere to go. And then this law comes in that you are not allowed these little teddies not allowed to put stuff on because of the wildlife.

"This is so disturbing and heartbreaking for a mum. Yes, I've got my other children, but this is a place where I go on my own. I'm just so heartbroken."

The single mum has now started a petition, demanding that the council scrap the rule - and so far, more than 200 people have signed it.

Serina was utterly distraught (Credit: SWNS) ©SWNS

She said: "When you have a stillborn you do not get a memory, our memories come from what we place at the grave.

"Basically the council want it to be a graveyard full of dead people, with nothing which signifies the loss. It's like they are saying, 'They are dead now, just forget about it.'

"It's heartbreaking. I've had to bring everything I've placed at the grave back and put it in a special area of our garden. I can't bring myself to go and sit at the grave now because I can't leave personal items from a mother to her daughter.

"I was going to go down to put some special items there on her 17th birthday, but I know now that they will just be taken away."

The letter sent to Serina, signed by Steve Larner, said: "Our grounds staff have noticed that a wooden fence has been placed around the grave and a rose bush has been planted.

"This makes it very difficult for them to maintain the area. We would like you to remove the fence and rose bush at the earliest opportunity."

But Serina insists that she kept the grave tidy: "I kept the grave well maintained, I looked forward to looking after it and bringing the teddies back for a wash. Now that part of me is gone.

"I've only just managed to save enough for a gravestone. It's taken 16 years to save enough. We pay for the plot and the stone so we should be allowed to place what we want there."

Serina was forced to clear away her daughter's decorations (Credit: SWNS) ©SWNS

"When I got the letter, I felt so low and depressed and I couldn't stop crying. It was so hard removing the items. I cried my heart out all day. It just looks so bare. I'm not religious, but the Bible says that the churchyard is the Lord's garden, and it's disrespectful to have it looking so empty.

"The council is being unfair, I'm heartbroken."

What do you think? Should families be allowed to decorate their loved ones' graves however they like? Or do the council have the right to ask them to remove the items as it is time-consuming and expensive? Let us know over on Facebook and Twitter.

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