The final day of this year’s Certificate and Advanced Certificate in Working in Childhood Bereavement, run by St Christopher’s Hospice Candle Child Bereavement Service and Hospice UK, saw two former students join the group. Displaying the passion and commitment which is characteristic of people working in childhood bereavement, Jenny Spenwyn and Heather Williams shared perspectives on how they had benefitted from the courses since graduating and the impact on their careers.
When they joined in 2014, Jenny was a CLIC Sargent paediatric social worker at the Royal Marsden, while Heather, who is a drama therapist by profession, was a family support worker for Jigsaw. Although both worked closely with children and families, neither were specialists in childhood bereavement so the course provided a springboard for enhancing their knowledge, and linking research and theories to practice.
Over two taught modules, the courses are unique in exploring research and theory as well as aspects of service development – from setting up a childhood bereavement service through to inter-agency working and training issues. Heather was able to put this into practice when, after identifying a gap in local provision, she set up a new charitable service, recruited a group of trustees – and ran the London Marathon to supplement funding from the Big Lottery!
With the increased confidence that the course fostered, Jenny was able to use this knowledge to help set up events for bereaved mothers and to help co-facilitate a closed bereavement group for parents. She has since moved to University College Hospital where she is continuing to support individuals throughout their cancer journey including bereavement, and working with colleagues to set up groups.
Jenny and Heather acknowledged the generosity of the experienced practitioners who teach on the courses, the value of peer support from fellow students and how this was facilitated in the preparation for group presentations, which are an integral part of assessed assignments, along with essays and learning reviews.
Both Heather and Jenny have continued to benefit from peer support beyond the seven months over which the courses take place; Heather has been able to consult fellow past students on their experience of setting up new services while Jenny is now working alongside another graduate in her new role.
Isobel Bremner, course leader and Head of the Candle Child Bereavement Service at St Christopher’s, echoed their comments on the value of peer support amongst students – especially for people working in small services or as lone workers.
Isobel reflected that “as existing practitioners, students arrive with a great deal of collective experience but the courses increase both their knowledge and self confidence, and frequently enable them to move into new or expanded roles.”
Working in Childhood Bereavement offers a Certificate (level 5) or Advanced Certificate (level 7) for those working with bereaved children and their families. The courses, which are accredited by Middlesex University, are aimed at anyone with experience of working with bereaved children and their families in education, health or social care.
For more information about the courses starting in September 2018, visit Childhood Bereavement courses