It is two days before Christmas, and the run up to the 25th has certainly been a surreal experience this year. It has been a mixture of last year’s memories, with a smattering of its own.
The Menace is very excited about Christmas, as one would expect of any seven year old. The more the build up happens, the more excited he gets. We have been to many parties and events, and even hosted a few ourselves.
The Menace got invited to a party at the Hospice of St Francis in Berkhamsted. This is the hospice where Kevin died. The Menace wasn’t sure he wanted to go, neither had is dad been, when he went there either!! When Kevin had been admitted there in January I had repeatedly asked The Menace if he wanted to go in, but he chose to stay away. The hospice had approached me afterwards and asked if I wanted support for the Menace or myself, but I declined, as we had already built up a relationship with Grove House Hospice counselling team, which is much closer to us (right on our doorstep to be honest). So I told St Francis I would go back to Grove House. When the invite came through the door I asked The Menace if he wanted to go, I explained it was a party for bereaved children and what that means. He looked at me and said “I’m not sure.” The party bit sounded good, but going to the hospice that he had so actively avoided didn’t quite hit his agenda.
When The Menace had play therapy, one of things that he did was play a game every week in the doll’s house, where it was a hospital with a sick daddy inside and a little boy on the roof, with some monster s(I think he used the Harry Potter monsters that they had). He play this consistently, until the week I went in ( I only went to the last session, that is how they do it). The therapist told me about it. I felt that he needed to go to the hospice to put those monsters to bed. So I enticed him with the lure of Santa and he decided he did want to go.
Nearer the time he changed his mind, “Mummy I don’t want to go.” But I explained that I had already accepted and we were going. On the day we drove there, this was a new experience for me, as during the time Kevin was in there, I didn’t once drive, I was always driven. We did get a bit lost, but found it eventually.
I have to admit that I haven’t been back since I left there, I also felt the need to stay away. I could feel my emotional insides closing up as we drew up there. Some of those awful memories were flooding back. But I put my best foot forward and in we strode.
I’m so glad we did go, both of us got so much from it. The Menace is very happy with his remote control car from Santa, and has told people about how he went to a party for children “like him”. I got to meet and chat to other people, of similar age in similar circumstance, not something I have been able to do, on a face to face basis.
I also noticed that some of the children there knew each other. I became aware that they have regular events there, so the kids get to support each other. By declining their offer of help, I had walked away from this, and now I regret it. Grove House, and the play therapy they offered to the Menace really helped him, but I am struck by how bureaucratic, and if I am honest, frustrating Grove House services are. They have always been keen to make clear what we are entitled to, which in the Menace’s case was six weeks of play therapy (although to be fair to them, they have made clear that if he needs more he can have it). I got a year’s counselling before Kevin died, I was struggling with feeling responsible for Kevin and also trying to help my dad with my mum, and it was causing Kevin and I to argue. When I had had a year, they told me that was what I was entitled to, so I stopped. They don’t offer any of the day events that St Francis do. In January the Hospice of St Francis are having a pony day, a fun day where the Menace will have a chance to have conversations with children his own age, that he would never have with other kids. We are going, I think it will help him to understand he is not the only one, in this situation. And, if I am honest, I found the chats with the other parents helpful to me. I am also told the cakes are good!
St Francis are lead by the individual, not by rules, you get what you need in terms of counselling and support not just a fixed amount, that is their rule. This is not the first time that I have noticed the difference between the two charities. Kevin was cared for by the Hospice at home nurses at Grove House, I found them slow to pick up on how ill he was and reactive to his needs. They delivered the bed rest he needed the day after he went into St Francis and the wheelchair to help him the day after he died. It was all too slow. It has to be said that he was very proud and did not want to be honest with anyone about how ill he was, but I expect the medical profession to be able to see through that.
Whilst this was a party I dreaded, I really got a lot out of it, and so did he. I am looking forwards to going back now.