Christmas can be a difficult and confusing time for bereaved children, where feelings of loss and confusion are inevitably mingled with feelings of happiness.
Cruse Bereavement Care has offered support for bereaved young people and their families for a number of years through its Children in Need-funded CruzKids project.
This funding recently enabled the charity to launch CruzKids Junior, aimed at primary school aged children.
It includes a Sunday group, which since its first meeting in November, has supported 15 referrals.
There is also a group of children, currently being seen on a one to one basis, who will hopefully progress to the weekly group sessions in the near future.
Children’s service co-ordinator Julie Dransfield said feedback from children, carers and parents had been ‘very positive and encouraging so far’.
Research by the charity showed a service designed to support bereaved primary school aged children would be of ‘great benefit’.
Julie said CruzKids, co-ordinated by Gill Skinner, provided much needed support for young people and their families including the opportunity for young people to attend a residential weekend to facilitate group work.
And the charity wanted to provide a ‘tailored approach to meet the needs of younger children to facilitate support, growth and understanding’.
She said after a death, many children may want to share their story and experience. They may feel the need to share what happened, how it happened and what it was like for them as an individual.
They may have a lot of adjustments to make in their home and school life.
‘Telling their story in a safe, caring, non judgemental environment is a healing experience and can help them to come to terms with their loss and new way of being.’
Support is on offer for bereaved primary school aged children, parents and care teams. This can be carried out at home, in one to one sessions at school or within a group.
Julie said: ‘Each child will have the opportunity to tell their story, address fear and anxieties and receive acknowledgement and acceptance of their feelings.
‘Collectively we hope to facilitate and restore a sense of safety in the world for them after the death of a loved one, whilst respecting and observing their ways of coping and readjustment .
‘We help children with any overwhelming emotions whilst giving them the opportunity to remember the person who has died.’
The CruzKids Junior Sunday group, meets at Café Laare in Douglas, and usually sees five to seven children and three Cruse team members.
Sessions enable children to get to know each other, gain listening skills and to feel comfortable discussing death, grief and ways that may help the symptoms of their loss be less painful and more insightful.
They look at ways to remember the deceased and new coping mechanisms to help support each individual on their journey.
Julie said: ‘We use an array of media to ensure each child has a voice – or a paintbrush. We use story-telling, art, crafts, music ,dance and play.’
She added: ‘Being part of the group allows children to feel less isolated, they are able to open up, share narratives and gain new perspectives.
‘The important thing is that the children feel safe and have fun in addition to tackling sensitive feelings.’
Once formed the group runs in a closed format to allow the children to build trust and bonds.
The group cycle runs for eight to 12 weeks. Once finished, they will then have the opportunity to attend a monthly social gathering to maintain contact and build a social group.
When they are old enough, they will have the chance to join CruzKids. CruzKids was started about seven years in recognition that many young people feel isolated. Peer support was seen to be the most appropriate and beneficial means of support.
It meets monthly at Cafe Laare, and its older members are working towards a Level 2 qualification (equivalent to GCSE) in mentoring. This reflects the fact the group has evolved into one where everyone looks out for each other.
Young people go along as and when they feel the need.
Its biggest event is the annual residential weekend, held in September at the Venture Centre for youngsters aged nine and over.
Gill said: ‘It allows the opportunity to meet with others, share experiences, participate in the outdoor activities on offer and to see those attending grow in confidence over the weekend really is priceless.’
Contact the Cruse office on 668192.