Children’s Hospice Week began this week – a national awareness week which takes place annually in support of the unique range of services organisations such as ellenor can offer to young people. This covers everything from a full hospice at home service providing oncology, palliative care and end of life care for children facing life-limiting illnesses, a full hospice at home service providing oncology and end of life care within the home, to counselling for young people who have been bereaved.
Please read below to hear the story of one family’s experience and the support that helped them to carry on. Here they spoke to the Turnball family to find out how the younger members in particular, were supported by ellenor following the death of their mother.
Shona Turnbull, wife of Andrew and mother of Maxwell and Lucas, was unexpectedly diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014 and passed away 18 months later in ellenor hospice, Gravesend.
Knowing ellenor could give her and her family the support they needed, Shona chose to spend her final moments with ellenor. Maxwell was aged five when she died, Lucas eighteen months. Andrew was left not only coping with his own grief, but trying to handle the impact his wife’s death was having on the children. From the very start, the support was there. He recalls “The afternoon Shona passed away, the ellenor palliative care team had suggested that when other family members were saying a final goodbye to Shona at the hospice, the children should share this moment. At first I thought it was an utterly ridiculous idea, but on talking it through with the team, I realised it would help give the boys a sense of closure and help them understand that she wasn’t coming home. They were able to see their mum looking so peaceful, and know that she had died under the care of ellenor, looked after with full dignity and compassion.
“I realised it would help give the boys a sense of closure. For us as a family, it was the right thing to do. ellenor staff enabled us all to understand that Shona was peaceful and that she had died” – Andrew.
Over the next five years, ellenor continued to support the Turnbull family, offering Andrew counselling and advice as their lives unfolded without Shona. Play therapy was available for both of the boys as well as the provision of days out with other grieving children, and Maxwell was of the age to benefit from counselling sessions. Through ellenor’s services, Maxwell was able to meet other children who were going through similar emotions and who wanted to talk about their parents.
ellenor’s Children’s Team worked closely with Maxwell to help him open up about his grief, overcome his anger and learn to heal. Play therapist Jolanta helped him create a safe place for his grief, to develop coping strategies and to learn how to move on at his own pace.
“With ellenor’s support, Maxwell is in a really good place today. The hospice has been fantastic to him in so many ways and to us as a family.”
Maxwell is now a happy, settled boy. Having seen the benefit of ellenor’s care for Maxwell, Andrew is now turning to ellenor for play therapy for Lucas who, at six years old, is now able to process the loss of his mother.
“ellenor helped us feel less alone, understood. If your children are facing the loss of a loved one, be as proactive as you can and consider counselling services – for you and the kids. I went through all the stages of grief and ellenor helped me understand that my emotions were natural and it being unfair, was very much ok to say. This in turn helped me to support my children”. Advice from Andrew.
ellenor are here to support when you need it. Call us on 01474 320007 or check out https://ellenor.org/childrens-hospice-care