Situated in a quiet residential area of Bristol, The Rainbow Centre provides a haven of peace for children and their families suffering from the effects of a life threatening illness or death in the family.
In 2017, we partnered with Grief Encounter, one of the UK’s largest children bereavement charity. As a result of the partnership, will be able to increase support services offered, whilst servicing a greater area.
All of our services are provided free of charge and we rely entirely upon charitable donations for our existence.
The Rainbow Centre for Children
27 Lilymead Avenue,
We currently have no vacancies
Workshops and Events at The Rainbow Centre
Youths Workshop #3 February 2019
by Karmen Losey Clinical Services Director
We had to re-book for a week later due to snow on the arranged date but all the families said they could make the next week. One of the young peoples’ mothers called the day before checking again that it was happening; but when we rang in the morning she said she knew as the young people had all been on a group chat reminding each other and checking everyone was coming. This seemed like a promising indicator that they are beginning to bond outside too. All seven youths did make it. I explained at the start of the workshop that it was number three which meant after today we would be half way through the six workshops and one of the boys said “Oh no, already?” and put his head in his hands. Young people who are bereaved can find endings particularly difficult and we are starting the process of helping them have a `good’ ending.
We began the workshop with the counting game we brought in last time to help them think about making space to hear each other and they engaged well with this; even non-verbally creating space for quieter members to be heard. We went into watching another short film and using worksheets to facilitate discussion about it and how it might relate to them. The group seemed to divide over this with most of the young people seeing it as a metaphor for someone struggling and relating to it and a couple identifying less with any difficult feelings or even trying not to. The therapists acknowledged that this might feel hard sometimes, perhaps especially when we are beginning to think about the end of the group. Plus that it was different from last time when they seemed to want to all talk about their bereavements and all at the same time! We opened a little thinking about why we were meeting and how to help focus the grief work. Even those slightly less engaged around the film were keen on the idea of sharing songs that reminded them of their loved one next time, as they had during the food break in session two.
Over pizza the young people spoke a bit more about their grief and also about school and struggles. They seem to notice a lot of parallels and also benefit from noticing some differences.
We had the mini review with the following thermometer scale to help them feed back:
(No Benefit) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 (Max Benefit)
In general they seem to rate the youth workshops highly: the Overall Score averaged at 8/10 (with one outlier 10 and one 6). There was more difference on the `Mixing’ scale (rating how they are finding sharing with other young people). One young person rated this as 7 adding “this is easier with people that have lost someone”. In general `Mixing’ seemed to be rated slightly lower with another young person commenting under anything it would be useful for us to know “I’m still finding it difficult to open up”. This might prompt me to get them to interact more directly with each other but they may be self-directing it by organising more personal grief elements (bringing songs).
We spent some time grounding the young people towards the end this time as they seemed to leave still buzzing and sharing last time. Hopefully this sense of slowing down may also help with the safety needed to go deeper next time, now that they know eachother a bit more and are re-focused on their aims.
On one of the surveys a young person who has felt very isolated in his grief and rated everything with big dark rings around number 10, added in the `Quotes’ section “keep doing what your doing”.
I got a thank you from a parent on the first work day back and wondered about the youngsters reportedly `enjoying’ a grief workshop and perhaps valuing some lightness even in the darkness of their grief. Then another of the young people had occasion to speak with me and she said she had felt like she had carried the story and others’ ideas away and it was making sense to her in a way she couldn’t see on Friday. This reminded me about the ongoing benefits which might not always show at the time.
The next one is at the end of March.
New Beginnings Workshop January 2019
We were pleased with the usual number of client families booking in to come to this workshop and that it included both families who have been coming awhile and some new ones. Altogether 23 people booked in, including three adults who planned to come even though their children were not so keen. This was a good workshop at which to have more adults as there were less children than usual (only four in each group). This seems to be a pattern since the teenagers have been preferring to come to the Youth Workshops. It meant that we could accommodate more adults by putting two therapists into the adult group and we know from experience that this work with the adults is benefiting their children and thus supporting our aims. Two regular volunteers also came and were very helpful in providing refreshments and support in the children’s groups. In the event two mums and daughters couldn’t make it but one extra child decided she would attend since her mum was!
The drama therapists had guided us into a story about a girl who wears a bowl on her head symbolising her grief. They gently told the story and the families began to sink into the workshop. Then the groups split, and the two children’s groups made their own hats like the one in the story with their own decorations and comments. In the adult group we noticed where grief might be `located’ in them, made contact with it and thought about how it might be changing. All the therapists commented on increased conversing about bereavements within these groupings which is a positive direction in terms of coming to terms with it possibly related partly to participants getting used to the format and safety and also may relate to newer therapists’ increasing confidence in facilitating such conversations. We then all came back together for a planting activity. We had been given beautiful pots from a local garden centre and used them as an image from the story of the bowl once it was taken off the girls head then becoming a container of feelings. We acknowledged it had represented grief by getting clients to write a note for their loved ones and placing it in the bowl. They then added compost and forget-me-not seeds to grow at home. We came back together in the front room with an array of cards which most people used to express their connection with their grief during the workshop, and for reflection on what had come up for them. One of the adults who usually comes with his family said it had been very beneficial for him to focus his own grief that time. There were poems and games to come back into the world and finish our therapeutic time together.
