18 April 2016

Supporting local children through bereavement

childrenLosing someone close to them, whether that is a sibling, parent or grandparent, is understandably traumatic for a child. Rennie Grove’s Children’s and Family Support Therapist, Karen Neill explains why it is vitally important for them to be able to access the support they need, when they need it:

“Providing support for children and families during the family member’s illness and immediately after bereavement is so important and research shows that the better this support is at the time, the less likely children are to have problems later on.

“However, every child is different and that’s what makes the flexible and tailored approach to support provided by Rennie Grove so essential. 

“We offer support to every child who has a close family member being cared for by our adult or paediatric nursing teams so that covers St Albans, Harpenden, Dacorum and the Chilterns area of Bucks.  This support is available during the illness, after bereavement and then as needed,” said Karen. 

“The type of support offered depends on the child and the family and their individual needs. We offer one-to-one support sessions for the children themselves either at home or at school or over the phone.  However, some children prefer to receive support from the person closest to them or from people in familiar surroundings, so we also offer advice to parents, carers and schools about how best to manage children’s needs.

Karen Neill“What I think is the best thing about our service is that it is so flexible.  Whilst we may offer a series of sessions initially, if that is not enough, then we just carry on until the support is no longer needed.  But even then, we do not close our doors.  Any child we have supported can come back for further help right up until the age of 18, and they frequently do.

“We often find that grief returns at developmental milestones and that children can need more support at these times.  For example, I am just about to start helping a child who we supported two years ago when her mum died.  She is now in Year 6 and is feeling vulnerable about the move to secondary school in September, so we will offer her support during this transition and for as long as she needs it afterwards.”

Rennie Grove is continuing to develop its support services for children and this year all children who have used the services will be invited to quarterly Pepper Fun Day Out events giving them the chance to meet, talk to and have fun with other children who have a family member who is ill or who has died.  Karen explained:

“We took the children bowling in March and, in June, we’re heading for a day at an outdoor activity centre.  Everyone thoroughly enjoys these days and you only have to look at the smiles on the children’s faces to see how beneficial they are.  It’s great for the children to meet others in similar situations and to know that they are not alone.

“I’m also really excited that from September we’re going to be introducing weekly Mindfulness after school workshops for primary aged children.  We’re going to start by offering this to the siblings of patients being cared for by our paediatric nursing team but hope to be able to expand it if these pilot sessions are successful. Workshops such as these will help these children develop skills to support them through the challenges they are currently facing as well as equipping them with valuable skills for later life.

“There is such pressure on our children and young people these days and I am so pleased that the support we offer at Rennie Grove is able to make a real difference to the lives of local children by helping them come to terms with their bereavement and carry on living and enjoying life.” 

Find out more about the Family Support Services offered by Rennie Grove Hospice Care here, or email family.support@renniegrove.org.