Helpline launch by Havens Hospices to Support Adults and Children Facing Bereavement

Adults and children across Essex facing bereavement during the Coronavirus pandemic are being offered expert support thanks to a new initiative by Havens Hospices.

The charity – which is based in Southend but cares for children and young adults from across the county – has partnered with the Southend, and Castle Point and Rochford Clinical Commission Groups (CCGs) to secure funding, establishing the Coronavirus Crisis Bereavement Line – 01702 220 321.

The telephone support service – open seven days a week, 9am-6pm – will be staffed by trained counsellors and bereavement workers and will offer a listening ear, emotional support and signposting for adults and children who are bereaved either directly or indirectly as a result of the Coronavirus. For example if a loved one died of other causes but the family were unable to say goodbye due to visiting restrictions.

The aim is to offer ad-hoc, ‘in the moment’ support for people feeling at crisis point in their grief. For children who are struggling with the death of a loved one, they will be offered more structured sessions and activities over the telephone or Zoom videocalls. Longer-term support and recovery can be scheduled once face-to-face support groups and counselling sessions are allowed.

The team will also work with other charities and organisations that could offer more appropriate intervention.

Head of Wellbeing at Havens Hospices Chanelle Wilson says, “Before the Coronavirus outbreak, we were already reviewing bereavement services within the county. We know there were people not getting the right support, maybe because of long waiting times or strict referral criteria. It can be difficult to navigate the system, especially as there’s little coordination. Paper-based bereavement directories go out of date very quickly. So we knew what needed to be done, and the Coronavirus has speeded up the process and is allowing us to see if this kind of intervention support helps people to cope until a longer-term offer can be found.

“We are expecting to see an unprecedented increase of people requiring bereavement support, either as a direct or indirect result of the Coronavirus. Beforehand, you could sit by the side of someone dying and hold their hand. If they were in a hospice or at home, there’s no limit to the amount of visitors someone can have. Once they’d died, family and friends could offer an immediate support network, to visit and have personal contact like hugging.

“With social distancing and visiting restrictions, this can’t happen. Funerals are even limited which makes saying goodbye even harder. Rules may be relaxed but they’re far from ‘normal.’ So it’s inevitable that there will be an increase in people experiencing poor mental health and wellbeing through being bereaved during this period.”

The charity initially had to cut back on its Wellbeing Service because of a lack of funding. Income dropped dramatically and difficult decisions had to be made on what care could be offered, with the focus on essential frontline care for patients at the end of their life, and opening more beds at both Fair Havens and Little Havens to alleviate pressure on the NHS. This funding from the CCG means the Wellbeing’s Bereavement Team can be re-established to help meet the need and offer support to people across Essex facing bereavement during these most extraordinary times.

To contact the Coronavirus Crisis Bereavement Line, call 01702 220 321 seven days a week, 9am-6pm or email our Wellbeing Team.

If anyone is experiencing a physical or extreme emotional reaction due to grief, please call your GP or 111.

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