Finding the right words… with our Family Support Team

September 2018

Family Support

It’s hard to know what to say to anyone who has been recently bereaved, or who is facing the uncertain future of life without a loved one. And when it is children who face these challenges, then saying nothing at all can compound the sense of loss. That’s why our Family Support team work hard to give others the courage to have the important conversations that can make such a difference.

According to social worker India Hammond, people often think that saying nothing is the right thing to do. “People think they are protecting children and young people by not talking about it,” she says. “In reality, they are sending signals by staying silent. Children pick up on body language, changes in routine and other signs that things have changed. By not being open and honest, they’re indirectly telling them that you can’t talk about what’s happening, so children construct their own ideas and have to self-manage their feelings. It’s not surprising that these issues can affect a child’s behaviour, either now or in later life.”

What is it that we do, then, to change this? “We are doing a lot,” says India’s fellow social worker Sarah Dickson. “We work with parents to encourage and sometimes facilitate open and honest discussions with children, and we have a wide range of resources, books, websites and research materials to inform parents and for them to share with their children. We sometimes work directly with children and young people by offering a safe space for them to explore their feelings.” After identifying a specific need, India worked with the hospice’s Communications team to develop our own journal for bereaved young people to use. Increasingly too this team has worked with local schools, because often teachers are unsure what to say to students who are facing loss, and the feedback from this work has been very positive.”
In many ways, the work of the team pursues two important aims of Prospect Hospice – to extend our influence across the community to improve understanding and support for everyone affected by a life-limiting illness, and to encourage conversations about death and dying. “Extending our influence is a key part of this work,” says India, “so providing training for our own staff and other professionals who work with children is really important.”

Sarah adds: “It’s vital that we empower people with the skills and confidence to talk with children and young people who face a future without someone they love. And we are here, as always, to offer guidance across all parts of the community when they feel we can help.”

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