How Marie Curie Hospices help bereaved adults and children

During Hospice Care Week, we’ve been looking at the different ways Marie Curie Hospices help terminally ill people and their families. Today, we take a look at bereavement support for adults and children.

Charly Hutson: Marie Curie will develop its bereavement support
Charly Hutson: Marie Curie will develop its bereavement support

“We stayed with Mum while she was in the hospice and the bereavement counsellor spent some time with me each day,” says Wendy Stamp, whose mother was cared for at the Marie Curie Hospice, Cardiff and the Vale.

“I was Mum’s main carer and I’d had to be strong for so long. It was great to talk to someone about it and have a good old cry. They also offered their services after Mum had passed away. There was something intuitive about it – they knew when to offer support.”

The Patient and Family Support Teams at Marie Curie Hospices offer emotional and practical support to lots of bereaved people such as Wendy every year. Those teams, made up of social workers, chaplains and bereavement specialists, have a very important role to play because if bereaved people don’t get proper support, their long-term health and wellbeing can suffer.

High demand

“There’s evidence that bereavement is associated with excess risk of mortality, increased use of mental health services and subsequent worse mental and physical health,” says Charly Hutson, Marie Curie’s Strategic Lead for Bereavement. “We also know that demand is high – a Dying Matters survey showed that three-quarters of respondents who had been bereaved said they did not get the support they needed.”

Anyone, adult or child, who is close to someone who is being, or was, cared for at a Marie Curie Hospice can access bereavement support.

That support often starts before the person being cared for dies: the teams build up a relationship with their friends and family so that, when death occurs, trust and familiarity is already in place. An offer of bereavement support is also made to loved ones six weeks after someone dies.

Individual and group support

“Our support takes difference guises, depending on what the person needs,” says Charly. "This can range from being given advice and support to normalise their grief, to one-to-one bereavement support, to group work.

“Group set-up can differ depending on need; some are structured and people join a group for a set time, or they can be drop-in groups where people talk about the issues they are experiencing. Then there are befriending sessions where people meet for a chat and a coffee.”

Children and families

The teams also offer child bereavement support, recognising that that children need specialist help. This can include one-to-one sessions or informal group meetings of bereaved young people. Family group support, where the whole family are invited to receive support together, can include activities like pillowcase decorating, where each person adds hand prints, pictures or words that evoke special memories.

While Marie Curie does lots of good work to help bereaved people, the charity knows that it needs to reach more people. So, as part of its five-year strategic plan, Marie Curie is looking at ways to develop its bereavement services.

“We are looking for ways to stretch to meet the demand that we know is there,” says Charly.