A £20,000 project, to support bereaved children and set up by two Kent charities with the aim of providing bereaved children the help they need, has started locally.
Demelza Hospice Care for Children, based here in Sittingbourne, has brought Rochester-based Holding On Letting Go (HOLG) on-board to provide pre and post bereavement care to their families.
Whilst Demelza will continue to provide the specialist care and emotional support for families of children with terminal or serious conditions with their medical and wellbeing needs, HOLG will work with staff to offer them guidance and training specific to bereavement care, plus support children ahead of a death, after the death or both.
By drawing upon HOLG's vast and specialist knowledge, the collaboration will help to implement the new Demelza Bereavement Model, to support their current bereavement offering to families and also to increase the skills and knowledge of the volunteer Bereavement Team within Demelza.
HOLG currently supports many families across Kent with individual, currently remote support due to the pandemic, but has also been allowed to continue with their flagship bereavement support weekends where children are invited to come and talk about their loved one who died, learn how to express their emotions, and find out it's OK to feel the way they do.
A big part of the weekend for the children is making memory boxes and items for it, which they take home and can continue to add to. While the children are with the HOLG staff, their parents can meet each other at a support group too. Demelza is one of the venues HOLG hosts the weekend events from and their families will be offered similar support.
The 12-month project will include working alongside families across Kent and providing training for Demelza staff at their three locations in Kent, South East London and East Sussex. The two charities share a 22-year history since they were both founded in 1998 and it's this special link that has brought them together for this collaboration.
HOLG will partner with Demelza to offer:
- Bereavement training for Demelza's staff and volunteers who support families at the hospice
- One-to-one bereavement care for Demelza's families, offered alongside all of their other services
- Bereaved children and parent support programme
- The development of online and face-to-face parent/carer support groups.
- Resource packs full of useful bereavement information
- Creative memory-making packs for families to create and add to memory boxes - a huge part of bereavement care
The collaboration will be led at HOLG by Debbie McSwiney, who until three years ago worked at Demelza and had been a trustee of HOLG for many years alongside her role; so she knows both organisations well. Debbie told SFM News: "Both Demelza and HOLG have a focus on children, plus our long history together makes this a wonderful partnership. I'm really looking forward to working together with Demelza to support their bereaved families because I have seen what a difference the right support makes to so many of the families we have supported over the years and continue to keep in touch with. It's an amazing opportunity for two such knowledgeable organisations to pool their skills and resources to help build resilience within those families requiring our specialist help and support."
Jo Burton, Demelza's Therapeutic and Bereavement Lead, told SFM News: "The opportunity to collaborate with HOLG could not have come at a better time and I am looking forward to developing the partnership between our organisations, building on our strengths and sharing experiences. With the new Demelza Bereavement Model in place, and the volunteer team on board and currently engaged in training, HOLG has been able to share its invaluable knowledge and expertise in running groups, supporting families in pre and post bereavement work as well as offering us training in specific areas of specialist support for families. This is enabling us to open our new services confidently, knowing that good practice, based on years of experience, is being offered to Demelza families, ensuring a smooth transition and a positive step to the future."