The clients, some as young as 7yrs old, can open an envelope each day throughout December with a suggested therapeutic activity. Activities include making a memory paperchain to remember a loved one, self-care ideas such as having a hot chocolate, as well as activities to complete with their wider family.
The youngsters’ bereavements are wide ranging. They include experiencing the loss of a parent, sibling or other close relative. The deaths may have been expected – such as those who had a loved one with a life-limiting condition – but Treetops also supports children whose bereavement has been traumatic or unexpected, such as with suicide.
Under normal circumstances, the younger clients attend a face to face session in one of the bespoke counselling rooms at Treetops, filled with therapeutic activities designed to draw out and explore emotions and feelings.
We have continued to provide bereavement counselling throughout both lockdowns and during restrictions
But during the Coronavirus pandemic, the hospice has had to temporarily close its doors to the public. Counselling services for adults and teenagers have moved online or via telephone calls but this medium isn’t always appropriate for younger children as Jules Kirk, Treetops Therapeutic Services Manager and Head of Children’s Services, explains:
“We have continued to provide bereavement counselling throughout both lockdowns and during restrictions where we can, but for some young people, they haven’t felt comfortable accessing our services this way, or they simply don’t have a safe, confidential space at home.
“It is also difficult for younger children to simply step in and out of a virtual ‘therapy room’ in the middle of a busy household. Clients normally benefit from the journey to and from face-to-face sessions to help them manage the transition to and from the rest of life.”
The hospice has been quick to adapt its services, with trained counsellors making regular wellbeing calls and hand-delivering special care packages to the bereaved youngsters. The packs are funded by BBC Children in Need, who have also funded the senior families counsellor post at Treetops for over three years.
Young people have experienced many losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic
The pandemic is having a significant impact on how youngsters are dealing with their grief, Jules continues:
“Young people have experienced many losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Depending on their age, this has included missing time in school and huge changes to their lifestyle as well as closures of clubs and the loss of hobbies. Social contact, exercise and day-to-day routines are all factors which can help a bereaved person to cope.
“Support from family and friends is also key for those managing their grief. The pandemic has restricted opportunities to come together, have physical contact and for some, they simply can’t visit their normal ‘go-to’ person for negotiating such a difficult set of life circumstances.
Vital to remind our clients that Treetops is still here for them, albeit in a different way at present
“Feelings have been magnified. Anger, isolation, loneliness, sadness and loss have all increased as the double hit of bereavement and pandemic loss have been felt. Isolation has become more acute, and for a young person, their grief can feel more intense.
“Our care packages are vital to remind our clients that Treetops is still here for them, albeit in a different way at present. Christmas is often an especially difficult time for bereaved people, and this year will be even more challenging for many families.”
Treetops, based in Risley, has been providing bereavement counselling for over twenty years. Last year, the charity provided over 1,100 bereavement sessions for children and families and over 3,000 adult bereavement counselling sessions.
Counselling is available to all users of Treetops Hospice Care services and people registered with a GP practice in Derby city or Southern Derbyshire.
Treetops has recently launched this year’s Light Up a Life appeal offering people the opportunity to make a dedication in memory of a loved one who has died. Dedications are represented as lights on the hospice Christmas tree which will be switched on during a special online memorial service on Sunday 6 December at 5pm.