Last week I visited Penhaligon’s Friends, a fabulous charity based in Redruth which has been going for about twenty years and has just moved to new offices off Drump Road.
Most of us remember the first time we were bereaved and lost someone close to us. For most it will be a grandparent but for many, it can be a parent or sibling. Bereavement affects different people in different ways. Some experience grief instantly, others seem to cope but are then affected some years later. Some put on a brave face, others pour their heart out. But the first time anyone loses an immediate family member is often the hardest. There is never any shortage of well intentioned advice about the need to 'move on' and 'get on with life' but that’s not always helpful. I remember an experienced volunteer at the Samaritans once telling me that losing someone close to you is a bit like losing a limb. You never really get over it but you do get used to it and can eventually learn to cope quite well.
Learning to cope is every bit harder for teenagers who have a lot of emotional changes in their life as it is, and younger children who often struggle to understand why such a tragedy has happened to them and can often feel it might even be their fault. Penhaligon’s Friends is there for these children and teenagers. It has built up over forty five volunteers across Cornwall and, at any one time, will be helping and supporting around six hundred Cornish children. These volunteers see a lot of tragedy but, over the years, have helped thousands of young people come to terms with what life has dealt them.
Their work varies from home visits and counselling to 'memory days' where children of the same age share their experiences and talk about the loved ones they have lost. The charity also does a lot of work with schools and runs training courses to help other agencies understand how best to support young people.
Last week also saw the launch of a new book which was written by seven teenagers helped by Penhaligon's Friends which offered an insight into their own experiences and some really good advice for teachers and schools. I read it and what it shows is how difficult it can be to strike the balance between supporting grieving young people while not making them feel different or alone by tip-toeing around the issue or making too much of it all. I first heard about this initiative earlier in the year when a volunteering organisation called Fixers alerted me to what these young people had done. So, congratulations to Jasmine, Tony, Shannon, Peter, Philippa, Bradley and Cassie for an excellent piece of work.
If you want to consider volunteering or fundraising for Penhaligon's Friends or if you need their support, call 01209 210624 or visit www.penhaligonsfriends.org.uk