The therapeutic support group, Headspace, is a seven-week programme run by Little Havens’ Wellbeing Team for children who have experienced the death of a loved one at Havens Hospices. It empowers them to explore the impact of their loss and process their grief through art, mindfulness and play.
During one of their sessions, the children talked about their ‘special person’ and how they feel when they think about them. They were then given the freedom to decorate a baby elephant sculpture however they wanted. The sculpture will then form part of a mini-herd for the Herd In The City free public art trail, coming to Southend-on-Sea, Leigh-on-Sea and Shoeburyness in summer 2023, raising money for Havens Hospices.
Many of the children, ranging from the age of 6-8, said they felt sad and angry when they thought about the death of their loved one and felt blue best demonstrated the colour for sad and red was angry. Others chose colours that remind them of their special person, with one section being described as ‘a galaxy of feelings’ because ‘there were so many feelings and they all mixed together’.
As part of the session, the children also looked at a calming dragon breathing technique and decorated scream boxes – boxes they can scream into so they can release some of the emotions that build up inside them.
Once dried, the children shared what they had created with their parents and grandparents to stimulate conversation about grief – the ‘elephant in the room’. The children and adults then added some words to the elephant using paint pens to create a collaborative final elephant.
Art and creative therapy are valuable tools to help children express thoughts and feelings that can be too hard to verbalise. Creative techniques like painting open up conversations with children and often evoke memories of their loved one who has died.
Alongside the children’s group, Little Havens offers the opportunity for parents, carers and grandparents to attend an adult support group where they can come together through their shared experience of bereavement. The safe space allows them to discuss their feelings with others in a similar position and get practical support and advice from trained counsellors to help support themselves and their children throughout bereavement.
Havens Hospices includes Fair Havens in Southend, and Little Havens, the children’s hospice for Essex based in Benfleet. The care provided by the charity is completely free of charge, thanks to the generosity of individuals and groups, raising money and making donations.
Community projects, youth groups and schools still have the unforgettable opportunity to sign up for a baby elephant as part of The Herd In The City’s Learning Programme, sponsored by Rickard Luckin.
Published on Thursday 18th August 2022