Support groups to help the whole family through grief

Our care is holistic, encompassing the needs of the whole family, as well as the child or young person who needs our support.

That holistic approach extends to our care for families whose child has died, so our bereavement support groups are there to help each generation through their grief.

We have groups for parents, children, grandparents, and most recently, a parents’ and babies’ group.

The families joining our groups come from every circumstance — from those who used Martin House for years right through to people whose child has died suddenly.

Both our parents’ group and our children’s group run six times a year, and families are invited to join us for up to six sessions.

Parents using our bereavement support start with one-to-one counselling, and we introduce the idea of the group a few months in. Not all parents attend, or only one of them wants to — it’s a personal choice.

We tell parents they will hear from other people dealing with grief, and they may learn something that helps them, and they might be able to share things that will help both themselves and others.

We have a theme for each session, but also time for parents to sit and talk. We ask parents to introduce their child, and as bereavement workers, we are there to make sure they feel safe and contained in the group.

There’s a lot of sadness, but also a lot of appreciation and understanding of the different situations that have brought them to the group. There’s also a lot of laughter, and they feel safe to laugh in that space.

Our children’s group runs on the same day as parents’ group, and we split them into children and teens, and like the parents’ group, we will have a theme.

When a child is going through grief, one of the greatest ways to make them feel normal again is to put them into a group — they can’t always verbalise how they feel, but they can sit and do an activity together, and they might hear another child talking, and that can prompt them.

The conversations we have are phenomenal. We have a question box, where children can post anonymous questions and comments — things like ‘is it okay to feel angry that my brother died?’ and ‘how do I not feel sad at school?’. We have time where we sit and read out the questions that have been posted, and talk about them as a group.

One of the most overlooked groups when a child dies is grandparents. We recognised this some years ago, and set up our support group for them.

Grandparents’ days take place twice a year, and grandparents are invited to attend one, with usually a follow-up coffee morning.  It gives them the chance to share their experiences with each other, because they have a double whammy of grief — they are grieving for their grandchild, but then there’s the further grief for their children.

The most recent group we have started is a monthly parents’ and babies’ group, as we found that bereaved mums and dads who went on to become pregnant again didn’t feel comfortable joining mums’ and babies’ groups.

They can find it hard to field questions about their child who died, and they also experience a lot of anxiety throughout their subsequent pregnancy, particularly as they may need to have extra tests, so we provide a safe space for them to share those experiences and support.

Grief can be an isolating place, but our support groups allow families to share their experiences, and understand they are not alone. It is a real privilege to support them on their journeys.

Karen Orton — Bereavement counsellor

Group of mums and babies with music therapist.

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