published : 2023-11-09

Grieving Mother Fights to Keep Decorations on Son's Gravesite

Regulations Clash with Emotional Expression

A grieving mother laying colorful flowers at her son's gravesite, captured with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.

A mother is embroiled in a battle with the Gloucester City Council over the decorations surrounding her 7-year-old son's grave. Sharna Andrews, 29, received a letter stating that the arrangement didn't conform to regulations, demanding their removal. The colorful wooden fence, hand-painted by Andrews and her young daughter, was meant to reflect her son's vibrant personality. Distressed by the council's decision, Andrews joined other families who were also asked to remove decorations from their loved ones' gravesites.

Harry-Lee Andrews-Tomlinson tragically passed away in February 2022 after a severe asthma attack. In an effort to cope with her grief, Andrews embarked on a creative project—an elaborate wooden fence that would serve as a memorial for her beloved son. For months, this personalized memorial stood tall around the grave, a symbol of the joy Harry-Lee exuded in his short life.

However, this touching tribute was threatened when Andrews received an unexpected letter from the Gloucester City Council. According to the council, the fence failed to meet regulations and had to be taken down. Emotions ran high as Andrews grappled with anger, disappointment, and sadness at the prospect of losing the physical representation of her son's spirit.

'Losing your child is not a pain you expect to ever experience,' Andrews expressed, tears welling up in her eyes. The overwhelming sense of loss amplifies her determination to fight for the fence and preserve what little remains of her son's memory.

An emotional moment as the mother completes the hand-painted wooden fence around her son's grave, taken with a Nikon D850.

Joined by eleven other families facing similar demands, Andrews sought support from a local elected official. The collective grief of these families drives their quest for a resolution, hoping to keep intact the personal and heartfelt tributes that bring them comfort.

The Gloucester City Council recognizes the difficulty families face during this time of mourning and aims to alleviate further distress. They state that the regulations, implemented in 2014, are intended to ensure the maintenance and safety of cemetery grounds. This includes disallowing certain types of memorials such as boarding, kerb sets, and chippings, in order to protect workers and visitors alike.

While the council's intentions are understandable, Andrews and the other families contend that their unique decorations pose no threat and have deep sentimental value. They argue that the rules fail to account for the individuality of each grave and the families' need to express and honor their loved ones in their own way.

In an unexpected turn, the city council has granted Andrews a temporary reprieve until November 16th, allowing her a chance to continue fighting for her son's gravesite. Meanwhile, a discussion among city councilors regarding a potential review of the cemetery regulations adds a glimmer of hope for the grieving families, who hope for a more compassionate and flexible approach.

A close-up shot of the intricate decorations on the memorial, showcasing the attention to detail, captured on a Sony α7R III.

This heart-wrenching story prompts us to reflect on the importance of empathy, understanding, and the human need for emotional expression in the face of loss. It serves as a reminder that grief takes various forms, and the ability to personalize a gravestone can offer solace during the grieving process.

As the battle continues between a mourning mother and the council's imposed regulations, the outcome remains uncertain. Will the heartfelt decorations be allowed to remain, or will an inflexible system deny these families the opportunity to honor their loved ones in the most genuine and personal way?