Children’s Grief Awareness Week runs for one week in November each year. Its aim is to raise awareness of bereaved children and young people in the UK; and how providing those affected with free, professional support can make the world of difference to their future.
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.
This year, the theme for Children’s Grief Awareness Week, is focusing on ‘What helps?’ We spoke to Amy, who has been supported by the Meerkat Service since her lovely Nannie Jan died, and asked her to share ‘What helps’ her. This is what she told us.
Nannie Jan was Amy’s best friend, they enjoyed a very close relationship and loved going to the cinema or just spending time with each other, as Jan only lived a short walk away.
Jan was diagnosed with Cancer and had to undergo surgery and tough Chemotherapy treatment, however after this was completed she received the good news that the Cancer appeared to be dormant. Shortly after Christmas 2020 Jan started to experience pain and swelling and therefore received another round of Chemotherapy, sadly this time Jan and the family received the devastating news that the treatment was not successful.
This was a very difficult and challenging time for the whole family, Jan had to attend her chemotherapy sessions and doctor’s appointments alone due to the COVID-19 restrictions and Kim, Amy’s mum was also undergoing treatment for Cancer herself.
Despite Jan being a strong, independent woman throughout her life, the effects of her illness and Chemotherapy made her very fragile, very quickly.
It was arranged for the District Nurse along with the Hospice at Home team to start visiting Jan to support her, as well as Amy and the rest of her family.The team’s first visit was on a Friday and they visited four times that day to ensure Jan was comfortable, but sadly, Jan died the next day, aged 72.
Amy told us;
“I used to visit Nannie Jan every weekend, she only lived a short walk away. We would do so many things together – she really was my best friend.”
Kim remembers the short, but invaluable support the family received from the Hospice at Home team:
Although we only needed help from the Hospice at Home team for a short time, the support we received was invaluable. Anything we asked for, the team would get it for us. After my mother passed away, the team stayed in touch to see how we were doing, and sent us a sympathy card.
Amy started to receive support from the Meerkats Service to help her with her loss. ‘Meerkats’ provide support in a variety of ways including individual sessions, which can take place either at home, school or in ‘Meerkat Central’, at the Hospice, as well as fun group sessions with other children who have similar experiences.
Amy found the fortnightly Meerkat groups a great help in dealing with her grief for Nannie Jan. She said:
I did not want to speak to my family every time I felt sad, because I was worried about making them feel upset. We are a very close family, but it was nice to have the opportunity to speak to someone else when I met with the Meerkat group every two weeks.
During the sessions, Amy created a variety of keepsakes in memory of Nannie Jan during her Meerkat sessions. She told us that she has made a heart shaped box, a mug and a salt jar, which she keeps in her bedroom to remember her Nannie Jan.
Dr Kate Bramwell, Clinical Psychologist at the Rowans Hospice and Meerkat Service explained that the salt jar is a particularly effective way of encouraging a child to open up about how they are feeling.
“We use salt jars to represent memories of the young person’s special person. The young person will pick four or five colours of chalk to represent a memory they have of their special person. As they colour in the salt with the chalk, they talk about the memory, what it means to them and how they feel when they think about the memory.”
Amy has also enjoyed group outings with the Meerkats and other young people who have also recently been bereaved, or who have a significant adult with a life-limiting illness. Recently Amy went to Laser Quest in Portsmouth and she told us:
“It was great to meet other children who are in the same situation, and understand what it feels like to lose a loved one.”
Amy, and her family, will continue receiving support from the team at Rowans Hospice Charity and will also be attending some of the upcoming in-memory events organised by the Charity.