JANE Tomlinson's three children's long-held wish that their inspirational mother's legacy could be used to help other grieving youngsters is to be fulfilled.
The Jane Tomlinson Appeal has launched a new service based in Leeds to offer free support to children struggling with grief after losing a loved one.
OWLS (Overcoming Worry, Loss and Sadness) will offer help to youngsters aged four to 11 who have lost a parent, sibling or other significant loved one.
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The Jane Tomlinson Appeal is the legacy of the late Jane Tomlinson CBE, who made headlines worldwide when she completed a series of seemingly impossible challenges after being diagnosed with incurable cancer and given just six months to live.
After raising almost £2m for charity, Jane, from Rothwell, died aged 43 in 2007, leaving three children, Suzanne, Rebecca and Steven.
Steven was just 10 when his mum died.
Based in Leeds, the new service will offer practical and emotional advice and support for families, schools workshops, activity days where children can meet others affected by bereavement and one to one child psychotherapy for those most severely affected.
Rebecca Tomlinson said: “Having lost our mum, we understand all too clearly the impact bereavement can have on children and young people.
“We’ve wanted to be able to do something to help for a long time so to be able to finally launch the OWLS service is a really proud day for us all.
“No child experiences grief in the same way; even brothers and sisters can cope differently. It can have a real impact, leaving children feeling anxious, sad and even angry.
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“On top of all these feelings, there is a real chance, because of their change of circumstances, they might also have to move home or school – causing further upset.
“All of these things can, understandably, have a real impact on a child’s mental health and behaviour.”
Statistics show that adults who experience a bereavement in childhood are also more likely to experience problems in later life; they are more likely to suffer unemployment, have problems with substance abuse and are more likely to be involved in the criminal justice system.
Rebecca added: “With OWLS, we want to reach children when they need it most and when we can hopefully make the most difference.”
Figures show that a parent of children under 18 dies every 22 minutes in the UK; around 23,600 a year. This equates to around 111 children being bereaved of a parent every day.
One in 29 schoolchildren has been bereaved of a parent or sibling – that’s a child in every class.
In Leeds alone around 260 parents die each year.
The Jane Tomlinson Appeal identified a gap in bereavement support services in the Leeds area, especially those aimed at primary school children.
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The free service is now open for referrals, which can be made by a carer, health professional, teacher or anyone else close to the child. There is no need to go via a GP or health visitor.
For more information go to https://www.janetomlinsonappeal.com/owls
Anyone who would like to donate to the service or would like to find out more about fundraising opportunities can go to www.janetomlinsonappeal.com/donate
OWLS is looking for volunteers to support children on the peer activity days. Volunteers will be given training and support.
Anyone interested is asked to contact the service via email@example.com