A local family whose child received bereavement counselling at St. Luke’s Hospice has praised the charity, as they encourage the local community to show their support.

Tracy Foot, 36, from Laindon, contacted St. Luke’s Hospice after her daughter Ivy struggled with sleep and anxiety at night following the death of her grandad, Marc.

Marc, who was 58 years old, died suddenly of a heart attack in the middle of the night. Ivy, who was just 7 years old at the time, had been staying over at her grandparent’s house that night.

Tracy is sharing her experience of the Luke’s Counselling and Bereavement Support for Children and Young People (Luke’s) service, which offers confidential support from qualified professionals to those who are bereaved – or who may be anticipating the death of a loved one – aged between 4 and 19 years old.

Luke’s is one of the many important services provided by St. Luke’s Hospice to support its local community.

Tracy explains:

“Ivy had such a wonderful relationship with her grandad, Marc. Every weekend she would look forward to staying over at her grandparents’ house with her dad. They enjoyed going into town together on a Saturday to get grandad a coffee, and he shared his love of motorcycles with Ivy from a young age.

“In May 2021, Ivy’s grandad died of a heart attack in the middle of the night. He was just 58 years old. It was unexpected and sudden.

“Ivy wouldn’t talk to anyone about him or what had happened. Soon after losing her grandad, Ivy began finding it hard to sleep in her own bed, if she could sleep properly at all. She was extremely anxious at night, worrying about what would happen when she closed her eyes and if I would still be there when she woke up. She would need constant reassurance and to hear noise from the TV to know that I was still there.

“I confided in a colleague at the school where I work, who suggested I get in touch with St. Luke’s Hospice. I knew of the Hospice but I didn’t realise they offered support and counselling for children and young people dealing with any kind of bereavement.

“Shortly after getting in touch, Ivy began with one to one sessions with a Family Support Worker for six weeks. She also did a course of one to one counselling in the form of Art Psychotherapy, allowing her to be creative and express her emotions through different activities. She would draw, make and play with the therapist while talking about her grandad, which worked perfectly for her.

“As well as one to one counselling, Ivy also attended a group counselling session in the summer holidays where she met other children who had been bereaved and supported by Luke’s. They made memory boxes and talked. Ivy says she finally found other children who knew how it felt to lose someone close.

“Since Ivy has been supported by the Luke’s team she is now sleeping much better. She’s able to sleep in her own room without shouting out and worrying constantly. Ivy still has good and bad days and goes through phases where she needs more reassurance from me, but counselling has helped her manage and deal with her emotions better. I feel reassured knowing that Ivy is getting the help she needs and I trust the Luke’s team fully.

“At the end of Ivy’s Art Psychotherapy sessions the therapist gave Ivy a choice – she could keep everything she made or destroy it. That simple choice gave Ivy control of her own emotions, as her feelings at that time were in everything she had made. Ivy chose to keep it all.

“The Luke’s counselling service is one of so many incredible services that St. Luke’s Hospice provides.

We’re so lucky to have this charity working for our local community and I hope we can give something back and support St. Luke’s Hospice, so that children and young people like Ivy continue to get the support they need, when they need it.”