Recently we had the joy of meeting of meeting Jack and Toby, the boys are now best friends but only met a few months ago at a Butterwick ‘Young Persons’ Bereavement Group at Bishop Auckland. We watched as the boys created masterpieces of digestive biscuit faces, using a range of icing, marshmallows and licorice. The biscuits are a way of the children demonstrating how they are feeling and allowing them to express emotions in a safe place.
Toby, nine, lost his dad, Christian, in 2012, he was just 38. Christian’s widow, Joanne, explains that Toby found it hard to cope: “He was only two when Christian passed but, as he got older, he started asking why he didn’t have a dad like other children,” she says. “He was coming out of parties crying because other kids were being picked up by their dads.” As Toby’s anxiety grew worse, Joanne was referred to the Young Persons’ Bereavement Group in June and it has made “a world of difference”.
Butterwick ‘Young Persons’ Bereavement Group is a six-week course to help young people with grief, the sessions cover emotions, fears, worries, anger, and grief to start with. A life-sized “Angry Body” drawing is pinned to the door, depicting where emotions come from. Anger is dealt with by the youngsters throwing wet tissues at the body and shouting at it.
While heavy emotions are inevitably dealt with, there is also a lot of fun, with plenty of games, arts and crafts, blowing bubbles, and growing forget-me-knots. And it all happens in a friendly, safe, and understanding environment.
Paula Thompson, who runs the group said. “There is such a big demand for counselling for children who have been recently bereaved, or who have someone at the end of their life.”
“Coming to the group has helped him to understand his feelings much better and he’s made new friends,” says his Joanne.
Toby’s new best friend is eight-year-old Jack, who has arrived at the group with his auntie, Joanne. Jack was devastated when his grandma died suddenly. “They had a special relationship and he’d never experienced the death of someone close before,” explains Joanne. “We were struggling as a family to cope but coming to the group has been such a help. He’s started to speak about his feelings, and he’s made friends that he really looks forward to seeing. It’s an amazing place.”
For the families, the Young Persons’ Bereavement Group at Butterwick Hospice has been an incredible source of support at the most difficult time of their lives. The work that we are doing with Jack and Tobey is a real-life example of the work our teams across Butterwick Hospice Care do every day
We can only continue our mission with your generous donations and support. The last word goes to eight-year-old Jack. Asked what he likes about the group, he pauses to consider his reply. “When I get upset, I think about coming here and that makes me happy again,” he says. Then he breaks into a smile, gives Toby a bear-hug, and declares: “We’re besties forever!”