Childhood Bereavement Archives - East Cheshire Hospice

10 Years of Childhood Bereavement Counselling

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is difficult, especially for children.

That is why East Cheshire Hospice set up a childhood bereavement service 10 years ago.

It helps those who have lost someone close, whether a parent, grandparent, brother or sister, friend or neighbour.

Children between 4 and 18 access the service, having suffered a bereavement in the previous three years, or having a close family member with a life-limiting illness. They do not need a link to the Hospice.

Sue Bower became the Hospice’s Children and Young People Bereavement Service Lead in January.

She said: “Children experience grief differently to adults. Their understanding develops as they get older. They may request support at different times.

“There’s a demand for our services. We don’t like to keep people waiting, so if we can’t see children quickly, we support carers with advice, or signpost them for different support.

“Counselling a child is different to an adult. Adults come with their agenda, they can have a lot more power and say over their lives, whereas a child doesn’t have that same control.”

Sue has vast experience of working with children, starting counselling training while managing a nursery for 13 years.

She has been at the Hospice for seven years, working with former colleagues Jane Burton and Lindsay Dobson, who established the service.

Sue Bower, Children and Young People Bereavement Service Lead at East Cheshire Hospice.

Sue said: “We get referrals from schools, doctors, mental health organisations, the hospice, community networks and word of mouth. Carers can refer children.

“Children express feelings differently to adults. Counselling takes place in a safe space away from everything else and is done creatively, sometimes through storytelling, or play. Creative play helps young children use their imaginary world to process feelings. Young people feel at ease to talk.

“We can provide online and telephone support.

“It’s often not just mum and dad who are the secure attachment or ‘important person’ for a child. It could be a friend, or neighbour, who’s been like a grandma or auntie to them.

“If an ‘important person’ dies, it’s a big deal for a child to manage. Some cope well with help around them, but sometimes they just need our extra support.

“The family are often happier that children are being helped. They feel supported too.

Sue Bower, Children and Young People Bereavement Service Lead at East Cheshire Hospice.

“Any loss has an incredible impact on life. It’s the ripple effect like a pebble dropping in the water. If everyone is in a little boat and you drop bereavement in, everyone gets bumped and knocked about in a different way.

“That experience stays with you it never goes away. In bereavement work, we’re always growing life around that loss which never goes away.

“It’s how we help children become resilient, preparing them for the next loss, because there’ll be more in our lives.

“Our lives present layers of loss and change. Carrying on without important people   is a massive thing for children to manage.

“The nature of therapeutic work is privacy and sensitivity, but our service is much appreciated and valued.”

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Elspeth Retires from volunteering after 33 Years

One of our longest serving volunteers Elspeth Julian has retired after 33 years with the Hospice.

Elspeth, from Prestbury, has been an adult bereavement counsellor almost since the day the Hospice opened its doors in 1988.

A special afternoon tea marked Elspeth’s farewell and well-earned retirement.

It also gave colleagues the chance to thank her for her vital role helping countless families who have lost loved ones.

Reluctantly, Elspeth was absent from her part-time duties for more than a year because of the Covid-19 restrictions.

She said: “I’ll miss being part of such a worthwhile organisation with its welcoming atmosphere but all good things come to an end I suppose.

“When the Hospice was setting up bereavement services I was invited to join a small group of volunteers to visit the relations of patients who had died there.

“I’d been a social worker, and a Samaritan, and so had some experience of counselling skills. Back then, we went out into the community and saw people in their homes, so quite a lot of travelling was involved.

“After I left my job as a special needs teacher 18 years ago, I underwent formal training to become a counsellor.

“There’ve been lots of changes over the years and the bereavement service is far more structured now with children’s services as well as those for adults.”

Elspeth now has more time to spend with husband David, their three children and four grandchildren. She enjoys playing Bridge, visiting Dorset and is looking forward to travelling further afield again as soon as possible.

Elspeth Julian who is retiring after 33 years as a volunteer at East Cheshire Hospice.

Elspeth added: “I’m humbled that people have chosen to talk about their problems. The greatest joy has been feeling that I may have been of some help at such a difficult time.

“My message to anyone bereaved is that if you feel there’s something worrying you that you can’t happily talk to friends and family about, then consider speaking to a counsellor who will listen non-judgementally and not give advice but help you find your way through.”

Helena Smith, the Hospice’s Voluntary Services Co-ordinator, said: “The work Elspeth has done for the Hospice not only supports the people she directly counsels, but ripples out into their families as their resilience grows.

“These ripples, both big and small spreading out across the 30-plus years she’s volunteered for us, adds up to a remarkable contribution to our community.”

Cuddly Grief Bears

Cuddly Grief Bears are bringing comfort to children coping with bereavement.

Many of the woollen bears are knitted by East Cheshire Hospice volunteer Betty Malkin.

The Hospice supports bereaved children, or those with a close relative with a life-limiting illness.

Children choose their favourite six-inch bear colour and a personal message which is sewn into the back.

One is kept by the child and the other goes to those in their thoughts.

Betty, a great grandmother, said: “I’ve been making the bears for about two years and started off making just a few but it’s snowballed, especially during the pandemic  when people couldn’t make Hospice visits.

“Making the bears gave me a sense of purpose during lockdown. I’ve been making crafts for the Hospice for five years and knit every day. Last winter I knitted Christmas puddings with Ferrero Rocher chocolate inside.”

Betty’s items are sold at Henry’s café, Prestbury, and Shine Hair and Beauty, Upton Priory, with proceeds going to the Hospice.

She is one of several craft volunteers, including Grief Bear makers, who generously give their time and skill to raise funds.

Volunteer Services Co-ordinator Helena Smith said: “Betty’s amazing work is an example of the dedication shown by our arts and crafts volunteers.

“We were inundated when we appealed for volunteers last summer when we thought it’d be a nice gift for people who were unable to visit the ward.”

Children’s counsellor Jane Burton said: “The bears are popular with families in grief therapy and demand has grown in both the inpatient and outpatient units. Children have adapted them to suit their own ideas for individual therapeutic needs.”

Betty Malkin with her latest delivery of Grief Bears for East Cheshire Hospice.

East Cheshire Hospice Childhood Bereavement Service

The Dream Beams donation provides vital funding for the Childhood Bereavement Service run by East Cheshire Hospice.

During a 12-month period it supported 226 youngsters, aged between four and 18, and more than 1,000 family members.

A child who has experienced bereavement within the last three years, or is about to be bereaved, can be referred, even without a Hospice link.

Services include counselling and educational support for teachers and fellow pupils.

Dream Beams chair Katie Jordan had no hesitation supporting the service after learning about its work from April Green, the Hospice’s Key Relationships Manager.

Katie’s committee agreed to donate proceeds from their charity ball towards the service which began almost seven years ago and needed external funding to continue its development.

April said: “The Child and Adolescence Mental Health Service (CAHMS) refer all their bereavement cases directly to us and if this service didn’t exist these young people would have no support at all.

“Our mission is to be the ‘the go-to place’ for all referrals and to be considered the centre of excellence for childhood bereavement services in East Cheshire.”

Karyn Johnston, Hospice Director, said: “The monies raised from the Ball will make a lasting difference to the lives of children and young people suffering a loss of a loved one, or close relative, and give their families, carers and teachers the tools to guide them through their bereavement journey.

“On behalf of everyone at the Hospice, and those in our care, we offer our deepest gratitude.”

East Cheshire Hospice Key Relationships Manager April Green (centre) with the charity’s child therapists Jane Burton (left) and Lindsay Dobson