For example, Partner Gemma Gillespie gives free advice to individuals referred to her by DAVSS, our local domestic abuse charity, while Associate Licensed Conveyancer, Nicola Walsh, volunteers for the Uckfield Millennium Green – an open space of 22 acres managed by the residents.
Senior Associate Solicitor, Natasha Smith, who works within our Employment team, has been volunteering for a Kent-based charity called Holding On, Letting Go (HOLG), which helps children to cope with the death of someone close to them.
“I was looking to do some volunteering and a networking contact mentioned HOLG to me; they just sounded wonderful, which they are,” says Natasha. “My father-in-law died recently following an aggressive cancer diagnosis, which was a shock to us all. I saw the impact this had on our children and it made me realise how difficult it can be as a parent to help your children understand death and deal with their feelings and emotions whilst you’re also grieving the loss of a loved one.”
Often the children the charity sees have lost their mum, dad, grandparents, a sibling or a friend. Sometimes more than one person in their family has died or there are sudden and traumatic circumstances surrounding the death.
Since the adults around them are also grieving, these children often feel unable to express their feelings or talk about their loved one or their sadness. Many adults don’t know how to support children through the grieving process, so HOLG gives support and guidance to parents and carers too.
HOLG runs bereavement support weekends at various locations across Kent and offers a range of fun and creative activities to help children to be able to express their feelings around death. As a small charity, they rely on volunteers.
“I went along recently to help out at a support weekend,” says Natasha. “On the Saturday, I met a child whose Grandma had died. We sat down together in the morning and spent some time creating some name badges and doing some art activities to get to know each other. We discovered we had lots in common, so it was a good start.”
She continues: “Later we created some special keepsakes that reflected some memories of Grandma. It was truly amazing to see how the child I met developed throughout the day and made bonds with the other children there who were in a similar situation.”
On the Sunday, Natasha helped out with the parent and carer group.
“This was more about listening to the stories of the adults who had experienced a death and how they were coping with it or what their concerns were about their children,” she says. “It was apparent that they were trying to come to terms with their own grief, as well as learning how to support their young children with theirs. They appreciated the chance to be able to speak openly about their feelings and express themselves without judgment.”
Natasha adds: “I hope that HOLG will become better known for the amazing service they provide to families dealing with bereavement – which is provided completely free of charge.”
Find out more about Holding On, Letting Go here: https://holdingonlettinggo.org.uk/