Brothers and sisters of children who come to the hospice can have a tough time. Alex Wheeler, therapeutic support worker, explains how thanks to funding from Children in Need and your support, his work makes a massive difference.
I organise the sibling events. These can be anything from a visit to the cinema, a bake off or even an outdoor adventure for a night or two.
My favourite was a sleepover at the National History Museum. Nine of us travelled to London together, where we joined everyone in the museum after tea, did activities all evening, then slept under the Diplodocus in the centre of the museum.
I also like the Easter Egg hunts for the younger kids, as the sun always seems to shine. The most unusual event was probably spending the night in an old World War II bunker, it was fantastic but also quite strange.
For the siblings, life can be hard. Sometimes they can feel a bit neglected as mum and dad’s attention is focused on their poorly brother and sister. They can also grow up quickly as they see it as their responsibility to help out.
Whether they are living with a brother or sister who has a life-limiting condition, or are sadly bereaved, they key thing for sibling is to get together. We do activities in groups from six to 20.
The friendships the children make together can last a lifetime. One of the boys summed things up at a sibling event recently when he said, “I didn’t have any friends before I came here, now I have five” and he pointed round the room. You can tell they feel 100% more relaxed chatting to one another, as they know they’ve been through similar things.
I have worked at the hospice for nine years. I think I’m a bit of a child at heart, but I was also always drawn to the siblings when they came and stayed. I’d think “you are here and you don’t know what is happening, it must be tough”. Particularly if their brother or sister was here for end of life care, I wanted to make their experience better at a horrible time.
If you build a child’s trust early, they will know they’ve got someone when times get tough, and that can be useful if your brother or sister might be coming to the hospice for many years.
I think the best thing we can do is let them know that they are not alone and that there is support out there.