Losing a child, a sibling, a parent, a loved one is one of the hardest things we have to go through in life. And a lot of times we may find ourselves not knowing how we can effectively support them.

Today, we have Carol Openshaw and Kathryn Brooks, they both work at Roger Neilson House, a pediatric palliative care hospice in Ottawa. In their line of work, they have made it their mission to support grieving families, parents, grandparents, and the children in the last moments of their lives. Truly, these ladies are angels on earth.

In this episode, Carol and Katt share with us how to support others in grief, how it’s important to keep memories alive even when they’re long gone, how to show concrete support even when not asked, and how to appreciate the life and the memory of our loved ones.

In this episode:

[03:22] Carol and Katt introduce themselves and give a short description of their roles at Roger Neilson House.

[05:05] Both of them felt like fate brought them to Roger Neilson.

[09:24] It’s important to acknowledge that grief is a human experience.

[09:59] Becoming a family after 10 years of working together.

[10:22] Learning resilience from the parents, from the families, and even from the medically complex and dying children.

[13:10] We need to keep our expectations reasonable. And people around you need to know that.

[13:57] Kat’s advocacy is allowing children to experience or be a part of resiliency.

[18:23] Fear hinders people from supporting people in grief.

[18:57] Allow yourself to be vulnerable and to be there with them while they are crying.

[20:44] Being able to share stories and memories, and the sadness you feel is so important.

[21:01] In the early stages of grieving, many parents fear their lost children to be forgotten.

[27:15] We’re all different. Some of us grieve longer and some for a shorter amount of time. We just need to support and guide them.

[30:37] Children who experience grief may feel guilty and emotional, and the best we can do is be present for these kids.

[35:47] The most valuable lesson we can teach children is when we are being emotional. To teach them, to explain to them what we are feeling, and that will teach them in future.

[41:08] The most helpful thing that you can do for families when they are acutely grieving is give concrete support, even when they’re not asking for it.

[44:17] to support someone in grief, create or dedicate a space or time for them.

[46:12] What’s so important to families is that their child or baby is remembered, and that the family know that they were cared for and loved and that they remain important.

[49:30] Some parents have a really hard time being around their friends with children. And the best thing that you can do is to name it.

[51:20] Have an open dialogue with kids who lost a sibling, a friend, a loved one.

About Carol Openshaw & Kathryn Brooks

Carol Openshaw has been practicing social work for the past 27 years, working with many different families and populations in Ottawa over this time. While working at the Children’s Aid Society, she began supporting children with significant special needs and medical complexities, and developed a passion for wanting to improve the quality of life of these children. This led her to her career at CHEO, and for the past ten years as a palliative care social worker at Roger Neilson House. 

Katt Brooks is a registered recreation therapist at Roger Neilson House, a pediatric palliative care hospice in Ottawa and has worked in this field for over 10 years. In her work, Katt works with parents and children/teens to advocate the importance of talking to our children/teens about difficult topics. Katt is striving to break this silence, and show parents, health care workers, teachers etc the importance of providing a safe space for our children to talk. 

Connect with Carol & Kat

Roger Neilson House Website

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