Strobe and Schut’s (1999), Dual Process Model suggests that a healthy grieving process involves oscillating between life restoration and grief orientation activities. Following the success of the Hospice of St Francis, 2012 bereaved adults “Cooking with Chris” programme, we developed a 5-week teenagers course. This is a difficult age group to connect with. Food was used as a therapeutic bridge. Vital cooking skills were learnt and the experience and feelings of loss and grief addressed.
Bereaved teenagers between 11 and 18 years from the Hospice fortnightly ‘drop in’ took part. They had experienced the death of a close family member. Ideally, they attended with a significant adult.
After introductions and a practical induction to the hospice kitchen, weekly themed menus such as ‘Amazing Mince’ and ‘Sausage Surprise’ were produced. Undertaking the course was not without its challenges. There were no existing guidelines. One aspect was the emotional impact on the facilitators. A robust debriefing process was crucial for promoting understanding and resilience in the course staff and volunteers. Further anxiety was overcome about teens messing around if bored and how to control such behaviour in a busy working kitchen, whereas the previous adult groups have been very noisy, the teens were relatively quiet, probably as they were so busy concentrating!
Highlights included seeing the teens coming out of their shells and observing the parents working with the children. Parents found support in each other. Feedback commented how important it had been for their teen to come back to the hospice to do something enjoyable, adding positive memories to the sad ones she held of her Father dying there.
We believe that this programme provides innovative bereavement support for teenagers in a therapeutic, meaningful and fun way. Guidelines for others doing similar have been produced.
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