A Helpline for all those affected by the death of a child

To lose a child is the most terrifying and devastating experience any parent has to bear and in the UK alone 12,000 children under 19 die each year. Thousands more young adults in their twenties and thirties also die and grief is no less intense for the surviving parent(s) of an “adult child” of any age.

The affect of the death of a child upon all members of the family may be far reaching and life long with many others not of the immediate family also badly affected eg:- school friends, teachers and emergency services staff

The Child Death Helpline is a partnership between professionals and trained volunteers, virtually all of whom are bereaved parents, who offer befriending and emotional support to others who have suffered a similar experience.

The following comment was made by a bereaved parent who wished to express her thanks to the organisation for the befriending and support she had received:

“The Child Death Helpline offered a pocket of time and a climate of safety that was entirely for me. It was my opportunity to talk openly about my son’s life and death. I needed to continue to talk about my son and to express the raw powerful emotions that would overwhelm me unexpectedly. I felt weighted down. How was I going to cope? During Child Death Helpline conversations I did not feel that I had to edit my conversation or worry what the person listening may be thinking. Being able to identity with someone who recognised, accepted and reassured me that what I was going through was normal, gave me hope that I would myself one day gradually move away from the raw emotions and feelings of despair that I was experiencing. I cannot imagine sharing my experience or feeling so accepted by a non bereaved parent.”

The common link between volunteer and caller is the feeling surrounding the separation of parent and child. 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 fall within the normal range. Anger, guilt, remorse and regret can torment the bereaved parent. Many fear that they may be going mad.

It is very comforting to talk, have a good cry, and describe the worries and the emotions that can wash over them, or return unexpectedly after many years around the time of a birthday or anniversary. Grief is not rational and imposes enormous pressures both on individuals and family units. It is unrealistic to expect families to return to normal when it seems their lives have been shattered. They have lost the future and the past. Their hopes and dreams have been snatched from them. The thought of never seeing, holding or talking to their child again is almost unbearable.

The Child Death Helpline operates jointly from Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, and the Alder Centre in Liverpool.

The Child Death Helpline is staffed 7 nights a weeks from 7pm to 10pm and on Monday, Wednesday and Friday every week from lOam to 1pm and the number is:

Freephone 0860 282986

We do hope this information will be beneficial to any person affected by the death of a child with whom you come into contact. If you would like more information or literature concerning the work of the Child Death Helpline, or would like someone to talk to a group of colleagues about any aspect of our work which you may feel would benefit you within your professional area, please contact:
The Bereavement Services Dept
Great Ormond Street Hospital
Great Ormond Street
London
WC1N3JH
Tel: 0207 813 8551
Fax: 0207 813 8516

Email: Child Death Helpline

or contact

The Alder Centre
Alder Hey Children’s Hospital
Eaton Road
Liverpool
L12 2AP
Tel: 0151-252 5391
Fax: 0151 252 5513.

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