THE family of a nurse who died of secondary breast cancer aged just 44 have thanked a Derbyshire end-of-life care charity for their support as they come to terms with their grief.
Jennifer Sdao, a registered nurse working in the private sector from Derby, was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2016. She contracted secondary breast cancer less than two years later and sadly died in October 2020.
Her husband, Dan, 46, and two children – seven-year-old Emily and Sam, 10 – are receiving bereavement counselling from Risley-based Treetops Hospice, which has ‘given them direction’ at a difficult time.
Emily and Sam have also received hand-delivered special care packages funded by a COVID-19 Booster Grant from the BBC Children in Need. The BBC’s UK charity has also, over the past three years, funded a senior families counsellor post at Treetops.
Dan, who works for Western Power Distribution, said:
“For us, counselling has helped us to know that we’re not alone.
“Jennifer was a loving mother who would do anything for her children. She was a very caring person, a respected registered nurse, who had lots of friends; she was very popular.
“Her death left us all feeling a bit at sea. There was a lot of anger and emotion, a lot of frustration that we didn’t know how to process before counselling.
“I was given the details of Treetops by the Palliative Care Team at the Royal Derby Hospital after Jenny’s death. I’m a great advocate for mental health and, having seen a counsellor twice following Jenny’s diagnosis, I felt it was only right for the children to have some kind of support.
“Although we still have a long journey ahead of us, we feel that we’re moving in the right direction.”
Concerns over the impact of lockdown restrictions on young people’s mental health and wellbeing have been widely reported. Restrictions have made it especially difficult for those who are grieving because many of the instinctive coping strategies which they might have accessed have not been possible.
Support from friends and wider family members, participating in social activities, getting out and about – even the routine of being at school – can all help a bereaved young person to regulate their emotions.
“The frustration felt by the children came out as anger, and this intensified during the lockdown.
“Since counselling, they’ve been able to process their feelings better, and this has improved our relationship. Emily’s concentration has improved, too, and the stress levels in the house seem to have reduced somewhat.
“Both were quite apprehensive about attending counselling sessions at Treetops, but the Care Packages have been most welcome; the children were so excited to receive the gifts from Treetops, and it changed their minds about wanting to return for more counselling.”
Emily, who is a member of the local Brownie pack, said:
“The bags made us feel happy and excited, they had nice toys in them.
“We like the toys in them, and the people at Treetops are really nice and are going to help us.”
Jules Kirk, Treetops Therapeutic Service Manager and Head of Children’s Services, said:
“Children and young people experience a whole range of feelings when they are grieving, such as sadness, isolation, anger, fear and anxiety.
“Many of these feelings have been magnified by other types of loss experienced during the pandemic, making it even harder for those who are bereaved.
“Over the past year, thanks to the COVID-19 Booster Grant from BBC Children in Need, we’ve been able to distribute a series of Care Packages for grieving youngsters. These include therapeutic activities to help them manage their grief and cope with the challenges of lockdown.
“We have included activities from five areas which have been shown to promote wellbeing – connecting with others, being active, giving to others, noticing things around us and learning something new – as well as some support around managing feelings arising from grief. Our hope is that there will be something in each pack that connects with each young person in a helpful and meaningful way.”
Last year, Treetops Hospice provided over 1,100 bereavement sessions for children and families, over 3,000 adult bereavement counselling sessions, and over 600 support sessions for people dealing with a life-limiting condition.
Counselling is available to all users of Treetops Hospice services and people registered with a GP practice in Derby city or Southern Derbyshire.