Families and carers of children who have been supported by HOLG are invited to share their experiences of death and grief at the HOLG Bereavement Café.
Opened in autumn 2021, the café was set up to offer ongoing care to families either prior to, or after attending one of our bereavement weekends and is a place to connect and find mutual support with others who are also grieving.
Set up during Covid, the café began life as an online event, to offer the support virtually rather than not at all, but it is now a real-life event, taking place at Hartlip Village Hall on Saturday mornings.
When they arrive, our families are greeted by HOLG Parent/Carer Facilitator Dawn Bradley and a colleague who will work with her on the day to look after our group.
Guests introduce themselves, sharing their stories of bereavement, and how they are managing before going on to talk freely as a group about their experiences.
Visitors can expect a warm, friendly welcome and a find a safe place to talk about their own loved ones and also hear about others’, share happy memories, discuss what they are finding hard and shed tears if they need to.
Children aged 5+ are welcome along too, and enjoy painting, sticking, gluing, colouring and all sorts of creative arts and crafts. They’re fully supervised and looked after by our activities volunteers in a room next door to our adult guests, giving them the opportunity to speak openly without distraction, but to also not have childcare preventing them from coming.
Children also have the option to speak to one of the team if they would like to, or if their parent or carer would like us to.
Although not a counselling service, the café is a wonderful opportunity for anyone struggling with grief to talk to others who understand what they are going through and support each other. Many families who have met at the café have gone on to set up their own WhatsApp support groups, continuing friendships and meeting up again.
Our Clinical Lead Debbie McSwiney, one of our charity’s original founders who has set the café up with her team, said: “Supporting a child through a bereavement is difficult for anyone, but especially within a family unit when the grown-up was also close to the person who has died.
“It’s important for anybody who is grieving to have the opportunity to air their own feelings and express their emotions, whether happy or sad. That’s why we introduced the Bereavement Café; talking to others who know just what you’re going through can help you to work through your grief and help you feel that you are not alone.
“An adult who feels supported and understood will feel much more able to support their bereaved child, while maintaining their own wellbeing.”
One parent who attended the café said: “This has really helped me so much – I’ve been able to talk to others who have had similar experiences, without worrying about getting upset.”
Another parent who has visited twice, said, “It has really helped my son today to meet other children who have been on the weekend programme; he can look forward to his turn as he now knows what to expect.”
Our next Bereavement Café is on Saturday 24th June and is by invitation only – for families who have been or are due to come on our specialist bereavement support weekends.
If you have been supported by HOLG, or your child is due to come for a bereavement weekend and you would be interested in attending the café on this or a later date, please contact Dawn to let her know:
Dawn.Bradley@holg.org.uk or 07568 706726 – including your name, location and contact details. She will be in touch soon after.
If you would like to find out how we can help you if you are recently bereaved, or need support for a past bereavement, even if it was several years ago, please make a referral to us here.
Our services are free and you can refer yourself, or ask a friend or professional to do it for you. Do get in touch via email or phone if you would like to speak to us before making a referral – we can answer any question for you.
03445 611 511