We’ll help you find the right path through difficult times

Our Child Bereavement Support service (known as Rowans Meerkat Service), offers specialist emotional support to children and young people who have a significant adult (such as a parent or grandparent), with a life-limiting illness or, who have been bereaved of an adult close to them. We work alongside families with children up to the age of 18.

 

We work with families and their children to support their needs

Children have the capacity to cope well with loss providing they have appropriate support. However, it can be difficult for family members to provide this; the balance of wanting to protect children alongside knowing the ‘right’ thing to say can feel impossible at times. Even when family members encourage open conversations about what is happening, children might hold back due to worrying that asking questions will increase others’ distress. Sometimes, children simply can’t find the words to explain how they’re feeling.

Talking about illness and dying can feel frightening and uncertain for everyone.

There are a variety of ways Rowans Meerkat Service can support families through their child’s bereavement, depending on the child’s individual needs. We can offer guidance to parents/guardians, advice to schools and other agencies, and when appropriate, individual therapeutic work with children. Groups are available throughout the year for children who have been bereaved offering the opportunity for fun and for peer support.

Rowans Meerkat Service is able to accept referrals where a family is currently receiving or has previously received, care from the Rowans Hospice Charity.

If you would like to speak to someone from the Meerkat Service, please call: 023 9224 8025.

Children and grief

All children are different and their responses will vary depending on the individual child, their age and their experiences. It is important to know that children’s expression of grief is different to the way in which adults grieve.

Children may be upset, angry or could even appear uninterested; this does not mean they do not care but it can take time for children to understand and process what has happened. They may know they can speak to a parent or another trusted adult but finding the words can be difficult; children are more likely to demonstrate their emotions through their behaviour.

More information and guidance about how children grieve can be found in our ‘Small Book of Big Conversations’.

Child Bereavement Support
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Amelia's graduation

How can I offer child bereavement support?

There are many ways in which you can support a child who is grieving:

  • Children may be experiencing a huge range of emotions, let children know that although these feelings may be scary and difficult, they are also normal. There aren’t any rules to grief so there isn’t a ‘right’ or a ‘wrong’ way to feel
  • Let children see you’re grieving too. Sometimes sharing your sadness can validate a child’s feelings and reassure them it is okay to cry. At the same time, children just need to know you are still able to look after them
  • Offer opportunities to talk about what has happened (try to avoid bedtime) but let the child lead in whether and how much they want to have a conversation
  • Sometimes children/young people can find it hard to talk about ‘tough stuff’ (just like us adults!); suggesting alternative ways of communicating can work well e.g. children may find it helpful to record their thoughts in a journal, use post-it notes to encourage ways of writing messages to each other or even texting and emailing
  • Children may feel responsible when things go wrong. It is important they are given reassurance they are not to blame for causing a person’s illness or death
  • When children are distressed, adults may feel like offering more treats and relaxing boundaries. At times this may be appropriate but generally, children feel more safe and secure if usual family rules and routines are maintained
  • Please keep your child’s school updated. It will help them to provide appropriate support
  • Find ways to remember the person who has died and share memories together, e.g. Creating a photo album or making a memory box or gift
Dying Matters blog images

Small Book of Big Conversations

Our ‘Small Book of Big Conversations’ offers guidance to parents/guardians supporting bereaved children through serious illness and into bereavement.

You can download a PDF copy of this booklet here:

Download

Meerkat Mail

Our children’s magazine, ‘Meerkat Mail’ includes updates about the Service and articles written by children who are keen to share their experiences of loss with others so that other readers know they are not alone.

You can download the most recent editions below.

Meerkat Mail Autumn 2020

Issue 15 - Spring 2020

Issue 14 - Autumn 2019

Issue 13 - Spring 2019

Issue 12 - Autumn 2018

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