Guy’s Gift delivers bereavement support for children and young people throughout Warwickshire. Our early intervention service is open to 5 to 18 year olds and tackles a range of emotional concerns, preventing them from escalating and also helping individuals to achieve their potential and continue their lives in a meaningful way.
Since the start of our work, in 2009, we have gone from being a pilot scheme, to a fully fledged bereavement service, helping hundreds of children and young people across the county. We take the approach that by helping the child, we are helping the family as a whole.
Our aim is to help children and young people through the grieving process in a safe, supportive and educational environment by increasing a child’s knowledge and understanding of death; increasing awareness and understanding of the grieving process; providing strategies for coping, and promoting open communication within the family and with peers.
Our small, professional team of 5 includes 3 counsellors, who are helped by more than 20 trained volunteers. We draw on a range of specialist skills to provide support options to help children, young people and their families.
Once an initial referral is made to us, we work with the child and their parents to put together a tailored programme of support. This could include involvement in group sessions, a series of one-to-one counselling sessions (usually 6, but sometimes more), or more likely a combination of the two. Each group therapy programmes currently takes place at locations in Rugby, Kenilworth and Stratford. Sessions are planned around specific therapeutic themes. The overall aim is to provide a time for reflection, to reduce feelings of isolation, therefore building self-esteem, encouraging self-help and mutual support, and enabling disadvantaged young people to achieve their potential. Both one-to-one and group sessions include time to have fun and for creative activities, as well as time to focus and work through more painful issues.
We recognise that families experiencing emotional bereavement-related stress are not always able to travel to appointments. This is why Guy’s Gift has no fixed base and we visit children and families in a wide variety of community venues (including schools) or their homes for one-to-one sessions.
We tackle many problems that bereaved children and young people face, including grief; low self-esteem; lack of confidence; isolation; deterioration in school work, concentration, behaviour and poor school attendance; disturbed sleep; separation anxiety; aggression; loss of purpose in life. In extreme situations this can lead to exclusion from mainstream school, self harm, substance abuse, anti-social behaviour, criminal activity and diminished life opportunities.
We don’t stop supporting a child just because a series of therapy sessions has come to an end. We will support each and every child until they have reached a point where our intervention is no longer needed.
Whilst helping children and young people through a bereavement, we understand that parents and carers need support too – to reassure them that they are doing all they can to help their child. As well as therapy sessions for children and young people, we also run a parents’ support group.
Family Days and Lanterns Walks for the whole family are annual Guy’s Gift events. They provide a great opportunity for bereaved families to come together, meet and talk to others in a similar situation, ask questions, remember the person that has died and even come away with new friends who can support each other at a difficult time.
We have a telephone helpline that is available to parents, carers and other professionals, such as teaching staff, who may come into contact with bereaved children and young people through their work. Anyone is welcome to call the helpline, either for advice or to refer a child to us for support. From quick questions, to more in depth conversations, we’re aware that the helpline can often give much needed reassurance to those who call.