Derian House 25th anniversary: Cornerstones support for grandparents

Linda and Kevin Bowman have been impressed by Derian House and its services for grandparents
Linda and Kevin Bowman have been impressed by Derian House and its services for grandparents

Grandparents often feel in the background when they lose a grandchild.

READ MORE: Click here for more stories

Linda and Kevin Bowman

Linda and Kevin Bowman

READ MORE: Click here for more stories

They struggle with their own grief, whilst trying to support their son or daughter with their devastating loss.

With this in mind, and in line with its pioneering work, Derian House, in Chorley, was the first children’s hospice in the UK to offer a dedicated bereavement support for grandparents.

After pilot schemes were introduced, the initial Cornerstones support facility for grandparents developed into regular sessions, with all available places taken up by bereaved grandparents.

I could not stop crying and I felt I was heading for a nervous breakdown.

Sheila Fitzpatrick

Cornerstones offers support via regular group sessions and through one to one support and helps grandparents to manage how they support their own children – and perhaps other grandchildren – in dealing with bereavement whilst also struggling to cope with their own loss.

The service also offers complementary and relaxation therapies within the newly created Wellbeing Room at Derian House, to address both acute and chronic stress conditions experienced as a result of bereavement.

In addition to bereavement counselling and support, Derian also holds a monthly Grandparents Group, which provides an opportunity for grandparents to socialize and help each other to heal through shared memories and experiences.

When 15 month-old Abigail Bowman died following her battle with Edward’s Syndrome last May, her Leyland parents, Clare and Philip and big brother Oliver, nine, received plenty of support from Derian House.

Linda and Kevin Bowman with their grandchildren Oliver and Abigail Bowman

Linda and Kevin Bowman with their grandchildren Oliver and Abigail Bowman

But in the background, grandparents, Kevin and Linda Bowman and Sheila Fitzpatrick, were also struggling with their loss - until the discovered Cornerstones.

Clare’s mum Sheila, 71, of Ormskirk, says: “I live on my own and I found it very difficult to cope with Abigail’s death.

“I could not stop crying and I felt I was heading for a nervous breakdown. I didn’t feel I could pass my grief onto Clare.

“When your daughter loses a baby it is like a triple grief: I am grieving for my daughter and my grandson; I am grieving for myself and I am grieving over the loss of my granddaughter.

Sheila Fitzpatrick with her granddaughter Abigail Bowman

Sheila Fitzpatrick with her granddaughter Abigail Bowman

“I felt so angry. It was the wrong order. You don’t expect your grandchild to pass away before you.

“For the first seven months I could not face trying Cornerstones, but I started this year.

“The first meeting was the hardest, as I didn’t know how to prepare myself but I am pleased I went. It was like a big hug as everyone was so kind and understanding. I can’t praise everyone there enough.

“I felt like someone was listening to me and was interested. It helped so much hearing everyone’s stories and realising they were going through the same thing. It helped me enormously to celebrate Abigail’s life. It made me realise what a wonderful and precious gift she was. She was our little ‘Tinkerbell.’

“I am also immensely proud of my daughter Clare for her constant care and attention with Abigail, and also how well Oliver coped.”

Kevin, 72, of Lostock Hall, says: “We found it very hard all the time. We were concerned for Clare and Philip and also for Oliver.

Derian House 25th anniversary logo

Derian House 25th anniversary logo

“My wife, Linda, spent a lot of time in Royal Preston Hospital, replacing Clare so she could have a shower and a sleep and she was looking after Oliver, taking him to school.

“We were lucky to have Abigail for a year and a half - we didn’t expect her to live that long.

“We have found Cornerstones to be very good in the sense that the other people there are going through similar problems. It is quite reassuring to find other people feeling the same as yourself.

“Oliver also has a support group at Derian and he said to me ‘they get you,’ and that is the best way to describe how it is at Cornerstones.

“The group is very important to us and the work Derian does is superb.”