Month: September 2016

Where to begin?

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Well, I had a few toys and craft materials at home already, so that was a start. I also had a white wooden tree that I’d bought before Christmas (from the fabulous Thora & The Prince shop in Haxby) that I’d wanted to use as a ‘memory tree’ for the children to hang messages for their loved ones on. However, I needed to get a few more toys, some children’s books about grief, print out some information and buy some extra craft supplies so that the children could make memory books and boxes and other special keepsakes. So I needed some money!

This is where the internet and social media come into their own. It’s not all funny cat videos and pouting selfies! I set up a Go Fund Me account with a target of £200 and shared it on my Facebook page with a brief explanation of my plan. I was overwhelmed by the response and within 24 hours I’d reached my target! In fact it was surpassed as more people donated…some people I didn’t even know or didn’t know that well. I also received messages of support and encouragement that were just as valuable as the financial donations. It felt like I had a team of people behind me, willing me on. 

So with funds secured I set about ordering books, craft supplies, memory books and scoured local charity shops for toys and had some kindly donated too. I bought some printer ink and used it to print off lots of information sheets full of advice and resources from Child Bereavement UK (a great national charity). It was all coming together, but I needed to spread the word.

Again this is where the internet comes into its own! I set up a Facebook page for the group and encouraged my friends to share it with theirs. I also posted an invitation on the Widowed and Young website (a great national charity which I’m a member of) and then I waited. I received a few messages from people who said they were interested, but as it’s a ‘drop-in’ you never really know who is going to come or at what time (which I have found challenges my innate need to be in control of everything!)

The day arrived and we were all packed up and ready to go. Some friends came to help me and the boy set up. The room was looking great, so we bought a drink and a cake and we waited…

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It’s been a while…

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Wow! Where does the time go? Somehow it’s already September and my boy is about to start secondary school. How did that happen? It also appears that I haven’t updated this blog since November last year. Oops!

Previous readers might remember that last time I was talking about how hard it was to find support for my son after my husband died, how I planned to do something about it and to watch this space….and then nothing. For 9 months! So, what have I been doing? Twiddling my thumbs? Not a bit of it.

Firstly, I started looking into how to set up a charity and became a little disheartened when I saw all the complicated paperwork involved. In February I went to a funding fair for charities and spoke to some very helpful (and some not quite so helpful) people who explained a bit how to apply for funding. Meanwhile, I had set up an online questionnaire for parents/carers of bereaved children to share their experiences of child bereavement services. I also set up another online questionnaire which I asked local schools to complete to get an idea of how many bereaved children they had, the services they used and what they felt was missing.

The conclusion I came to was, there were definitely bereaved children and families in York and there didn’t seem to be much in the way of support available. Some schools had systems in place, particularly those who employed specially trained ELSAs (Emotional Literacy Support Assistant) or if they had pastoral care departments, others less so. There was some help offered to families that had been involved with the hospice or Macmillan nurses, but not much for those that hadn’t. I wanted to start reaching these children and their families, but I was getting more than slightly despondent trying to fill in the long Charity Commission forms.

So just after Easter, I decided to bite the bullet and try and start something. I figured that if I could connect with the children and their families I could see if there really was a need and if there was, how best it could be met. I wasn’t sure what to do, but I had the idea of a drop in session for kids to come together and do craft activities and play knowing that everyone there had experienced something similar to them. Also, I wanted to offer activities that they could do in memory of their special person and for the adults to have access to information sheets and books as well as the opportunity for them to meet and socialise (preferably with access to cake!)

I heard about a room in the local Costa that was free to hire so I went in to enquire and ended up booking a Saturday afternoon 3 weeks later! There was no going back now, but how on earth  was I going to set this up in such a short space of time…??