Today is the beginning of Children’s Grief Awareness Week UK (16th-22nd November 2017) with the focus on acknowledging the painful impact the death of a loved one has on a child and giving an opportunity to make sure the children receive the support they need. #YoureNotAlone.
Bereaved Children Support York was created nearly exactly 18 months ago, for that reason. So that bereaved children could come together and realise they are not alone and that other children have experienced a similar loss. Our aim is to support children and their families living in the York area, so they are better able to cope with the impact of bereavement on their lives. We do this in 3 ways.
1. Monthly Peer support Drop-in sessions
This is how it all started, with toys, crafts and resources and an opportunity for bereaved children and families to come together in a relaxed and friendly environment knowing that everyone there has experienced something similar, because losing a significant person in your life, especially as a child, can be incredibly isolating.
This year we have moved to a bigger venue, with better facilities and more space for the children to play. Oh and it has an Xbox! This has definitely meant that the children are interacting much more and have been able to be more creative in their play.
2. Therapeutic Support
We are delighted that we are now able to offer one to one therapeutic support provided by experienced Bereavement Practitioners for those children who need it. Not every child who has been bereaved needs additional help outside their existing support network, but some do and we want to be able to offer this service. This is running as a pilot project initially to gauge demand, but we anticipate this will be high and the service will expand according. Anyone can refer a child, but we do ask that parental consent be obtained. (Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information).
We also wanted to be able to offer training for schools on how to best support the bereaved children in their care. We know from the families we have met that some schools do a fantastic job in supporting their bereaved children, but others not so much. We hosted our first training day in October led by a great facilitator from Child Bereavement UK. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive so we are putting the finishing touches to a second training day to be held early next year. Children spend so much time at school and the normality and routine can really help those who are grieving, especially in the early days, but it is so important that schools realise the impact of grief and that it is an ongoing process. Not time limited. In fact often as a child reaches a new level of maturity they will experience their grief in a new way. It’s not all done and dusted after the funeral or once the first anniversary has passed.
It is all made possible because of some wonderful people and fundraisers
We are now an officially registered charity (no: 1171422) with Lisa and Yvonne joining the team as trustees and we have received some fantastic grants and donations from various organisations and individuals. Our initial grant was from the Ed de Nunzio Trust, which enabled us to establish the Bereavement Practitioner pilot project and host the first training day. Since then we have received generous donations from Ambiente, The Phil Curtis Annual Fun Day, Bel’s 10K, Sally and Wayne’s wedding gift and Kathryn’s dad as well as other individuals and the ’round pound’ collection! We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of people and we are so very grateful. Thank you!
So what’s next?
We are planning to keep doing what we’re doing…but try and reach more bereaved children, young people and their families. We are starting to arrange get togethers for the adults and in the process of writing a new leaflet to distribute to schools, GP surgeries and other organisations outlining the support we offer. We will be running another training day for schools and also looking at ways to develop support more specifically aimed at teenagers and young people. We are also delighted to be the official charity partner for the mini and junior runs at the York 10K in August 2018.
These children and young people have all experienced the most devastating losses in their young lives. We can’t take the pain away, but if we can help them and their families find a way to feel better able to cope with their grief then we will have achieved our goal.
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And people did come and I was so relieved! It’s all very well having an idea, but for it to come to fruition is something else entirely. The children that came seemed to enjoy the activities. When one boy asked his mum at the end of the session if they could come again, I was so thrilled! I asked the other children and parents if they would like to do it again and they all seemed keen and so Bereaved Children Support York (BCSY) was born!
We now hold monthly drop in sessions and we recently had our first social trip to the local Energi trampoline park. This was a great success and gave an opportunity for children who haven’t been to the drop in, to meet some of the other kids in a really relaxed environment. This is an area that I’m keen to develop and am already planning where we can go next!
It also appears to be benefitting the adults too by providing space to build friendships and share experiences. Often half the battle for the child and the parent/carer is knowing they’re not alone. To be in an environment where it feels safe to talk about difficult feelings and things that have happened can be very helpful.
So, what next?
Well, I’m continuing to try and spread the word about the drop in sessions through social media, by contacting schools and through the ELSA network. We now have a website at http://www.bcsy.org.uk
We’ve recently had an article written about us on York Mix by one of the lovely mums from the group. You can read it here http://www.yorkmix.com/life/eight-jonny-lost-dad-mums-response-something-special/
I think that the next step is probably to become a registered charity, as this would allow us to apply for grants to help develop the services we can offer. Ideally I would like to be able to employ an experienced bereavement worker/professional to offer one to one sessions for those children who need more specialist support. I would also like to explore other ways of supporting bereaved children to help with things like self esteem, confidence and resilience. I would also love to find a way of supporting older children and young people and maybe provide play therapy for the very young children. There are so many possibilities and it’s early days, but I’m looking forward to seeing how BCSY can develop and grow to meet the needs of bereaved children, young people and their families in York.
Today is Children’s Grief Awareness Day and the beginning of Children’s Grief Awareness Week (17th-23rd November). Around this time last year I wrote a blog about children’s grief and the lack of support for bereaved children in my area and how I was going to try and create something to meet this need. Well here I am a year later and it’s amazing how far we’ve come!
As I’ve written before, 1 in 29 school aged children have lost a parent or sibling. That’s a startling statistic and one you probably aren’t aware of unless your child is the one. It was following the sudden death of my husband, when my son was 8 years old, that I discovered the apparent lack of support available for bereaved children in York. So in May this year I started Bereaved Children Support York (BCSY). I run a monthly drop in peer support group, arrange social trips and activities and supply books and resources to parents and carers.
This gives the children a chance to meet others who have similar experiences in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. In the 6 months since we started, I have watched friendships develop and confidence grow. There is lots of fun and laughter, sometimes there are tears, but always there is support from others and a listening ear. The children know that they are not alone.
I’m gradually spreading the word about what we are doing. I am making connections with other organisations like the CVS, the council, the hospice, youth organisations and schools. I am also in the midst of writing an application to become a registered charity and then the hard work really begins as I look to secure funding to employ someone to offer one to one therapeutic support.
So, from an idea a year ago to where we are now is really quite astounding. Over 30 bereaved children have attended a session or event in the last 6 months. Some have come to one event, others haven’t missed a session and many are somewhere in between. I’m also in contact with a number of other families who haven’t been able to make an event yet, but are interested in what we’re doing.
I am hugely thankful for all the support I have received from family, friends and the kindness of strangers who continue to surprise me with donations and offers of help. It is a privilege to meet these children and their families. To build relationships and for them to trust me with their stories and be part of their grief journey. It is hard work, but immensely rewarding. I remain passionate about raising awareness about the needs of bereaved children and young people. There is no quick fix or simple solution, but if I can eventually build a service that offers ways of helping children and their families to negotiate the path of grief that can only be a good thing.