Losing a brother or sister is a hard thing for a child to process. Grief is very individual, and every bereaved parent, brother and sister will experience a range of thoughts and feelings at different times. That’s why we offer many different opportunities for support for up to three years after a child dies. One of the ways we offer support is with our bereaved siblings groups, which take place regularly throughout the year, allowing children to meet peers with similar experiences and discuss their feelings. Our most recent day took place in October half term.
To start children designed and painted their own t-shirts, followed by a welcome activity that explained all the things the team had planned in the day. As children often find it hard to talk about a brother or sister who had died, our therapy team started with an activity where children could find magnetic letters and use them to spell out the name of their sibling on a magnetic board, and share this with the group. Our new Chief Executive Paul joined this session to help out, meet some of the children and have fun making his own t-shirt.
The morning was all about fun and getting outside and trying new things. Children were able to enjoy an archery session on the grounds of the nearby Hampton School, as well as playing some fun games of What’s the Time Mr Wolf. This was followed by lunch back at Shooting Star House.
In the afternoon the children were split into groups for a therapy workshop, which was held in small groups with staff, allowing them to explore their emotions and feelings around the loss of their sibling. Finally they were able to warm up with a dip in our heated hydrotherapy pool, and some enthusiastic games of volleyball.
At the end of the day children were able to take home their t-shirts as a memento of the day, along with a goody bag.
This Christmas we have been sharing Elfrida’s story. There are many families like Elfrida’s who benefit from the bereavement support Shooting Star Children’s Hospices offers. Alongside our siblings days, our therapists offer one to one sessions with children or group sessions with whole families. Sarah Hodkinson, Head of Family Support Services explains the importance of therapies to our supported siblings:
“Life in school can be complicated for siblings, as other pupils don’t always understand that life can be trickier and exhausting for them. The ongoing emotional impact of uncertainty and worry can affect not only your emotional health, but your ability to concentrate on school work and exams. Some of our siblings face each day at school in the throes of great pain grief brings. Others experience anticipatory grief as their brother or sister’s health worsens, and this type of grief before a death isn’t often acknowledged or understood by others. Being a place that knows and recognises these realities for siblings is key to supporting and strengthening families.”
“Not feel lonely. I really enjoyed going to the hospice, it gives me good memories of my brother.” (A sibling’s feedback on a therapy session)
An important part of grieving can be having somewhere you can visit and remember your child. Siblings often like to visit the memory trees at our hospices to see their brother or sister’s leaf or star on the tree, and read their page in our memory book.
Talking about a recent Memory day, bereaved mum Alison said, “Not only did Julie, Sonia and Caroline take care of us that day, they also sent home some goodies for Dylan-James’ younger brother Elliot, and knowing there’s sibling support for when Elliot may need it is so comforting. They really do make a difference to families like us who are going through the unimaginable.”