“The children felt connected in their grief”

Following the death of her father, Shabnam’s son and daughter joined the trial support group for children held at John Taylor Hospice. Here Shabnam shares her story in support of the Hope and Healing Appeal.

“My father was strong and independent; he was the head of our family. Having lost my mother in 2007 my father took over her role too and he was very protective of my siblings and I. He was very intelligent, extremely creative and could achieve whatever he put his mind to. I adored my father, he was my best friend and my rock. He had a very special bond with his six grandchildren and was extremely loving, selfless and charitable. His grandchildren spent most weekends with Grandad and would FaceTime him during the week and call him.

My father was first diagnosed with bladder and prostate cancer in 2013 and he underwent some aggressive treatments bravely and with patience. He managed to live a relatively normal life during those years. In December 2018 he was told by his Consultant that he no longer had bladder cancer and markers for his prostate cancer were within a safe range. As a family, we were elated and counted our blessings.

Then in March 2019 he started to lose his appetite and he lost a significant amount of weight over a very short period. This was investigated and we were told his bladder cancer had spread and that there was no cure. Initially we were told that he could survive a year. However his condition deteriorated very quickly and he passed away at home surrounded by his family on 8 June 2019.

How the support group helped my son and daughter

Following my father’s death, I was visited at home by the John Taylor Hospice palliative nurse that helped to care for him. We talked about my concerns for the children and how I wanted to best support them through their grief. I felt that I didn’t have the necessary skills to support and help them. The nurse told me about the counselling service that could be available to us and made that initial referral. 

My children didn’t know what to expect and they were a little apprehensive as was I. My daughter told me she was nervous going in and sat in the room quietly at first. Caron and Chris, the Art Therapist and Counsellor who lead the group, soon put them at ease and the small group size (of 4-5 children) was very helpful in allowing the children to feel comfortable and build those relationships needed to open up and share. I remember picking them up – they seemed relaxed and at ease with huge smiles on their faces. They talked about their session on the way home and about the friends that they had made. They looked forward to attending the next session which was reassuring for me.

The group certainly helped my children as they met other children who were going through a similar experience to themselves and could relate. They felt supported and the sessions were a safe place where they didn’t feel judged opening up and talking through their emotions. They would have ‘talk time’ where they could share how they were feeling and Chris and Caron facilitated those very well. The children got the opportunity to listen to the other children and their experiences too. They particularly enjoyed art therapy and the drawings they created were very expressive. We will treasure the paintings they did, and it is something I encourage at home now.

Each week my children looked forward to attending the sessions, and would talk about how wonderful Chris and Caron were. They forged some beautiful relationships with the other children too through the common bond they had and they felt connected in their grief. At the last session my children were provided with a ‘love stone’ which they both treasure. They hold the stone in the palm of their hand as a source of comfort when they are feeling a little sad. They tell me it makes them feel better when they do this. 

The group has helped my children to open up about how they were feeling and process their loss a little better. Having met other children made them realise that they were not alone in this. For me as a parent, my children’s emotional health is very important. I was going through quite a difficult time myself, and I was worried that I might not be supporting my children in the best way. I remember Chris and Caron telling me it’s okay to cry in front of your children and be open about my feelings. Chris talked me through some simple tips on how to encourage my children to open up and share, which I found very useful. They reassured me that I was doing the best that I could, and that was okay.

I was surprised to learn that these support groups at John Taylor Hospice rely on public donations. Counselling and art therapy groups for children are a much-needed service and there are many families out there who are not being supported because of the lack of resources. Losing a loved one is life changing; you lose a part of yourself in the process. Talking and sharing is extremely important to help navigate through this difficult time.”

To make a donation to the Hope and Healing Appeal please visit: www.justgiving.com/campaign/hopeandhealing

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