This year I have been working with Holding on Letting Go, a charity that supports bereaved children in Kent. We, as volunteers, work one-on-one with children and young people who have been bereaved. This can mean that they have lost anyone close to them, for example; a parent, a sibling, a friend, or a grandparent. Each young person has the chance to participate in a number of fun activities over a weekend that look to strengthen their understanding of what has happened, as well as improve their outlook on the death. A lot of these young people simply need the supported space to express their own emotions and thoughts, in a safe way.
Activities across the weekend include a period for questions, a music session, clay making, and body map creating, as well as lots more art and craft work. The concept of ‘holding on’ centres around the idea that we should hold on to the good memories and feelings we have toward the person who has died, remembering all the good that they brought to us. Meanwhile, the ‘letting go’ involves having the ability to release all of the negative thoughts and feelings that we have been having, allowing us to cope in our daily lives, whilst still holding our memories close to us.
This volunteering experience has helped me to be confident in my own ability working one-on-one with young people. This is particularly helpful because of the difficult situations a lot of these young people are going through. At first it seems daunting, the idea of trying to help a child that has lost so much, but once you help out at a few weekends, your belief in your own ability grows and you realise the difference you can make.
Working with Holding on Letting Go is naturally very rewarding. Seeing the change in some of the young people’s attitudes toward the bereavement is all the reward that is needed to keep returning to help out. Luckily, as the work is unpaid, the University has a bursary scheme (The University of Kent Work Experience Bursary), which helps support students who are gaining work and volunteering experience whilst studying. This means that I definitely can keep returning to help out at Holding on Letting Go.
-Matt Sessions is studying for an MSc in Forensic Psychology at the University of Kent.