St Oswald’s Hospice Bereavement Team would usually meet with over thirty children, aged between 4 and 18 each week to offer vital support after the death of a parent, sibling, grandparent or other loved one.
Due to current Coronavirus social distancing restrictions it has not been possible to offer their usual face to face sessions but the charity have recognised that during this time it’s more important than ever to continue their bereavement support with these children.
Beth Gregan, Children’s Lead of Bereavement at St Oswald’s has been working to come up with some creative and innovative ways of continuing the weekly sessions. Beth said:
Maintaining contact with the children is so important, I’ve told them I will always be here to talk to and during these uncertain times I want to remain their ‘constant’ and give them some routine.
I now FaceTime the children each week which has been really successful. The children are able to show me things in their home such as memory boxes and their loved ones belongings which is lovely for me to see and something that wasn’t possible before.
I’ve sent each child a personalised pack, tailored to age, including items such as a journal to complete, feelings cards, a stress ball and activity sheets. So far they seem to have been a hit and the children have enjoyed working through them with me over FaceTime or with family.
Not only have the FaceTime sessions and packs been a hit with the children, their parents and carers are also relieved to still have the support from St Oswald’s.
Wendy Robson from Tynemouth said:
The national lockdown that we’re currently living through is difficult for any family but feeling especially difficult for ours. We lost my husband, my girls Daddy, just before Christmas. The contact with the Family Support Team at St Oswald’s has been invaluable in beginning to come to terms with this loss for all of us.
The lockdown has come at a time when we were trying to find our 'new normal' which is difficult to do when nothing is normal. Beth maintaining contact with the girls is a little bit of normality in very scary times. The girls where surprised and delighted to receive a parcel, the personal letter was amazing as were the craft supplies which were put to good use straight away. The girls have been filling in their feeling journal every day and can't wait to show it to Beth. The contact on FaceTime is just what the girls need and means that they know they have not been forgotten.
While we wish we didn't have to know the Family Support Team we are so grateful we do. They are all amazing and their support is invaluable.
Steven Walker from Forest Hall, Newcastle upon Tyne, has been enjoying working through the pack with his son, Jack, on the run up to the one year anniversary of Jack’s Mum’s death. Steven said:
Jack said it was good to make the plaque about his Mammy because me and him could do it together and talk about her. The pack has helped me find out how Jack is feeling and how he has been feeling since his Mam died. It also made us sit down and make something together for Leanne. It’s something Jack won’t usually do if it’s my idea but because he got the pack off Beth he wanted to do it.
Julie, a local mum, shares her appreciation for the service:
Our youngest daughter has been accessing the counselling services with Beth since October 2019 following the death of our oldest daughter in August 2018. It has taken a long time for us to encourage her to open up about her feelings after losing her older sister so quickly, only five months after diagnosis of a terminal cancer, but Beth and my daughter have built an amazing connection.
We made huge progress before the virus put a hold on face to face sessions at the Hospice. My daughter doesn’t cope well with changes, therefore initially it was hard to get her to understand the reason she couldn’t see Beth for their weekly sessions and I was concerned this might have a negative impact on her progress. Beth suggested we continue weekly sessions but using FaceTime and it is working very well for us. I have watched and listened to their sessions and can see how important it has been for these sessions to continue.
Doing the work that I do with the children means that I build up really strong, trusting relationships with them. When I did a FaceTime session with one little girl, who is just five years old, she said to me “I’m so pleased you haven’t forgotten about me, Beth”.
That really highlights how important this contact is and that we must continue it through these unsettling and unusual times. I feel extremely privileged to do the work that I do.
As a charity, St Oswald’s relies on the generosity of local people and need the ongoing and generous support of their community during this crisis.
If you’d like to help safeguard the Hospice financially and enable them to continue to offer their bereavement support and other vital services you can donate via their Covid-19 Response Appeal online at www.stoswaldsuk.org/urgent-appeal or by calling 0191 246 9123.