Nelson’s Journey is a Norfolk charity providing a range of specialist bereavement support to children and young people living in the county who have experienced the death of a significant person in their life.  The team of child bereavement support workers (CBSWs) ensure the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people by assessing their bereavement needs and providing appropriate support and services.

The Childhood Bereavement Network currently estimate 1 in 29 school aged children are bereaved of a parent or sibling.  Nelson’s Journey provide support following the death of any significant person and therefore the number of children potentially seeking support from the charity is much higher.

Nelson’s Journey recently received a grant from the Birketts Fund to support the employment costs of a full time CBSW operating in west Norfolk.  Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the significant impact on the charity’s finances, a number of staff had been furloughed but the grant enabled the return of the CBSW to continue providing vital support.

The vulnerable children and young people supported by Nelson’s Journey display signs of psychological and emotional distress such as anger, obsessive thoughts or compulsions, anxiety, depression, change in eating habits, difficulties sleeping, regression and loss of interest in day to day routines such as attending school. Their support is preventative and aims to equip children and young people with coping strategies to process and cope with significant life events and challenges in the future.

Nelson’s Journey has between 500 – 600 open cases at any one time, whilst many are receiving direct support from a CBSW others are being supported by their guidance and information service which empowers the parent, carer or professional to support less complex bereavement needs.

Whilst Covid-19 restrictions have prevented face to face appointments from taking place, the funded CBSW was able to conduct assessments and deliver 1:1 support sessions via the telephone and online.  They were also able to provide resources (such as the Smiles & Tears smartphone app) and coping mechanisms for children that had experienced increased bereavement-related anxiety due to the pandemic, helping families struggling to cope with their child’s anxiety levels. Without the support of social networks such as school, children on the CBSW’s case load had often experienced heightened stress levels and challenging behaviours at home. The funded CBSW was able to start giving these children an outlet for their concerns and allow them to talk about their challenges and concerns.

The CBSW has kindly shared an insight into how a family has benefitted from their work.

“A parent of a child I’m now supporting had experienced the death of both maternal grandparents within three months of each other. One of the child’s grandparents, who lived with the family, died at the end of 2019 and the second died earlier this year.

While making first contact with mum for an update on the child and to arrange an assessment with him, we talked about a range of resources she could use with her son, available to download from free on our website, as well as the Smiles & Tears smartphone app. At the assessment telephone call, she told me that all the information she received had been really worthwhile and helpful. She said that the best thing she had used was the App. When the child gets anxious at bedtime and can’t sleep mum gets him up and they use the App to send nanny and grandad a balloon message and a gift. Mum said that being able to share that time with her son has helped her too and has found it very therapeutic to her as well.”

Thanks to the grant from the Birketts Fund, Nelson’s Journey have been able to fully roll out a programme of online and phone 1:1 sessions for bereaved children and young people in the county, helping hundreds of children to access bereavement support and talk about the impact that lockdown has had on their bereavement experience.