A day in the life of Child Bereavement UK helpline

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Reading this moving blog post by our member, Child Bereavement UK, emphasises how vital helplines are in providing immediate support at the very time of need.

Child Bereavement UK has 21 years’ experience in supporting families and educating professionals when a baby or child of any age dies or is dying, or when a child is facing bereavement. Their helpline provides confidential support, information and guidance to families and professionals. Professionally trained bereavement support workers are available to take calls and respond to emails Monday-Friday (9am-5pm). The Support and Information team provide:

  • A confidential listening service
  • Advice, guidance and information on a wide range of topics
  • Signposting to other local and national organisations which may be able to offer further support specific to individual needs

Elizabeth Lawman shares with us her day-to-day experience of taking calls:

The complications that bereavement brings to people's lives are huge, and it is often quite moving to hear how someone has been struggling to manage alone or with little support from friends and family. But when I am taking calls, I have to remember that it's their sadness, not mine.

I am always aware of how hard it may have been for a caller to ring us. Through the call, they can change from being hardly able to speak, to relaxing and even bringing in some humour, indicating that they are feeling some relief.

Bereavement can be a great leveller, and it is important to know that you can reach out to another human being when you may have lost a child, or may be supporting children at a desperately unhappy time in their lives. Sometimes I have calls within an hour of a death, and there are times when I speak to someone 20 years after bereavement.

Frequently, I receive calls from people who aren't sure how they are going to handle things when someone dies. They often want to feel they are doing their best for the children involved and they may be feeling overwhelmed.

It may be a call from a grandparent, calling from the hospital because they don't know what they are going to say to their grandchildren whose parent is very sick. They are about to lose their own adult child but also have to focus on caring for their grandchildren. Depending on where they live, we may be able to support the family directly as time goes on, or I can search for a service that is more local to them.

Sometimes it is a call from a grieving parent who has to break sad news to their children when they come home from school. They don't know how they are going to manage something they never imagined they would have to face, and they feel very pressured and unprepared. I can talk through a plan with them and offer some guidelines, so that they can feel reassured and more confident to face these difficult conversations.

Families can be under a great deal of strain managing a child's grief when they themselves are feeling exhausted. Behaviour at home and in school can become challenging. Bed times and sleep may be particularly difficult and I can talk through options and resources to help them feel more in control of things that seem unmanageable.

Providing confidential support, information and guidance to professionals supporting bereaved families is also an important part of my role. We often get positive feedback from professionals using the helpline such as the following:

“I just wanted to thank you for the invaluable advice I have just received over the phone. I have been in contact with your organisation previously and on both occasions received the help I was seeking to be able to support my own clients and their families.”
Certified Play Therapist

Child Bereavement UK's Support & Information Line: 0800 02 888 40
Open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.

Visit Child Bereavement UK website

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