PART of St David's Hospice Care’s work is supporting the families of people living with long term illness or ones dealing with bereavement.

Many young people will have been bereaved of someone close to them by the time they are 16. Some will cope well with their loss, but they need the support of those around them. Others need more support, and this is where charities like St David's Hospice Care help.

Their Unicorn Service offers extra support to children and young people who are coping with the long term illness of a family member who is a patient at the hospice, or for those dealing with bereavement.

The service was established in 2009, making it one of the more recent additions to St David's Hospice Care. They recently secured three years of funding from BBC Children in Need, but this isn’t enough to fund everything needed to carry out their work.

Children and Young Persons Worker Elaine Robinson is on the front line of this service and works throughout South East Wales delivering this unique and vital service.

“The Unicorn Service is about supporting young people up to the age of 18 who have an adult with a life limiting illness, or an adult has died. In the situation where it is a serious illness it’s helping them to understand what’s happening and helping them cope with the changes that are happening because of the serious illness.

“Adults struggle with the fact that their children have seen more than they want them to see, or having to do more than they should do for their age. The support is helping the children to understand why things are changing and to give them an avenue to express how they feel without upsetting anyone or making anyone angry.”

While many of the people Mrs Robinson sees have family member who use the St David's Hospice Care services, some have no connection at all. “A lot of the time I meet a family that has no connection to the Hospice, where a young person is struggling with the death of an adult where it wasn’t a serious illness. Those referrals can come from a GP or a school, social services and other professionals.

“Before I ever get to meet a young person I always meet the adults because they can give me their perspective on what their worries are for their children and also they can give me their version of what they believe the children understand.

“If the adult likes the way I work then I would meet the young person. The first couple of sessions are getting to know each other and establishing a relationship that is going to help them be open and honest about how they feel. We don’t do a set number of sessions, we work on the individual’s need and so the number of sessions will depend on them.”

This support can come in a number of forms, and the connection between Mrs Robinson and the child is often created through activities, and it’s these which will be funded by money raised as part of the 125 Appeal.

“Sometimes the support is one to one, it’s group work and it is very much dependent on what the young person needs and it’s driven by their loss or their difficulty. There is never an assumption that I know how they feel because the only person who knows how they feel in this awful, awful situation is them.

“It’s about helping them feel comfortable, and that is done by forming a relationship at their level, to then work with them to help them find ways of coping. There is no magic wand, we can’t undo what’s happened, but what we can do is help them to see that there is a way forward and they can cope. I believe that part of the support is helping them to find those ways, to help them to gain skills to deal with difficult things.”

Using the service affects young people in many ways. Some who were struggling with the bereavement and leaving classes are more engaged and attending school by the time they finish their time with them. “I would ask a young person, depending on their age, ‘What do you want to be feeling when our the support comes to an end’, and I remember one young person saying they didn’t want to always cry when they talk about their mother, and I want to remember my mum in a happy way. As the sessions progressed, I could see that we were able to talk more easily and in fact her family members commented that she was coming a lot better.”

Part of Mrs Robinson’s work is helping bereaved young people create a ‘remembering book’. This is an opportunity for them to talk about the person who has died and understand why they died. “What I’m really passionate about for these young people is helping them create their story.

If at the age of nine or 10 they have a parent who died and they are unable to talk about what happened, when they move into secondary school and they make new friends it can be hard, “When someone asks ‘Why do you live with your Dad and not your Mum?’, if you can’t say my mum died when I was nine and she had cancer so I live with my Dad, it is really difficult to deal with questions. That story takes them into adult life because that will happen if they join a club, go to college or when people start their new job because people are curious about their new friends.”

Find out more about the Unicorn Service

How you can help

By supporting the 125 Appeal you can help the Unicorn Service continue their vital work.

Mrs Robinson said: “The money would pay for groups to be run on a regular basis. It would pay for the arts and crafts and the resources I would use with the groups and in one to one support. I loan out books and sometimes, if appropriate I would give books to young people and teenagers. When we get extra funding these are the things we don’t have to worry about."

“I would often suggest that using a journal would be useful, and when I meet with families that have money restrictions, we would use little pots of money, so I can get something with any amount. £1.25 will pay for a pack of stickers, and I buy them all the time because I use them so much.”

You can text to donate £5 to the 125 Appeal by texting ARGUS 125 to 70500 or donations can be made online on our special Just Giving page: Get involved in the 125 Appeal We need you to get involved in the 125 Appeal to make it a success. We are looking for people to be part of the fundraising fun by organising a fundraising event or doing something to raise money.

If you can think of a fun, innovative or quirky way you can incorporate the 125 theme into your fundraising then we would love to hear about it.

Use #125Appeal to show your support on social media Some fun ideas include a 125 baking challenge, a 125 minutes of dancing, and a 125 minute choir performance. You could also set yourself a challenge of completing a 12.5 mile walk.

Even donating £1.25 means St David’s Hospice Care can support the Unicorn Service or do something as simple as pay for a cup of tea, a sandwich and a slice of homemade cake for a patient.

Find out more about the 125 Appeal and register your event