Grief Kid: Talking and drawing through loss
An essential part of our Hospice’s palliative care is being there for the family of our patients through bereavement. Grief Kid is an illustrator who expresses the difficult emotions of bereavement through art. Having seen two relatives pass away while in the care of our Hospice, Grief Kid knows the importance of listening, being heard and having a holistic approach towards dealing with the loss of a loved one. Here they tell us about their experience at the Hospice and how Grief Kid came about.
A second home
In my early teens my mum was diagnosed with cancer. She had it for a few years and the Hospice came out to support her at home. I was too young to really understand the connection with the Hospice but my brother was ten years older and understood. Shortly after, he started volunteering at the Hospice. Ten years later he developed cancer and was in the Hospice’s care. So the Hospice has been part of my family for a while. I still go back and visit. It feels like a second home as it was such a big part of our lives and we received so much support from them.
The thing with the Hospice is you get to know people like the nurses and the doctors but there is also a huge team of people who play a role in ways that you cannot begin to imagine. So I got to know the occupational therapists, the receptionists and the counsellors. All the people outside of my brother’s direct medical care played such a key role in looking after my brother, myself and my dad. They were the people who really supported us emotionally through it.
Understanding our needs
My dad and I are very different people – he’s quite hard to connect with and engage in an emotional conversation but they managed to do it. They were so patient; it was about offering support and never giving up. If he said ‘no’ once they didn’t let it go. My family always had this thing of not wanting to be a burden. My Dad would always refuse food and drink at the Hospice but he has this regular thing of having a hot chocolate. It sounds silly but it’s the small things that make such a difference. The treatment was personalised, we were never forced as a family to find universal solutions.
Bereavement is personal
The bereavement counsellor Robert (Moroney) was always available to us. It wasn’t regimented, it was as and when we needed it. But he always treated us as individuals while understanding the family dynamic. So when I went to him he understood everything which allowed me to be really open and honest. It allowed me to process things faster, allowing me to enjoy experiences with my brother that I would have otherwise missed out on.
To have the bereavement help was one thing but the whole Hospice team are always there for you. It was an occupational therapist at the Hospice, Gina (Pavlo) who recommended a charity to me called The Compassionate Friends. I went to their Facebook group and it was a group of siblings talking about how they were feeling. It was the first moment I found a place where people were saying how I felt. I didn’t have to figure out the words, others were articulating it for me. From there I discovered other groups for young bereaved adults that all offer different things and have helped me on my grief journey alongside the Hospice’s ongoing support. They include The New Normal, Let’s Talk About Loss and GrabLife.
When you are going through a bereavement, it’s essential to have someone who will listen to you. Your family is too close to it, their emotions are heightened like yours. But with the Hospice team, I could be heard, they offered a space to just have a break if need be. I could say whatever I wanted without judgement. It allowed me to see my brother with a braver face and allow us to have a relationship beyond his illness. Because they also supported him, separately from me, we could come together and have those awkward conversations without fear. By helping us as individuals we were able to come together as a family.
The rise of Grief Kid
I have always been interested in art. I’d written a few blogs on grieving and I just couldn’t articulate what I wanted to say. Then I thought, ‘could I draw my feelings?’ I stumbled upon the idea of, “if I was a cartoon, who would I be?” My life has been so defined by grief and I’ve never had an outlet for it. I wanted it to be easy to relate to so it became Grief Kid. The cape became a sign of the grief they carry with them, it’s what partially defines them in a positive way, it’s hard but it’s also powerful. It’s easily relatable for young people, people who don’t talk about death. When you’re young death can feel so alien and I hope this helps just put a bit of context into the emotions young people might be experiencing.
A shared experience
It’s just as much for people who are grieving as for those who might know someone who is and want to support them in a way they perhaps don’t know or fully understand.
Bereavement support for our patients’ loved ones is an essential part of our palliative care. We are able to deliver such services thanks to the generosity of people like you. If you can spare anything to help our Hospice please click here to find out how even the smallest amount can go a long way. To follow Grief Kid on Instagram click here.