St Clare Hospice use Children in Need funding to support children though grief
Charity / Wed 10th Nov 2021 at 08:55am
ST Clare Hospice is using BBC Children in Need funding to support children and young people through grief and loss. One child in every UK classroom under the age of 16 has been bereaved of a parent or sibling. This number is set to rise.
Over the last year, the Hospice’s Echo Project has directly supported more than 80 children and young people, by giving them the tools to talk about their loss, improving their ability to cope with changes in family dynamics, loss and grief, and helping them to feel less isolated.
The Echo Project is St Clare Hospice’s bereavement support service for Children, Young People and their Families. The service was recently renamed by a young person who was helped by the project, who said that their grief was like an Echo, coming back to them in waves.
A team of Children, Young People and Family Therapists offer a range of support to children and young people under the age of 21 years who are facing a loss or have experienced a bereavement. This includes support through facing an illness, bereavement support and training for parents, carers and schools.
A recent addition to the project’s support has been the creation of Children’s Therapeutic Bereavement Groups. These groups facilitate a safe, supportive space for children to talk about their loss in the physical presence of other children who are experiencing bereavement. The 8-week group also guides parents in how to support their children through grief.
Experiencing the loss of someone close is difficult but for children this can sometimes impact all areas of their development, as they can feel isolated and have difficulties in processing the emotions of grief. The Echo project is able to give support to children to help them understand their experiences and give them ways to help them manage the emotions they are experiencing.
Amy, 10, from Waltham Abbey, has been accessing bereavement support from St Clare Hospice’s Echo Project since March 2021. Amy was just five years old when her father died suddenly in his sleep. “As she’s got older her level of understanding has changed,” explains Louise, her mother. “So her grief keeps on coming in waves almost, because as she gets older he’s missing in all different ways. She got a bit anxious recently because she was worried about forgetting him.”
Amy started seeing the Hospice’s Adult, Child and Family Therapist, Sara Nicholson, on a 1-2-1 basis in March 2021. Amy had returned to school, after the second lockdown, and was experiencing some ‘big emotions’.
“I felt a bit suicidal sometimes,” Amy recalls. “I just didn’t know how to control all of my emotions at once. So I let it off with some really big emotions.”
Sara was already seeing another pupil at Amy’s school, and the school discussed the possibility of Sara supporting Amy as well. “We did sessions at school every week, on a Monday,” Amy explains. “Sara came into my school and we talked about things and we did some pictures and drawings.”
One of the big things that Sara and Amy discussed was that she ‘felt quite alone because she didn’t know somebody else who felt like that.’ This was why Sara suggested that Amy join one of the Hospice’s Children’s Therapeutic Bereavement Groups. These groups are run by a trained bereavement counsellor and bereavement volunteer, who facilitate a safe, supportive space for children to talk about their loss in the physical presence of other children who are experiencing bereavement. The 8-week group also guides parents in how to support their children through grief.
“Every week, on Monday, for a couple of months I’ll go to this group and do some things to remember my Dad,” explains Amy. “We do stuff that involves arts and crafts and we talk a lot about grief and how to handle it, and coping strategies, but really we just do lots of arts and crafts and stuff. In a way, it’s been really helpful because I get to meet other children who feel the same as me, and it means that I’m not alone anymore.
“If I hadn’t had these sessions and meetings and stuff I would have still been in one of those situations where you feel like you can’t do anything to make yourself feel better so it’s really changed my life really, It’s had a really positive impact on me and how I cope.”
Amy adds: “It’s only a tiny bit of support but it helps just so, so much. Because it helps so much, it helps me so much in how I live. Since I started this, I’ve been quite positive and I just won’t let anything stop me.”
Amy hopes that by sharing her experience she will be helping other children to access the support they need to help them cope.