Grief is a complex and emotional process for anyone, regardless of your age. But for children and young people, experiencing grief can be a particularly difficult and confusing process. As a parent or guardian, it’s not possible to protect your child from the pain of loss but it is possible to support them through their grief, helping them to build healthy coping tools for the future.

Beth Hopkins is a Children’s Counsellor at Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice. In her role, she helps run ‘Growing Together’ – a peer support group for grieving children and young adults. She discussed why peer support groups can be hugely beneficial to young people as they learn to navigate their way through grief…

Companionship and honest conversations

When a child is going through a bereavement, it can feel like the loneliest time. Peer support groups can help children to see that they are not alone and there are people who are also going through something similar. This can be hugely beneficial to young people, as it provides companionship with people who just “get it”. Sometimes, children will want to protect their family so will hide their feelings for fear of upsetting them. Groups give children a chance to talk openly and honestly, without having to filter their feelings.

Learning to cope

It’s important for children and young people to develop their own coping strategies to help process their grief. At group sessions, they’ll get the chance to talk to experienced workers and volunteers who have specialist training in supporting grieving children. This will give them an opportunity to learn more about the skills and techniques that they can use to manage their grief, as well as get a better understanding of what works best for them.

It’s good for parents and guardians too

If you’re supporting a child through bereavement, chances are, you’re grieving too. This can feel like a huge weight, especially as you’re trying to manage your own grief and your child’s. Knowing that your child has access to professional support can give a little peace of mind but did you know that some child support groups will run one for adults too? For many parents and guardians, this can be a safe space to express worries and concerns, as well as an opportunity to meet others in similar situations.

‘Growing Together’ is organised by Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice and is a free-of-charge, peer support group for bereaved children and young people. The group is open to all children, whether or not their loved one was supported by the Hospice, and there is also group support for parents and guardians too. To find out more, please contact the Hospice’s Children’s Team on 0121 752 8753 or childrensservice@birminghamhospice.org.uk

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