Family and Sibling Support

Pepper Sibling Group

Family support has always been an integral part of the hospice at home team's philosophy of care.  A terminal illness does not just affect the patient, healthy siblings can also be affected.  The Pepper Children's Support Facilitator offers pre and post bereavement support and co-ordinates the Pepper Sibling Group which is funded by The Pepper Foundation.

The Pepper Sibling Group

The Pepper Sibling Group runs quarterly support groups for siblings (aged between six and sixteen years) of patients cared for by the Pepper nursing team and provides a mixture of both days out to different venues, (for example ten pin bowling) and activity days at Amersham Community Centre. It is impotant to keep things varied and to alternate quiet, reflective activities with loud, letting-off-steam opportunities.  The activity based sessions incorporate many sharing activities to help the attendees form their own network of peer support.  Since the start of the group in October 2010, twenty-two siblings have been supported. 

When the Sibling Group was first set up its overall objective was to provide an additional support network for youngsters coping with the effects of life-limiting illness.  The sessions' aims were built around the acronym FRAME:  they should:  

  • be Fun
  • Relieve isolation
  • allow children to Acknowledge feelings
  • enable them to Model coping strategies
  • Enhance their knowledge

Originally the Group was attended only by siblings who had a brother or sister being cared for by the Pepper nurses. Since then two of the siblings have become bereaved and it was felt that imposing another ending and possible loss would not be in their best interests.  Having children attend the group who have had a sibling die and who have had to cope with all the challenges of bereavement, can be beneficial for other members.  It gives other children the opportunity to acknowledge and reflect on the loss of a special person.  It is possible that this could well be something they may also have to face in the not so distant future.  

Through talking to both pre and post bereaved children, we know that having their thoughts and worries acknowledged and the opportunity to share them with trusted others, can be of immense support and help.

At one of the meetings, one of the bereaved siblings chose to write a moving poem (reproduced here) for her brother who had died.  She felt confident and comfortable enough within the group to read her poem aloud.  There was positive gain, not only for the bereaved sibling, but for all the other siblings too, who were listening intently while the poem was being shared.

My Dear Brother
My dear brother
I loved no other
I loved you so
My dearest bro
I had no clue
That I'd lose you
So soon