St Christopher's Hospice -
expert palliative care for the dying
Candle Project - Children, Young People and Loss
St Christopher's has been providing bereavement counselling to patients’ families for over 40 years. Our Candle Project extends this support to all children, young people and their families in the south east London area. We also offer specialist training, advice and consultancy services to schools and other agencies working with children facing bereavement.
The effects of bereavement
All of us face an enormous challenge when someone close to us dies or is very ill. At such times it can feel very hard to know how best to help children and young people affected by the loss.
Many adults try to protect children when a death occurs. We sometimes hope that by not talking about it we can shield children from sadness and pain. We may feel overwhelmed by our own feelings of grief and anxious about making things worse for the children by doing or saying “the wrong thing”.
In fact, children always find out when something so important is happening and many feel hurt and left out if they have not been told directly. Attempts to protect children from the truth usually leave them confused and alone with their questions, fears and powerful feelings.
How we can help adults and children
Just like adults, children react to death in different ways at different times. They may seem to be sad, very naughty, or not to care at all. They may have behaviour or concentration problems at school or home, difficulties with eating or sleeping and feel very anxious or guilty. It can sometimes be difficult to find a way to explain what has happened, to cope with their questions and to manage their behaviour.
We cannot prevent children from feeling sad, angry and hurt, but if we talk to them and include them in what is going on, we can give them our support and understanding..
Children and young people facing loss need:
- Information about what has happened and why, and what is likely to happen next
- Reassurance that they are not to blame for what has happened and that they will be cared for
- An opportunity to express their feelings and to make choices about their involvement in rituals such as the funeral
- Adults who share their feelings and allow children to offer comfort as well as to receive it
- Strategies to help them cope with changed circumstances.
Help provided to a child in bereavement can prevent serious problems later in life.
What does Candle offer?
One to one and group counselling for any child or young person in south east London experiencing loss through death.
Training, advice and consultancy for local schools and health care professionals.
Advice service for parents and professional carers.
How do you ask for help?
Any parent, carer, teacher or health care professional can make a referral. Young people over 16 can refer themselves.