When a child is diagnosed with a terminal illness, everyone in the family is affected. The stress of frequent hospital visits, gruelling treatments and the other harsh realities of dealing with terminal illness can take a major toll on family life. That includes brothers and sisters, who can find it upsetting seeing their sibling’s health declining as their illness progresses and the impact it has on the whole family.
At Helen & Douglas House, we’re here to help the whole family at this desperately sad time. We know that young people can be worried about discussing their fears with their parents because they don’t want to add to their concerns. This can make them feel anxious and alone. We provide a supportive, non-judgemental place where they can talk about what they’re going through with people who understand.
Giving brothers and sisters the support they need
We’re here to offer emotional support to the brothers and sisters of Helen & Douglas House patients. We provide one-to-one support at home or school, as well as group support with other children their own age. We organise lots of individual and group activities so that they don’t feel isolated. It’s a great way for them to make new friends and share their feelings and stories with other children who know what it’s like to have a brother or sister who’s terminally ill.
‘We get to talk quite seriously about how we feel at the moment, speaking about our feelings, and what life’s like at home. You get to bond with other people and you get to know generally, what it’s like for others to cope with a brother or sister who’s ill. It’s also great to be friends. The Elephant Club supports me on a major scale and when I come to the group meetings it really helps me in everyday life.’ Andrew
From their brother or sister’s first stay with us right through to bereavement, we’re here to offer one-to-one emotional support to siblings of Helen & Douglas House patients. We can visit them at home or school, or they can come to the hospice. These counselling sessions give them the chance to talk openly about their feelings with a trained Sibling Support Worker, with therapeutic play used to support discussion.
“I was really shy about talking about my sister before I started going to The Elephant Club. I didn’t want to talk that much about it. But the more sessions I had I got really into it and they’ve really helped me open up and explain more about it. It’s easier to open up because there are people who aren’t related to you, so it’s easier to talk to them. The Elephant Club gives me more confidence about talking about my sister to other people….and they understand here.” Chloe
We have two support groups for the brothers and sisters of our patients: The Elephant Club for young siblings aged 6 to 11 years old, and Sibs, an adolescent sibling group for those aged 12 to 17 years old.
Both groups are here to give siblings a place to think and talk about their experiences in a structured way, in the company of children their own age who are going through similar situations. This helps them feel listened to and understood, as well as giving them ways of coping. Fun activities such as games, art and crafts, treasure hunts and outings also give them the chance to switch off and make new friends.