30 June 2016

Helping children cope with loss

Rennie Grove Hospice Care is writing to residents asking them to consider donating toCoping with bereavement a fundraising appeal for its Family Support Services.  As well as providing 24/7 responsive hospice at home care, supporting local patients and families affected by cancer or other life-limiting illnesses, the charity also offers support to bereaved family members for as long as needed.  Its latest appeal is focusing on the children it helps come to terms with bereavement.

Rennie Grove Director of Nursing & Clinical Services, Sue Varvel, explains: “For a child or young person to lose their parent can feel like their whole world has fallen apart. Dealing with grief is complex and every child is different. Our dedicated team helps families prepare for the loss of a loved one, so that they are able to cope with the pain of losing someone close to them when the time comes. It’s crucial that we support children during a loved one’s illness and immediately after bereavement as research shows that the better this support is at the time, the less likely children are to have problems later on. 

“We provide one-to-one support sessions either at home, at school or over the phone. Some children prefer to receive support from the person closest to them or from people in familiar surroundings. So in that circumstance we offer advice to parents, carers and schools about how best to help them. Any child we’ve previously supported can come back for further help if they need it – and they frequently do.”

Sue has worked at Rennie Grove for more than 25 years, initially as a nurse and latterly as Director of Nursing.  She recalls one particular family whose experiences impressed upon her the importance of the charity’s Family Support Service.

Sue remembers: “When I met Jenny she was a single mum of four children, who had just been diagnosed with terminal secondary cancer.  Her four children were all of school age and at crucial points in their young lives. Her eldest child, Rachel, was preparing for A-levels and thinking about university. Michael was 15 and coming up to GCSEs. Robert was 12 and David, 10, would soon move up to secondary school. 

“Jenny’s mum, Margaret, was helping with the children so that they could continue to have as normal a life as possible. But Margaret was struggling to come to terms with her own grief, as she looked after her dying daughter. Our nurses realised Margaret needed help from our family support team both for herself and for the children.”

Many years on, eldest daughter, Rachel recalls: “We were all over the place with our emotions, we were stressed, anxious and panicked about what would happen. As I was the eldest I felt responsible for everyone - my brothers, my Grandma and of course Mum, so it was a huge relief to be able to talk about my worst fears without feeling guilty. My brothers found it especially hard to share their thoughts and feelings with us, so the family support team were a lifeline to them too.