Background Current estimates are that a parent of children under 16 dies every 22 minutes in the United Kingdom, equating to around 111 children being bereaved of a parent every day. Bereaved children/adolescents often experience feelings of loneliness and isolation because of limited support and understanding within their communities, mental health services, schools, and sometimes their families. This can lead to feeling disconnected within themselves, it also prevents them from connecting with others. Bereaved children/adolescents are more vulnerable to, among other things, bullying, low self-esteem, poor school attainment and mental health problems including a heightened risk of suicide ideation. Regular service evaluation and user feedback/family requests identified the need for a support group for parentally bereaved children/adolescents.
Aims Offering a space where children/adolescents (11–18) can be themselves without judgement/having to pretend. Building confidence and self-esteem, establish a bigger sense of agency in their lives, learn to trust and connect with others. Providing a space for peer-support/sharing experiences where they can feel less isolated and be heard and understood. Understand their own experience of bereavement/grieving.
Methods Service evaluation, feedback/needs analysis. Therapeutic group work and activities.
Results We saw a rise in: Confidence; Being able to be themselves; Connecting to peers; Engagement with activities/pushing beyond comfort-zone; Connection with the outside world and people; Exploring feelings and coping with pain/grief in a more manageable way.
Due to the successes we saw with the group we also realised the gaps there are in support offered for bereaved children/adolescents. As a result we:
Opened the group up for a wider age range (8–18).
Are in the process of starting up more groups to capture all ages.
Have also opened the group up to pre-bereaved children/adolescents.
Are setting up a mentorship programme, for ages 18+.
Are rolling out a schools’ programme.
Are involved in a manifesto.
Conclusion This is an ongoing project with continuing needs assessment and potential to grow.
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