Introducing
Talking Therapies


We at LOLA understand that losing your child will feel completely overwhelming. It can be helpful to talk to someone who is experienced in supporting families when they have lost a child and feel bereft. If you are struggling to cope, talking to trained and experienced professionals about your loss can help you to find ways to cope when you are overwhelmed by such deep grief.

If you are interested in using a talking therapy, but unsure where to start, a good place is Petals charity at https://petalscharity.org/. Petals offer specialised counselling for parents suffering trauma or loss during pregnancy and birth. They provide 6 counselling sessions free of charge and will work with clients to prepare for additional services, if further support is required. You may also find their frequently asked questions page very helpful if you are considering a talking therapy but don’t know where to start.
 
We at LOLA have also spoken with Caroline Stedman, Counsellor Practitioner at the Evelina London Children’s Hospital specialising in bereavement counselling for parents. If you are interested in talking therapy but unsure where to start, Caroline explains more clearly what talking therapy is and how it might help you.

What is Talking Therapy?

Talking therapy might simply be described as: being listened to, and responded to, within a confidential relationship with a qualified professional who is trained to support you. The significant difference with using a professional for this – rather than just talking with friends and family – is that the professional has no other role in your life. This allows you to talk freely about anything you are thinking or feeling without worrying about the effect it might have on your other relationships. Doing this may allow a deeper understanding to emerge of the many difficult emotions you are feeling following the loss of your child.

Caroline Stedman, Counsellor Practitioner at the Evelina London Children’s Hospital specialising in bereavement counselling for parents, explains more clearly what talking therapy is.

 


What types of Talking Therapies are there?

There are many different talking therapies, and different styles of working with clients as a result. Many therapists work just with individuals but some are also trained to work with couples, families or groups.  Talking therapists may be trained as counsellors, psychologists or psychotherapists, and each of these therapists works in subtly different ways.

Whether you ‘just talk’ or whether you engage in more specific activities, your therapist will give you some feedback from time to time by responding empathically to what you are saying, or helping you recognise that the experiences you are having are expected for someone in your kind of situation. They may also help you to examine thought patterns and beliefs that might be unhelpful for you.; some therapists will look with you at past history and other experiences in life that have shaped your way of thinking, and some will work mainly in the here and now. Again, you can choose beforehand if you have a strong feeling about which type of therapy might work best for you.

What Therapies are there?

A good place to start if you want to understand different types of therapy is www.itsgoodtotalk.org.uk where you will find information to help you to decide what type of therapy appeals to you. Caroline Stedman explains the types of therapy and how you can find a therapist that works for you.

 
 

Finding a Therapist that’s right for you



How can Talking Therapy help bereaved Parents and Families?

Grief can be very bewildering and it can affect our thoughts, feelings and behaviour in so many ways. It is not unusual for us to become anxious or depressed as part of grieving, or for feelings to come and go and then resurface at another time (sometimes in response to other events).

Grief Responses

All of this is ‘normal’ for someone who is bereaved, even if every bereavement is also different and each individual will have their own unique experience of it. Caroline Stedman explains the sort of grief responses bereaved parents might have.

 

Following the loss of your child you are likely to experience overwhelming shock and bewilderment and you may need help to process the full range of thoughts and feelings that arise. The skills and support of a trained talking therapist can be useful in guiding you through this process by relating to you as the individual you are, with your own unique story, following the loss of your precious baby.

There is no particular form of talking therapy that is more helpful following a bereavement, but there are organisations and individual therapists who specialise in working with loss, and you may find it helpful when you are looking for a therapist to find someone with this sort of experience.

While it may not be possible to ‘get over’ the loss of someone you will always love so dearly, using talking therapies, it is possible to learn ways to make even a little more sense of what has happened to you and your child, and to manage the grief which may threaten, at times, to overwhelm you. Some people may simply feel a huge sense of relief in being able to share what they have gone through with someone who is listening attentively and empathetically. Whatever arises, and that may include many difficult feelings, your therapist should be skilled in helping you find the best way for you to explore and manage your thoughts and feelings.

Talking Therapy for Bereavement

It might be helpful to remember that this is a relationship – one of a specific kind – and if you do choose to use a talking therapy, it is normal for it to take a little time for you to develop trust and open up about things you had been keeping to yourself. Go easy on yourself and take your time.

 


How can I get access to a Therapist?

There are 3 main routes to finding a therapist. 1. Through the NHS, 2. Via a charitable organisation who may be able to recommend a suitable therapist to you, or 3. by finding a private therapist yourself. Caroline Stedman summarises the options for you, below.

 

Therapy using the NHS

You should be able to ask for a referral for talking therapies at the NHS through your GP, hospital, clinic or other medical service helping you with the pregnancy, delivery and loss of your child. Therapy provided by the NHS should be free of any charge. The therapy available varies widely across the UK. You may also find there is a waiting list or that you are offered only a specific number of sessions.

Therapy with the help of charitable organisations

Charities which specialise in the loss of a child may offer bereavement counselling, as well as more informal support. Many charities will offer counselling free of charge. Some may charge a fee, although even if they do, it is likely to cost less than therapy through a private practitioner and it may be offered at a rate that you can afford, according to your income.

Here are some of the charities that can support you with your grief through information, helplines and support groups. They may also have information about appropriate professional counselling in your area if they do not offer it themselves. You can find information on the charities most relevant to your loss at Get support. You may find it helpful to start with Sands, ARC, or the Miscarriage Association. Cruse Bereavement Care also provides charitable bereavement support and counselling in some areas.

Private therapy

Private therapists can be found on the its good to talk website, where all of the therapists listed are governed by a code of ethics and a complaints procedure overseen by their regulatory body. Or you may simply ask for recommendations from friends or family members who have had similar experiences, or get recommendations from those who are supporting you at your hospital or a relevant charity.  However you find a private therapist, it is important to check that they are a member of the relevant professional body and that they have met the training requirements to be in practice.

The types of private therapy available, and the fees charged, will vary according to your location. The most important thing if you are choosing a private therapist is that they feel ‘right’ for you, so you feel able to trust them and able to discuss your feelings freely and openly.



How long does Therapy last?

Some organisations will only be able to offer a specific number of sessions, and some will work with you for as long as you need. Some will have waiting lists and some will specify that they only offer bereavement counselling after a specified period (usually 3- 6 months) to allow you time to process the initial shock of your loss. Not everyone wants or needs to wait this long though, so if you feel you need to, then you can look for a talking therapy to start sooner than this.

If you are offered a specific number of sessions, it is part of your therapist’s role to keep the timings in mind and help you make best use of the time you have to work together. Some therapists will review things with you after a number of sessions to see how you feel the therapy is going and whether the things you want to focus on have changed. You can always bring this discussion into the session yourself if you wish to. If you are able to work with the same therapist for an unlimited number of sessions, then they should give you some sense of how you will both know that it is time to bring it to an end. Usually it is helpful to plan ahead of this so that there is time to review how your therapy has worked for you.

Not everyone needs or wants long-term therapy – some people get what they need in a few sessions, some prefer to have a short period of therapy and then return at another time, others will want to stay for a longer time.

 


Warning: If symptoms persist, you may need more specialist help. If you are experiencing anxiety or depression that goes on for more than a few weeks and is disabling to your normal life, or if you feel like harming yourself or anyone else in any way then it is important to consult your GP.