“But aren’t you a hospice for adults?”. Here in the Patient and Family Support team, this is a phrase we hear all the time. But despite people’s surprise, providing support to children is central to the care we offer.

Most people are unaware that Royal Trinity Hospice offers counselling and art therapy to children. Though Trinity is in fact a hospice for adults we pride ourselves in our holistic care and it’s that very care that allows us to offer invaluable services to our patients’ families and friends and that is inclusive of the children present in that family unit. We provide this support both before and after a bereavement.

November 17th to November 23rd 2016 marks Children’s Grief Awareness Week and it is a chance for us to talk about and raise awareness around the issues that affect bereaved children and young people in the UK.  According to the charity Winston’s Wish, every day more than 100 children are bereaved of a parent in the UK and many more are bereaved of a grandparent. Children grieve in different ways and express their grief differently from adults.

Many adults struggle with dealing with death and because of this many assume that children cannot cope with it either.  Some adults may try to protect children by leaving them out of rituals or not talking to them about death.  When this happens, children may feel anxious, confused, scared and alone. Often children are left to try and manage some difficult feelings on their own at a time when they most need the help and guidance of those around them. 

We find it is so important for parents to speak openly and honestly with their children about death and feelings.  The Patient and Family Support team at Trinity work with parents in helping them support their children in understanding death and coping with grief.   

For Children Grief Awareness week, we thought we would share 7 books which we often recommend to parents and children alike to help talk about death, understand loss, and express grief. 

 

1. The Scar by Charlotte Moundlic (Age 5-9)

The Scar is a heartfelt story about a little boy whose mother has died.  It encompasses a range of emotions including sadness, anger and fear of forgetting someone you love.  He clings on to his mother’s smell and the sound of her voice, and tries to lock them inside himself until he realizes that his mother is ‘inside’ him as a source of comfort and something he will never lose.  The scar on his knee from a fall is the metaphor for a heart which is marked but also able to be healed. 

2. The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers (Age 7+)

This is the story of a little girl who struggles to cope with her emotions following the death of her father.  The little girl locks her heart in a bottle to protect it from further harm.  However, she soon discovers that locking away the pain also locks away her ability to love and enjoy the things she loved to share with her dad.  This story encourages children to engage with complicated feelings around loss instead of avoiding them.

3. Badger’s Parting Gifts by Susan Varley  (Age 4-8)

This lovely book tells the story of Badger’s friends who are very sad that Badger has died and that he is no longer with them.  Over the coming months, Badger’s friends talk about their memories of Badger, the joys he had given them and the things he had taught them to do.  It handles the topic of saying goodbye to someone you love with sensitivity.

4. Talking about Death: A Dialogue between Parent and Child by Earl A. Grollman (Age 12+)

This is a great book for children and adults alike with great suggestions for answering children’s questions about death. 

5. The Invisible String by Patrice Karst (Age 3+)

This is a lovely story about an invisible string which connects people to their loved ones.  When someone thinks of another person, there is a tug on the string that is felt.  This string can never be lost, cut or torn. This string can reach all the way to the moon and down to the ocean floor.  Strings that anger, time or bad feelings can never make go away.

6. When Dinosaurs Die:  A Guide to Understanding Death by Laurie Krasny Brown   (Age 5-9)

This book is direct and very honest about the topic of death.  It covers many aspects of death and also looks at several belief systems of what happens after someone dies. This book though geared at young children deals with children’s worries and fascination about death in a very straight forward way.  It addresses feelings and death traditions.

7. You are Not Alone: Teens Talk About Life After the Loss of a Parent by Lynn B. Hughes  (Age 13+)

This is a wonderful book for teenagers who lose a parent.  Through the stories of 30 grieving teens, this book tries to connect with teenagers to help them feel less isolated and safe in their grief.