Hospice Care Week: “It’s not your sympathy we need but an audience”

During Hospice Care Week, we'll be taking a look at what goes on at Marie Curie's nine UK hospices. Today we're looking at how staff at the Marie Curie Hospice, West Midlands are working with a local theatre group to help children who have lost a loved one deal with their grief.

Parents can struggle to find the right way to talk about death and dying with their children, especially if it’s mum or dad who is dying. Ann Scanlon, child bereavement counsellor at our West Midlands hospice, sees this a lot in her work so set about finding the perfect platform to let children explore their grief.

Ann says, "I’m always surprised by children’s honesty when they talk about death but I frequently see children who haven’t been given a chance to talk about their grief. This summer I began working with the Hall Green Little Theatre Group in Birmingham to allow the children I work with to do just that.

"Many of the kids I work with experience the same issues: they aren’t given a voice in grief, they feel they need permission to have fun, they feel different from their friends who haven’t experienced grief, and their confidence and self-esteem is low.

"I wanted to offer the kids the chance to produce a play with other children from the theatre group to action these issues. The group responded really well to the idea, summed up best by one boy who said, “It’s not your sympathy we need but an audience”.

"Having rehearsed all summer the group performed the final showcase of songs, poems and devised pieces this weekend. The maturity this group has shown has been incredibly powerful. Having seen them come out of their shells and grow in confidence, it’s clear this has been a cathartic process for everyone involved and that using drama as form of therapy can be really effective for children."

A parent’s instinct is to protect their child, so a death, or imminent death, is hard to know how deal with. It is important to remember that there is no one right way to do it, it has to be right you and your family.

For more support and information on child bereavement issues, please call our Marie Curie Helpline (0800 090 2309, Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm) or visit our online community to talk to people in a similar situation.