Bereaved children and young people in Derbyshire have been gifted special advent care packages by Treetops Hospice Care, part of the charity’s support during the Coronavirus pandemic.
The children, some as young as 7, have been opening an envelope each day throughout the month of December containing a suggested therapeutic activity. These include making a memory paperchain to remember a loved one, self-care ideas like having a hot chocolate, as well as activities to complete with their family.
Their experiences of bereavement are wide-ranging, including the loss of a parent, sibling or other close relative. While some deaths may have been expected, such as those who had a a life-limiting condition, Treetops also supports children whose bereavement has been traumatic or unexpected, such as suicide.
Under normal circumstances, the younger clients attend a face-to-face session in one of the bespoke counselling rooms at Treetops, filled with therapeutic activities designed to draw out and explore emotions.
But during the pandemic the hospice has had to temporarily close its doors to the public. Counselling services for adults and teenagers have moved online or via telephone calls but this medium isn’t always appropriate for younger children.
Virtual support for children
Jules Kirk, Treetops Therapeutic Services Manager and Head of Children’s Services, explains: “We have continued to provide bereavement counselling throughout both lockdowns and during restrictions where we can, but for some young people, they haven’t felt comfortable accessing our services this way, or they simply don’t have a safe, confidential space at home.
“It is also difficult for younger children to simply step in and out of a virtual “therapy room” in the middle of a busy household. They normally benefit from the journey to and from face-to-face sessions to help them manage the transition to and from the rest of life.”
Trained counsellors have been making regular wellbeing calls and hand-delivering special care packages. The packs are funded by BBC Children in Need, who have also funded the senior families’ counsellor post at Treetops for over three years.
The impact of Covid-19 on grief
The pandemic is also having a significant impact on how young people are dealing with their grief. “Young people have experienced many losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Depending on their age, this has included missing time in school and huge changes to their lifestyle as well as closures of clubs and the loss of hobbies. Social contact, exercise and day-to-day routines are all factors which can help a bereaved person to cope.
“Support from family and friends is also key for those managing their grief. The pandemic has restricted opportunities to come together, have physical contact and for some, they simply can’t visit their normal “go-to” person for negotiating such a difficult set of life circumstances” Jules adds.
“Feelings have been magnified. Anger, isolation, loneliness, sadness and loss have all increased as the double hit of bereavement and pandemic loss have been felt. Isolation has become more acute, and for a young person, their grief can feel more intense.
“Christmas is often an especially difficult time for bereaved people, and this year will be even more challenging for many families. Our care packages are vital to remind our clients that Treetops is still here for them, albeit in a different way at present.”
- To find a hospice near you visit Hospice UK’s hospice finder
- For advice on coping with grief during the holiday period visit Twelve ways to cope at Christmas after a bereavement