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‘The way we talk about Dying Matters’

May 8, 2024

Shooting Star Children’s Hospices strives to provide a safe and supportive environment for all family members to openly discuss their unique journeys of caring for a baby, child or young person with a life-limiting condition or having a child who has died suddenly.

Recognising the profound impact on parents, siblings, grandparents, and the extended family unit, we aim to create a compassionate space where family members of all ages can share their emotions, challenges, and experiences without judgement.

We work hard to ensure every family member feels heard, valued and supported.

As we support Dying Matters Awareness Week, hosted by Hospice UK, we echo its mission to promote and encourage all communities to get talking in whatever way, shape or form works for them.

This year’s theme is ‘The way we talk about Dying Matters’. It focuses on the language that we use and the conversations we have around death and dying, especially between healthcare professionals and patients, their carers and their families.

“It is so important that our language reflects the care and compassion we want our families to experience,” said Sarah Hodkinson, Head of Psychosocial Services at Shooting Star Children’s Hospices.

“However, that can be difficult for professionals who have not experienced the death of a child in their school or nursery or those who experience this less often in a hospital setting. Since we opened the doors of our first hospice, we have listened carefully to everything families have taught us. We listen to mums, dads, step-parents, grandparents and brothers and sisters of all ages to learn what helped them. Almost every week our specialist children’s therapists are helping an adult (parent or teacher) think about how they might navigate a conversation with a little person who is needing to learn about a prognosis or death of their brother or sister. With a thoughtful, individualised and age-appropriate approach, this moment can be safe and loving.”

With a commitment to providing specialised care, we offer holistic counselling, complementary therapies and a range of events, including support groups, where family members can meet each other and develop personal support networks with people who live nearby. These events are unique and precious opportunities for parents to meet other parents, siblings to meet other siblings and grandparents to meet other grandparents. At a recent grandparent’s event, a grandfather told us it was the first time he had spoken about how the death of his grandchild had left him feeling.

Caroline Brett-Field, Shooting Star Children’s Hospices Events Manager, said, “During all the events that we host at our hospices, I always stop and take a moment to look around the room.

“It moves me every time to witness the power of our events program at Shooting Star. Relaxed connections between siblings whilst decorating a biscuit or dads having moments encounter at the cake stand and then meet again at our dads take-away night. Time and time again, families comment on how the hospice is their safe place. I’m proud of how the bereaved events are growing and shaping to meet the needs of all our bereaved families.”