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P-8  Bereavement support for children – improving well-being through interaction in creative arts and social activities
  1. Donall Henderson,
  2. Michelle Kosky and
  3. Yvonne Martin
  1. Foyle Hospice, Londonderry, UK


Healing Hearts provides bereavement support for any child or young person aged four – 16 years, who have experienced the diagnosis or death of someone close, regardless of the cause. It might also be the first direct contact with a hospice based service.

The project is resourced by one member of staff, ably assisted by a number of committed volunteers and offers services to approximately fifty children per annum. We have found that since the introduction of additional activities the demand for service is growing. In addition to individual counselling sessions, there are group activities and workshops, as a therapeutic option to improve the general wellbeing of participants. The project is evaluated in terms of its impact on the health and well-being of children, other family members and carers.

Research has shown that bereaved children/adolescents can become disadvantaged in a range of ways including, but not limited to issues such as risk of family problems, poverty, mental health problems, offending and substance abuse, poor school achievement and poor self-care/self-esteem.

Healing Hearts recognises that pre-bereavement services can be a very useful way to address a child’s or adolescent’s emotional turmoil and therefore assists with the child’s progress in accepting the events and can discourage behavioural and emotional problems in the long-term.

By working in partnership with community arts groups, we have created a platform whereby children have the opportunity to express their emotions through art, creativity, physical activities and social events. This enables interaction and allows children to share their stories with peers who have had similar experiences. Feedback suggests that this also enhances their self-esteem and confidence. Our primary focus is to ensure that children do not become withdrawn and feel comfortable expressing their feelings and discussing their own experience.

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work noncommercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:

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