Helping teens cope with grief

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A pioneering service supports teenagers going through bereavement and family illness. Catherine Scott reports.

Lauren Houghton, 12, is learning to cope with long-term family illness and bereavement thanks to a unique charity partnership funded by businesses.

A gap in support for pre-teens and teenagers, identified by St Luke’s Hospice, Sheffield, is now being catered for through a unique collaboration with youth charity Brathay Trust.

The Saturday morning Time 4 You project, based at Sheffield’s only hospice, is funded by money raised by the 2015 and 2016 Sheffield Master Cutler Challenge.

And 12-year-old Lauren, whose grandfather is a St Luke’s patient, is one of the first young people to benefit from the scheme.

“I love having something to look forward to at the weekend,” says Lauren, who has taken part in a number of activities, including craft sessions, all helping with her confidence and self-expression.

“The staff are really nice and helpful, they support me in my choices and decisions and we can have a laugh after sometimes a really hard week. It gives me the confidence to go into school and be like the other children there and make new friends.

“When my mum goes and visits my grandad in St Luke’s we both get time and space for ourselves. I think it helps mum to have some time with my grandad and I get a chance to have a fun couple of hours away 
as well.”

Brathay Trust youth worker Sophie Wardlow explained that while Lauren has a lot of support from her family she also needs to be with peers, who share similar experiences. The experience has also inspired Lauren to become one of St Luke’s youngest fundraisers.

The next year will see 15 young people benefit from the programme which will form part of a long term support service for 10 to 16-year-olds coping with family illness and bereavement.

Judith Park, Deputy Chief Executive at St Luke’s, commented: “At St Luke’s we care for people aged 18 and above who have terminal illnesses and their families. We can now extend this to much younger family members, something we couldn’t do before.

“They will have a place to share their experiences and to be themselves and they will get lots of support, be given coping strategies and be encouraged to feel positive about their lives.”