Background Increasingly our bereavement counselling service for children and young people was receiving referrals for complicated and traumatic bereavement. The traumas resulted from the nature of death, the circumstances around the death or the circumstances within the family. Often these young people were not ready to articulate their experiences verbally and/or were feeling socially isolated. It became clear that a different approach was needed. Evidence shows that people experiencing trauma benefit most from interventions that assist with regulation of emotions, positive sense of self and social support.
Aim To develop, deliver and evaluate a 6-week non-talking peer support group programme including an additional support Saturday for young people (11-17 years) who had experienced traumatic bereavement to process and express their grief without having to use words.
Method A literature search identified existing evidence-based therapies, equine, art, complementary therapy, therapeutic drumming, trauma yoga, and a programme was structured to incorporate these, informed by our knowledge of grief. Each week had a different theme to help address grief related issues. These were, Acknowledgement, Resources and Resilience, Remembering, Releasing Emotions, Self-Care and Endings. We gathered a steering group of young people to assess the material for suitability, incorporated their feedback and launched the first programme with them as pilot participants to shape and influence the delivery. Feedback from participants and parents was positive, after minor adjustments we launched the remaining 5 programmes.
Outcomes Qualitative feedback demonstrated overwhelmingly that participants found the programme valuable. They felt it beneficial being with other young, bereaved people who were able to understand and empathise with their experience. This helped them feel connected and less isolated. The project helped them to express and regulate emotions, feel less anxious and found a reduction in anger outbursts.
Conclusion This innovative work has been embedded into our service and outcomes will be disseminated to inform the national evidence base within the field.
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