Children’s Grief Awareness Week

Children’s Grief Awareness Week

Posted on 19 November 2015 by Gabrielle Coyle

The Ayrshire Hospice is supporting the first ever Children’s Grief Awareness Week (19-25 November) this year. Run by UK charity “Grief Encounter”, the week aims to highlight the difference appropriate and sensitive support can make to the future of a grieving child, helping them to develop an understanding of death, build resilience and develop coping skills as they get older.

In Ayrshire, over 1,700 children and young people are affected by bereavement annually and the Ayrshire Hospice Family Care Team offers free, professional support to children and young people who are affected by the illness or death of someone they love. Emma Hynd, Family Care Team Schools and Community Worker with the Ayrshire Hospice explains “Children’s Grief Awareness Week provides us with an opportunity to raise awareness of the painful impact that the death of a loved one can have on children, and how, as a community, we can work together to make sure the support needed is available to children across Ayrshire”.

Donna Findlay and her son, six year old Kieran Findlay, have benefitted from the support on offer from the Family Care Team at the hospice. Kieran’s gran sadly died earlier this year and Kieran was very much affected by her death. He was invited to join a hospice summer programme that was aimed at giving bereaved children the opportunity to go along to the hospice and mix with other children who were also dealing with bereavement. The group got involved in arts and crafts, fun and games, outdoor activities and a trip to the beach park.

Donna explains “Our family was first put in touch with the Ayrshire Hospice due to my mother-in-law requiring palliative care. Devastatingly she had been diagnosed with a Cholangiocarcinoma (a rare primary liver cancer) in October 2013. The cancer had already spread before her diagnosis and was terminal. The whole family were crushed. After being in close contact with a member of the community nursing team I was made aware of the hospice Family Care Team. I explained to them the difficulty Kieran was having with his gran's illness and queried how I should be preparing him for the inevitable outcome. The support we have received has been excellent.

"The summer programme run by the Ayrshire Hospice was invaluable to Kieran in the weeks following the death of his beloved gran. The programme gave him something to focus on each week and helped him cope with his grief. The activities were fantastic and the programme was so well organised - Kieran often said to me "Mum is it Thursday yet so that I can go back to the hospice?!" The staff there were very attentive and a huge support to Kieran during his sessions there. Knowing Kieran was involved in the summer programme gave my family and I great peace of mind knowing that he had such good additional support during such a difficult time for everyone. We can't thank the Ayrshire Hospice enough."

Pupils at Kyle Academy have also been involved with the schools and community worker as part of a schools project where pupils have been introduced to the work of the hospice, had the opportunity to visit and to meet some staff and patients. A series of workshops have also been held to promote pupils’ resilience, empathy, an understanding of death, dying and bereavement and provided teenagers with the opportunity to give back to their community through various activities.

Malcolm McMillan pupil support teacher said ‘Our young people had an overwhelmingly positive experience while working with hospice staff. By being able to speak openly about their experience of loss and to visit the hospice itself, and after speaking with patients and staff there, every one of them expressed a wish to revisit or even volunteer their services in the senior school. This year we will be building upon this and extending the work between Kyle Academy and Ayrshire Hospice in our Community Involvement Programme for our S2 pupils.’

Children’s Grief Awareness Week ribbons will be on sale at the hospice and at the hospice Art Exhibition and Sale which takes place at Seamill Hydro on Tuesday the 24th and Wednesday the 25th of November from 10am-8pm. Keep an eye on the Ayrshire Hospice Facebook and Twitter accounts to see what else is going on for Children’s Grief Awareness Week.

Emma Hynd concludes “Through raising awareness of children’s grief, we can encourage adults to have open and honest conversations with children and young people around death, dying and bereavement. Our work with schools also aims to support teachers, helping them to become more confident in introducing these topics to the classroom. We aim to widen access to support for children and young people who will one day be affected by bereavement and know that by having open conversations we can equip children and young people with the coping skills they will need for the future. Furthering relationships with the school community and providing a safe place for children and young people to speak with informed and confident adults, will provide better outcomes all round”.