CHILDREN suffering from the death of a parent or close friend have a new place to turn to for support.
The Simon Says Child Bereavement Support group will now run one Sunday a month at The Northern Parade Children’s Centre, in Doyle Avenue, Hilsea.
The charity, which costs around £85,000 a year to run, offers support networks for both adults and children, with the separate groups held on the day.
It was co-founded by Victoria Hussey and Sally Stanley, after Sally’s husband Simon died, leaving her two sons to cope with the loss of their father.
Speaking at the opening yesterday evening, attended by Lord Mayor of Portsmouth Frank Jonas, Sally said there is a demand for the service.
Since it began this year, 12 families have attended.
Victoria said: ‘The support groups became such a success.
‘A lot of the children were saying “I don’t feel normal because at school a lot of the children haven’t been through what I’ve been through”.
‘They get told to get on with it or “it’s been a long time”.
‘They don’t even have to talk about it, they just know they’re at the group because someone has died.’
Victoria and the volunteers help the children, aged up to 18, create memory boxes to keep the person who has died part of their lives, among other activities.
Volunteers meet with families outside of the once-a-month meeting if needed.
The service offers in-house support groups for schools if a number of pupils are suffering from bereavement.
Volunteer Sophie Parke is an early years assistant at Meon Infants School in Shelford Road, Milton.
She said: ‘It’s very rewarding. It means I feel like I can put something back.
‘I can give some help to children who obviously need it, and there’s not necessarily anywhere else they can get that from at the moment.
‘All the children get to mix and they’ve all got that thing in common so they can support each other as well.’
The county-wide charity relies on word-of-mouth for referrals and hopes to grow further.
For more information and advice, call the helpline on (023) 8064 7550 or visit their website on simonsays.org.uk.