United in Grief - but Giving Hope for All; ZOE CHAMBERLAIN Speaks to the Children Suffering the Grief of Losinga Brother or Sister - but at the Same Time Helping Each Other Cope
Byline: ZOE CHAMBERLAIN
KNOWING your brother or sister is going to die is heartbreaking at any age.
But the pain of being given the devastating news when you are just a child is unimaginable.
That is why Acorn's Children's Hospice in the Midlands runs special groups to help the brothers and sisters of life-limited children to support each other.
"Siblings are sometimes unacknowledged compared to everything going on around them," says Sarah Jasper, manager of siblings' services at the hospice.
"They have their own unique needs. We mix the pre and bereaved children together as they can help to support each other."
It was around nine years ago that a group of 11 to 16-year-old siblings decided they wanted to publish an annual magazine as a way of helping the adults in their lives understand the emotions they were experiencing.
They called themselves the BASIL Magazine Group - Brothers and Sisters in League.
Today, the group is still going strong and meets up during the school holidays to write the magazine, as well as enjoying day trips together.
Sarah says: "It can be very therapeutic for the siblings to write about how they are feeling.
"A theme that comes up time and time again is how they feel different and alone, isolated.
"It's immensely helpful to them to know they're not the only ones going through this.
"Some write poetry to express their thoughts, others write stories in memory of their brother or sister.
Some of the things they write are very powerful.
"I'm often amazed by the strength they show.
"We try to celebrate the good things their siblings have done in their lives, rather than focusing on the illness or condition.
Hope "They also hope the magazine might reach out to other professionals, such as teachers and social workers, to help them get an idea of what it feels like to have a brother or sister who is life-limited.
"Sometimes there is more than one member of a family in the group and they'll talk or write about things and then the other sibling will say, 'I never knew you felt like that, you've never said that at home.' "Some are very open and comfortable, others are very reserved. Most are rightly very proud of their brother or sister.
"We talk realistically about what lies ahead which sometimes doesn't happen at home, especially if families are finding it hard to come to terms with what's going on. …