The children were very excited when the pizzas arrived and they formed a couple of `picnic’ style groups in the rooms. As the last two families meandered their way out of the door one of the young boys was negotiating with me about having football at workshops while I helped him consider why we focus grief and our play therapist pointed out how focused he had been. We wondered if he might benefit from running around now, after so much focus. The child went off and invited another child to come and play in an Adventure Park together and the Mums confirmed the plan. This seemed like a very happy compromise!
Youths Workshop #2 November 2018
by Karmen Losey Clinical Services Director
The first teen workshop helped us to establish a sense of unity and shared boundaries. The young people were clear that everyone present could constitute the main `closed’ group to maintain the confidentiality and safety they felt although they allowed for a couple of other teens who had expressed interest to join the next time. They were keen to make this their own and began to contribute games building on Will’s ones to help break the initial ice and `warm up’ together. On workshop content, they were keen on both watching a lengthy film together, and yet also time to share as this had gone well and been helpful. There was similarly some negotiation around films as some teens were more keen to enter into difficult feelings and some were more wary and wanted `lighter’ films. I asked them to let me choose the film and they agreed. We required some equipment which we then bought including projector, screen, and bean bags to sit comfortably.
I found a `short’ film which was tangentially about grief and predominantly around the stress of having `difficult’ feelings and others’ struggle to relate them. I made up some Worksheets based on the film and each teen wrote filled in various sections to help them think and apply the film to their own experience. They swiftly moved into talking about this and in the process noticed a lot about how hard it was for all of them to manage feeling angry and worried after bereavement or to have it received. They felt people were either repelled away or over-friendly saying `I know’ when they didn’t. The sharing particularly seemed to help them to identify a helpful response within the group of: `I can identify with that’ which helped them feel heard and less alone without being overridden.
The conversation was animated and did begin to involve over lapping thoughts so in the break for food I got Will to come up with a game to foster listening. It involved a group exercise with each person saying a sequential number and trying not to overlap. This helped them to work more collaboratively and we decided to begin with this next time. The teens loved the pizza, mixing and sharing the wide variety of preferred music together too which seemed helpful for thinking about differences as well as similarities amongst them. As we ended they exchanged numbers.
When I let the teens know about the next event, I got a number of acceptances very rapidly!
Remembrance Workshop November 2018
The Remembrance Workshop 2018 was held at Penny Brohn this year. Our main reasoning was to provide as many spaces as possible for our clients as this has been our most popular family workshop. We used a small hall last year but unfortunately it was booked this year. The beautiful surroundings and the high quality food of Penny Brohn were appreciated particularly by the adults, some of whom have lost a quality of life since they lost their partners. In the end there were eight adults and fourteen children after the usual drop off of those who cannot face it on the day. We were lucky enough to have several good volunteers who have worked with us before and helped us manage setting up the room to be soft and welcoming. Interestingly we had less teens which may be a trend since beginning our dedicated youths workshops.
The start of the workshop involved Will presenting a story of loss and also hopefulness to the group. This led into an activity making a bird which might represent for the families both the loss of their loved ones and their hopes to remember them. The participants got involved writing messages on pieces of paper and then folding them into a simple origami bird. When these were made, we divided into groups as usual, however we tried out keeping the youngsters together with three therapists and volunteers for a dramatherapy exercise around the birds journey. Within the adult group there was instant sharing of grief process and relief to be able to to do so. The youngsters group was less focused probably due to the unusually large space and possibly less teenage role models of behaviour. When the adult group returned the therapists had devised pockets of activity in the big room, notably with Helen leading some pre-prepared craft activities around nests for the birds. We all then came together, darkened the room, lit candles and sat around a material 'river' to set the birds free. In finishing Ellie taught the group a song which we sang in rounds and some of the families got in touch with their grief and curled up together. We all went to have food together and there seemed to be a sense of communing.
The feedback on the day very much reflected the thoughts of the therapists, that perhaps this workshop had been particularly beneficial for the bereaved adults. However, we are conscious that meeting their needs does secondarily benefit the youngsters. We always take learning's from this work and on review we decided for the next one that we stick with the building they know; revisit and hold with the children the expectations of grief working; and return to smaller groups again to facilitate focus. Given that our Remembrance Workshop next year is likely to be busy we may book early the small hall which still has some capacity for delineating groups alongside being containing. Overall Remembrance 2018 was another useful event to help our families check in and acknowledge what has happened, and they were very grateful.
Noah’s Ark Memories Workshop 2018
Ten families took up the invitation to come to Noah’s Ark for a Workshop and Fun Day, which is one fifth of the client group assessed as ready for workshops. We were lucky to have all four members of therapeutic staff plus two very helpful volunteers and some very positive staff supporting us at Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm.
