At Jessie May we know that loss can start even before diagnosis; when parents realise that maybe something ‘is not right’ with their child, and continues all through their child’s life and after their death. This is why our Bereavement Support Service is available for parents when their child is accepted onto our caseload and for up to five years after their child has died.
Our Jessie May Nurses have training in listening skills and supporting parents. So although they are not trained counsellors, they are experienced in offering emotional support and providing a listening ear. Our parents have told us that often they prefer to be supported by the nurses who visit their children and who they have got to know over time. Our nurses can arrange support visits or offer support over the telephone.
At other times, parents might want to think about what will happen when their child reaches the end of life stage and consider their wishes at this time. They may also want to think about their child’s end of life care plan or funeral planning. We are able to offer families memory boxes and memory bears to collect memories of their child’s life if they wish.
After a child dies, we are still there for parents for up to five years; for as often or as little as parents need. We have specially trained and experienced nurses who facilitate a parents’ bereavement support group called the “Purple Group” which meets five times a year, where parents can meet for mutual support and understanding. The group, which was founded by one of Jessie May’s bereaved mums, meets over a lunchtime or early evening period and refreshments are always provided. The group is led by parents, but supported by Jessie May Nurses. The group enables parents to meet others who have had similar experiences. There is no fixed agenda, so parents can come and talk about whatever they want to on the day.
“I found it very helpful to speak about the loss of my child without the need to go into great detail. I knew the other parents understood. I wish that more bereaved parents could access a group like the Purple Group”
Anniversaries can be a difficult time for bereaved families. At Jessie May, we remember every child on their birthday and anniversary by sending a card to the child’s family to let them know we are thinking of them and remembering their child.
“Thank you very much for sending out the birthday anniversary cards – it’s Charlie’s birthday today and it always touches me when I open the Jessie May card”
If parents wish, we will continue to invite bereaved families to our Christmas Party. Although this can be very hard to attend without their child, many parents have found they have appreciated being able to meet up with the families and Jessie May staff they got to know again. The party also gives siblings a wonderful opportunity to let off steam with other children they have met through Jessie May.
Jessie May recognises that Christmas can be difficult for many families, so in December 2013, we held the first ever ‘Tree of Light Celebration’ at Cotham Parish Church. It has grown into a wonderful opportunity for every one of our families to come together as an act of remembrance and celebration of all of our Jessie May Children. The evening consists of a non-denominational, but spiritual service, with readings, music and singing. A star with the name of every child on the Jessie May caseload who has died is put on the Tree of Light and those present have the opportunity to hang a star on the tree to remember their child or a loved one. The Celebration is also attended by Jessie May Nurses and Staff, along with Trustees and supporters.
Every family who Jessie May has supported since 1996 will continue to be invited if they wish.
“Going to the Tree of Light Celebration was scary, as the pain at Christmas time of losing my son is so hard. The ceremony is amazing and beautiful; and it helped being in the company of other people who have lost a child. I left the ceremony with a warm content feeling at the Jessie May staff are always amazing and go above and beyond to help any member of our family or friends who attend, to feel peaceful.
The Tree of Light is now a tradition that I will go to and take my other children to remember our lost star.”
Throughout the five-year period, we continually review the level of support we offer to meet the needs of individual parents. If any parents choose not to receive bereavement support from Jessie May initially, the invitation to use the bereavement service remains open, should they wish to make contact at a later stage. Parents may also opt out of our Bereavement Support Service or receiving cards at any time during the five-year period, if they wish to do so.
For more information about our Bereavement Support Service why not download our Bereavement Support Service Leaflet.