Continuing our Staff Spotlight series Samantha Kelly, Children’s Therapeutic Practitioner, shares an insight into her role with The Hospice Charity Partnership.
My role as a Children’s Therapeutic Practitioner is to support children and young people through their grief after losing a loved one. As well as this, we also work with young people and their families when sadly a family member has a life-limiting illness. I have been in this role at Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice for three years now and my colleague Sally Roberts has been with us for over a year.
Our job is very varied and every day is different – we work therapeutically with children and try to work creatively to ensure they get the most out of their sessions with us. Each session is different, depending on the children’s needs. For example, a younger child may not have the language to express their emotions, so we give them access to creative ways to express their feelings, such as a big piece of paper and loads of different materials or developing a book together which helps them create a narrative of their story, maybe painting their grief and asking them what it looks like, what colour is it and what it feels like.
We are lucky to have well-resourced and comfortable rooms where we can reassure our young people that it’s a safe and confidential space for them to explore their feelings in a non-judgmental environment. We also see children in school or at home if this suits the family better, we try to be as flexible as possible.
We spend time supporting parents who are trying to navigate through challenging times, as a carer, dealing with their children’s emotions and everything else in-between.”
Something Sally and I are really passionate about, is the pre-bereavement work that we do with our families, who are unfortunately living with someone who is going to die from their illness/condition.
We offer some lovely memory-making activities such as hand casts, memory boxes and recordable devices that then go into a teddy bear. We are advocates for honesty with children. Naturally, as we all know, we just want to protect children from really sad news, but part of our job is to reassure families that children can deal with sad news. They are so much more resilient than we realise and the most important part of letting them be part of it is that it gives them time to process the news, ask questions and spend valuable time with their loved one – making memories.
Children need honesty and as long as they have support from loved ones, school (and professional if needed) they WILL cope.
Hiding things from a child will make them feel insecure and fearful and their imagination is sometimes scarier than the reality so we try to reassure and empower parents.”
We have just finished facilitating a peer support group for children who have lost a loved one. We held this over a period of eight weeks and our hope is to continue to run more. We would also like to run pre-bereavement groups in the future giving young people an opportunity to talk with others in similar situations.
Another exciting plan is to extend our services to the wider community as we recognise, particularly with COVID, that there is a massive need for bereavement support for young people.
Sally and I are really excited for the future since The Hospice Charity Partnership formed. We are about to introduce two more Children’s Therapeutic Practitioners to our team which is amazing and will give us the opportunity to grow and develop further as a service.
Our goals for 2022
I absolutely love my job! So, my personal goal is to continue doing my job and impacting positively on the young people I see, and support them through the toughest time in their life. My goal for the service is to grow and develop with the additional staff, plus the future plans we have will impact even further on young people in the city who require this vital service.
We will also re-establish our memory event, A Little Time To Remember, which have been really successful in the past. These events involve young people coming together to celebrate the lives of their loved ones who have passed, share memories, laugh and cry, make friends and go home with something special that they have made. We have received wonderful feedback in the past for such events.
Thank you Samantha for sharing more about the brilliant work your team do! Be sure to stay tuned for more upcoming Staff Spotlights to find out more about the amazing people behind our charity.