Blog: My mission to support bereaved children
Published: 6 Jul 2018
At our Award Ceremony in June 2018, Nicola received the Viscount De L'Isle award, which is given to a Fellow who has shown real determination to succeed, for the direct benefit of others. Here she talks about support for bereaved children, the issue she researched, and the journey she has been on since becoming a Fellow.
The Award Ceremony was special from beginning to end. It was an overwhelming feeling to be one of 130 Churchill Fellows receiving a medallion for successfully completing our overseas research. It was great to speak to other Fellows, all interesting people and all with inspiring stories. I could feel the excitement as people spoke of their adventures.
The subject of my Fellowship is support for children dealing with the death or illness of a parent or caregiver. In 2010, I was diagnosed with kidney and bladder cancer. I looked for support for my two children to help them cope with my diagnosis, but there was very little available. So I decided to set up a charity, Don’t Forget The Kids, to offer this support for children facing the trauma and uncertainty of a loved one's illness or death.
I wanted to learn from others about creative ways of helping bereaved children, so the Fellowship was an ideal opportunity. But once I was told my application to travel to the USA had been successful, doubt set in. I wondered if I was really up to travelling alone for five weeks and if I could leave my children for so long. I almost talked myself out of it, but with strong words of encouragement from my friends and family, I took on the challenge.
From the get-go my Fellowship was interrupted. I developed a blood clot on my first flight. It was very scary being in New York alone and in hospital with severe health issues. I knew it would be a problem to continue with my travels as flying with a thrombosis could endanger my life.
The team at WCMT supported me with kind words and encouragement and the insurance took care of my health needs. I decided to keep going; I realised that my mission was bigger than just me.
It was a truly amazing and life-changing experience and I have been able to implement a lot of my findings through Don’t Forget The Kids. For example, we have introduced recommended age-appropriate literature to our resource list and are using mindfulness practice within our peer support groups. Taking inspiration from programmes I observed in the USA, we are also planning yearly residential trips for the children we support, which focus on fun, team building, emotional support and empowerment.
The Fellowship has also had a big impact on me personally. I’m now doing a degree in Psychology, something I would never had the had the courage to do before the Fellowship.
At the Award Ceremony, as well as my Churchill medallion, I was also presented with the Viscount De L’Isle Award, given to a Fellow for showing determination to carry out work for the direct benefit of others. I’ve had to deal with setbacks on my Fellowship, but the Award Ceremony gave me a great feeling of appreciation. My experience of being a Churchill Fellow has been a fantastic one so far, and I look forward to continuing my Fellowship journey in the future.
Nicola is pictured above at the award ceremony with guest of honour Nick Danziger, left, and Viscount De L’Isle, right. Picture ©Clive Totman 2018