Nelson’s journey – Child Bereavement Support in Norfolk
Laura, one of our Family Carer Advisers, went on Child Bereavement Training last month with Nelson’s Journey, a Norfolk based charity supporting children and young people who have been bereaved.
‘The training was extremely thought provoking and informative.
Nelson’s Journey talked about the importance of sticking to the facts when children and young people are experiencing loss. It can be very tempting to protect them from the harsh reality but using words such as ‘We’ve lost Granny’ or ‘Daddy’s gone to sleep’ can confuse children and delay their understanding that that person is really gone. Obviously, as Nelson’s Journey stated, things need to be explained in an age appropriate way and it is very important for children to know that they can ask questions, even if they don’t always want to at that time. Understanding the truth can prevent children’s imaginations from other scenarios. Nelson’s Journey gave an example of a girl whose father had died from a heart attack. She had no idea what a heart attack actually was and thought that someone had broken into her Dad’s bedroom and attacked him, which is why his heart had been injured and he had died. This was something that was causing her great worry. With the help of Nelson’s Journey she was able to understand and begin to process the truth of what had actually happened.
The training looked at the different ages of children and young people and how age can affect their understanding and ability to process death and grief. Nelson’s Journey talked about how to involve children/ young people and give them choices around how they remember their loved one, attending the funeral, seeing the dead person’s body and how to mark anniversaries etc. Nelson’s Journey said that sometimes children can be worried about telling their family members their wishes, e.g. one boy wanted to bake a cake to take to his brother’s grave on his birthday but was worried that this would upset his parents, so his support worker from Nelson’s Journey spoke to the parents on his behalf and the result was a positive one for all involved. Having support from somebody who is not emotionally involved can be a huge help.
The training talked about different situations that could occur when a child or young person has been bereaved and how this might be dealt with. We watched an excellent animation from the point of view of a teenage girl who’s Dad had died suddenly. The animation showed how this had affected all of the family members differently and how with support they were able to have some hope for the future.
We ended the training by making a memory jar which is one of the activities that Nelson’s Journey do on their residential weekend. The jars were full of plain white salt and you then used paper and coloured chalk to separate and make layers of different colours, each representing something different. The act of rubbing the chalk into the salt was itself quite therapeutic and the jars are lovely when finished (see photo).
Nelson’s Journey supports children and young people aged 0-17 years inclusive that have experienced the death of a significant person in their life. As Nelson’s Journey explained on their training, this doesn’t always have to be a close blood relative. They support children based on the impact that death has had on the young person; regardless of who the person was who has died. ‘
Nelson’s Journey offers the following services:
-Telephone support and guidance – Nelson’s Journey can talk through questions such as ‘Should my child attend the funeral?’ and ‘How do I tell them their mum has died?’
-Information and resources – These are available in the ‘Get Help’ section of the website.
-Family and group events – These include an annual Walk of Smiles and Christmas Carol Concert. Events provide an opportunity for family and friends to get together and remember their loved ones.
-1:1 therapeutic support – Nelson’s Journey have Child Bereavement Support Workers who can work with children either at home or at school.
-Activity days or residential weekends – These interventions give young people the chance to meet others who have had similar experiences. They balance therapeutic activities with some fun.
-Online Forum – The forum provides a chance for children and young people to share their memories and experiences. It is only for young people who are being or have been supported by Nelson’s Journey and all messages are checked.
-Smiles & Tears App – A free interactive and virtual resource designed by Nelson’s Journey’s Youth Panel. The App provides users with the means to access support and express their emotions.
How to make a referral to Nelson’s Journey
Nelson’s Journey can support children at home or at school. They welcome referrals with permission from the parent or carer. Young people aged 16 or over can self-refer.
Referrals can be accepted by telephone, email or via the website. If a referral is received from a professional then Nelson’s Journey can take some details but will require the family involved to complete the referral process.