To lose a child is the most devastating experience any parent has to face. The effects of the death upon all members of the family and many others beyond the immediate family are far reaching. The Child Death Helpline is open every day of the year on Freephone 0800 282 986 and can help anyone affected by the death of a child.
Christmas and other anniversaries present some of the biggest challenges to bereaved families. At this time of year everywhere there are reminders of what has been lost and questions that cannot be answered. Simple questions from strangers such as “who are you celebrating Christmas with?” or “how many are you cooking for?” bring a reminder of the devastation.
Friends don’t know what to write in Christmas cards to bereaved families, so may not send cards. They may not invite bereaved families to New Year’s Eve parties for fear of upsetting them, or for that matter, being upset themselves.
The Child Death Helpline is a national, Freephone Helpline open every evening Monday to Sunday 7pm. - 10pm, Monday - Friday mornings 10am - 1pm and Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons 1pm - 4pm. Staffed by trained bereaved parents, the Helpline is for parents and indeed anybody affected by the death of a child of any age including adults, under any circumstances.
What does the Child Death Helpline do? First and foremost, volunteers listen. Often, in the first weeks and months following their child’s death, many bereaved parents feel they cannot continue to burden others with the way they feel. They find it very beneficial to talk to someone who is impartial, has some understanding of their day-to-day struggle, and recognises their need to re-tell the story of their child’s death.
The circumstances surrounding the death of a child are many and varied. Every story is unique. The common link is the feelings that surround the separation of parent and child. The volunteers know that they cannot take away the caller’s pain, or say, “I know exactly how you feel”, because each parent’s grief is different. Volunteers do not try to tell people what to do or to offer solutions.
However, the volunteer can offer the often much needed and appreciated opportunity to express. Many callers feel that they are going mad and have difficulty eating and sleeping. Grief is not rational, it makes people feel vulnerable, anxious and unable to function normally or make decisions. Often, relationships within the family become strained and misunderstandings can develop.
Because Child Death Helpline volunteers have experienced these feelings and difficulties themselves, it enables them to reassure callers that the physical and emotional feelings they are experiencing generally can be regarded as “normal”.
It is unrealistic to expect families to return to normal when it seems their lives have been shattered. The thought of never seeing, holding or talking to their child again is almost unbearable. Their hopes and dreams have been snatched from them.
GOSH-ICH Press Office: 020 7239 3125
For genuine and urgent out of hours call speak to switchboard on 020 7405 9200