First Wednesday Club: When a child loses a parent ...


“What are you doing?”

I was walking past the open door of what had been the new nursery when I saw her. My two-year-old daughter Ava was sitting in a big cardboard box on the floor holding the small pewter heart that contained the ashes of her little sister.

“Hello noodle. What are you doing?” I asked again.

“Am sailing,” she said as though it was perfectly obvious. “With Georgie.”

A year on and Ava still talks about Georgie on a nearly daily basis. Sometimes she tells me that her stillborn sister is an angel fairy. Other days that Georgie “ran away”.  What I do know is that even at two years old (which is how old Ava was when her sister died), Ava knew something had happened. Her little sister’s death had formed a crack in Ava’s snowdome world.

This month’s First Wednesday Club charity is close to my heart: it’s the National Centre for Childhood Grief. The NCGG provides support and guidance to children who are grieving the death of a parent or sibling.

For so long it seems that the attitude towards children’s psychological needs (when faced with death) has been, “Just don’t mention it. Kids are resilient. They’ll be okay.”

But evidence shows that often they’re not. According to the NCCG, grief can leave such heavy and unnecessary scars, capable of affecting all aspects of a grieving child’s life. For example, their physical health, academic performance, social behaviour, the ability to form and sustain intimate relationships, and their beliefs about life and living.  Kids often adopt “negative” coping strategies. Just like adults, I guess.

So this is where the NCCG steps in. They provide loving, professional support and guidance in a safe place where children grieving a death can share their experience as they learn to live with its impact on their lives.

The charity was founded in 1994 by Mal and Dianne McKissock, both OAM holders and internationally recognised experts in the care of bereaved children. They are now supported by a team of twelve trained children’s bereavement counsellors.

David’s story:

David’s dad died in a motor vehicle accident when he was four years old and when he first came to the NCCG he had difficulty talking about his dad. David would curl up on the floor in a foetal position, at any potential mention of the dreaded “D‟ word or of his dad’s name. David’s behaviour at school and at home rapidly deteriorated, constantly picked fights with his younger sister and he was becoming increasingly rude to his mother.

After three individual counselling sessions and a lot of compassionate care, David could talk as he played with his counsellor about sad and happy memories of his parents. He later joined one of the NCCG’s support groups and was able to show family photos and talk with pride about the parent who would always be part of their lives. David’s proudest moment was the day he could stand and tell his class how his father died, and later receive a round of applause from his support group for being so brave.

Around 1,400 bereavement counselling sessions are carried out at the centre each year, representing up to 2,800 hours of voluntary counselling. The NCCG also provides education and training for individuals, schools and other organisations handling the grief of children and young people. This includes support and counseling by email and phone for those who live in other states.

Therapeutic practices developed by the NCCG are regarded as being at the forefront of practices internationally.

So this month, let’s donate our $10 to the NCGG to help them continue their work. Go here to find them.

DO YOU HAVE A PRIZE? The NCCG is holding fundraising cocktail party at the centre on 12 November and they’re still desperately looking for prizes to give away in their raffle. If you or your company has something to donate, please contact Sophie Robertson on [email protected] or call 1300 654 556,

Their address is: National Centre for Childhood Grief 14, Hollis Ave Eastwood NSW 2122.

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