Treetops Hospice have received a brand-new purpose-built children’s counselling and therapy centre all thanks to DIY SOS Big Build for Children in Need.
Based in Derbyshire, Treetops Hospice is an adult hospice providing nursing care and emotional support for adults with life-limiting conditions, those who've been bereaved, and their loved ones. As part of their services, they offer counselling and emotional support for children who are struggling after the death of a loved one.
This year, their children’s bereavement services have been chosen to benefit from Children in Need. The DIY SOS Big Build for Children in Need in collaboration with BBC Radio 2 has given them a brand-new children’s counselling and therapy centre.
Thanks to local tradespeople and volunteers, the new children’s counselling and therapy centre has been built with children, and their parents and carers, in mind. The welcoming space includes bespoke rooms for counselling and complementary therapy, plus a multi-functional area.
The centre will help traumatically bereaved children across Derbyshire for many years to come. Jules Kirk, Treetops Therapeutic Services Manager, answers some common questions about how to support children after the death of a loved one.
What is child bereavement?
A child bereavement is when a child or young person experiences the death of a loved one. This could be the death of a grandparent, parent, sibling or other close relative or friend.
How do I talk to a child about the death of a loved one?
It’s natural to worry about talking to a child about the death of a loved one. You may be worried about what to say – or not say. You might not know how to start a conversation.
Being open and honest with children about what has happened is more helpful than keeping them in the dark to try and protect them. Children will often fill in the gaps if they don’t have the facts.
Sometimes, children’s stories about what happened to their loved one do not always make sense, perhaps because they have connected seemingly unrelated events or facts. Helping them develop a more accurate, age-appropriate, understanding around the events leading up to the death, can help them to accept the reality of the loss.
Try to use simple language to talk about death
Try to use simple language to deliver the basic facts about what has happened. People often use the terms ‘passed away’, ‘gone away’ or ‘gone to sleep’ after someone’s death. At Treetops, our counsellors recommend using the words ‘died’ and ‘death’, as children can interpret information in a very literal way. Euphemisms can lead to confusion and may influence a child’s feelings around a burial or cremation.
Allow time for your child to ask questions about the death of a loved one. Give them the information they are seeking but don’t overload them with extra details that they don’t ask for.
Be aware that children may appear to move quickly away from the conversation and ask something entirely unrelated, like going out to play. This is completely normal and their way of managing the situation.
How can the death of a parent, grandparent or loved one affect a child?
Just like adults, children and young people who have been bereaved may find themselves struggling with a powerful range of emotions. It’s important to remember that everyone grieves in their own unique way. There are many different feelings and emotions that a grieving child might experience. You may also notice changes in a child’s behaviour after a death. These are all completely normal reactions to grief. A grieving child may:
- Appear more tired or not sleep well
- Not want to get involved in everyday things. They may not want to go to school or college – or hang out with their friends
- Be forgetful or unable to concentrate
- Get upset by simple things like hearing a song on the radio or seeing a photo of a loved one
- Want to be closer to their family and loved ones
- Argue or cry more often
How can I help a child after a death?
Following a death, we experience a range of emotions, and these fluctuate in intensity throughout the day. For children they might be experiencing both feelings and a level of intensity of emotions that they have not encountered before. They may not have the words to express their feelings so may act them out through their behaviour.
How do I know if my child needs bereavement counselling after a death?
It’s important to remember that grief is a normal reaction to loss, for children as well as adults. But sometimes children need extra support, such as bereavement counselling, to help them deal with their loss. You may notice that your child is struggling to do normal, day to day things such as going to school, or being able to sleep over an extended period of time. You might notice that grief is having a significant impact on their emotional and mental health.
Hospices across the country offer bereavement services for children, often regardless of whether the person who has died was cared for by the hospice. You can find out more about bereavement services in your area on our bereavement support page.
Tune into BBC One at 9pm to watch the DIY SOS Big Build in action and take a virtual tour of the new centre.