Introduction: Children's hospices have the facilities to enable a child to remain at the hospice following their death until the time of the funeral if desired by the family. The use of cold bedrooms (or beds) to reduce the rate of the body's physical deterioration enables the family to have unrestricted access and close proximity to the child throughout the 24-hour period.
Aim: To explore how bereaved families experience the child remaining in a cold bedroom following the child's death in the period January 2002-March 2005.
Objective: To survey all the families whose child had been cared for in a cold bedroom in one children's hospice in South-East England (n=34).
Method: A retrospective cross-sectional survey using a postal questionnaire was conducted. Questionnaires were sent to the 31 bereaved families who were considered eligible for participation.
Response: Sixteen completed questionnaires were returned (51.6%); four families declined participation (12.9%); eleven families did not reply (35.5%).
Results: The experiences of sixteen families were obtained. The families expressed that they found the experience physically, practically and emotionally supportive, as they were able to continue to act as the child's parents, to choose and control how their child's care occurred, to say their farewells at their own pace and to plan the funeral of their choice. These results must be interpreted with the clear recognition that the experiences of 48.4% of the sample are unknown. Reasons for non-participation were explored.
Conclusion: The study has methodological limitations but presents an investigation into the experiences of parents whose child has been cared for in a cold bedroom. These families all described the experience positively.