We began with drama warm ups that helped people connect with each other in a non-threatening way and relax into the space. Then the families were encouraged to sit together and Karmen (CSM) talked about the value of mandalas as ways to hold memories and pictures but maybe also express their current experience perhaps with all the mixed emotions of it. Staff then handed out mandalas that had either a heart or `I AM’ in the middle with sections around to fill in alongside sample mandalas to spark ideas. When clients began doing this activity, many feelings were evoked and therapists could go round helping clients show and release them. This was particularly useful in families where members feelings differed, to help welcome all feelings and responses to grief. After a time of working we asked families to begin to share in families what they had done. This process is designed to help clients begin to reflect on and articulate their grief process with eachother but also to really listen and attend even to the quietest. Again therapists helped facilitate and one family spoke of the benefit in realising that they can feel `opposite’ feelings like `despair’ and `hope’ in relation to their loss, sometimes even concurrently.
Sometimes at workshops we find there is benefit in getting to know and sharing as a large group but due to our focus this time on family and on also exploring the Zoo, we mainly joined back in the big group to close our time together. We did an exercise that helped connect and face back out to others.
Noah’s Ark then brought us delicious food into the Workshop space of sandwiches, vegetable sticks, crisps and cakes. This helped people to receive nurture but also safely continue conversations informally and even meet others of similar ages from across the room. These connections often help quieter children come again another time. Not unusually, one of the youngest children who had initially just wanted to visit animals, found it hard to leave the room and asked when he could come again. The feedback forms were uniformly positive, all finding the mix of grief support and fun very useful.
We were lucky the day that we went; a new baby zebra had just been born and was out in the field with it’s Mum. Such `synchronicities’ seem to help with families reassurance that amongst loss, is also new life.
Youths Workshop September 2018
Seven young people expressed an interest in having their own group separate to the family workshops. Honouring this request, the Rainbow team set aside an evening for the youth to connect.
An art activity -similar to ones we run at family Workshops- got the young people sharing, bringing individual differences out, and acknowledging commonalities in why they are here. One of the eldest clients said she had marked not only birthdays and the death day as important on her artwork, but also the day she started coming to the Rainbow Centre.
The art and communication seemed to help the group re-establish history together since meeting at previous Rainbow events. The young people were clear they would like this ongoing and they would like to close the group so that they can continue this depth of conversation. For supper we had pizza and vegetables and fruit which the children loved. They chose to stay together for this and get into further conversations. These centred around how alone they have felt with their bereavement and how people mishandle it. They were so animated and supportive of each other, and indeed indignant about each other’s difficult experiences, that it was hard to stop them. During the feedback they said it really helped and made suggestions for the next one. One group member commented on being really amazed that there were other young people who knew how she felt and was so relieved they could talk about it.
Teen Outing 2018 – A Monster Calls at Bristol Old Vic
Five young people were able to come to A Monster Calls with Karmen (Clinical Services Manager) and Ellie (Dramatherapist).
It is a book which we know well; recommend due to it’s creative exploration of loss; and hand out to clients, so we were very pleased to receive complimentary tickets from the Bristol Old Vic and be able to take them. The young people gathered to talk about the show before we went in and despite some trepidation were excited not only to see a show at the Bristol Old Vic but also to see one related to what had happened to them. They were also excited about the mini goody bags we had put together for them so that they could snack and be comforted while they watched. We ensured when we sat down that there were therapists near the children and it was important as this is a hard-hitting piece.
All of the children did cry during the show and let out some of the sorrow which some have held on to a long while. Afterwards we went to reflect together before setting off to come back to earth playing games in a nearby park. As we left the theatre, the man who had played The Monster was outside and we introduced ourselves to him. He seemed genuinely moved to meet the children and let us have a photo with him. The children then played and bonded with each other until parents came to collect them. The feedback from the parents included a parent saying her child had slept better than she had since her dad had died.
Mothers and Father’s Day Workshops 2018
For both these workshops we were lucky to be supported both by funder's and by local organisations which meant that we could offer lots of our families to come.
For our Mother’s Day event we initially contacted 30 families. Many wanted to come and even booked but for some they couldn’t make it. We find that families often want to come but the motivation nearer the time when struggling with bereavement can be difficult. While we always want to encourage as many as possible to attend, we also recognise that even our attempts to engage families and subsequent conversations all hold them in mind and often we get feedback that this itself is helpful in feeling less on their own with their grief.
The Mother’s Day workshop began in WeTheCurious which they kindly donated free of charge to us. We were given rooms and held productive group storytelling to help families share the difficulties of grieving. We split into two smaller groups and had two therapists to facilitate each. In one group an eleven year old who finds it very hard to express his feelings was particularly expressive and it clearly helped others feel they could share as openly. After this the families could go and explore and share informally within the exhibition. There was an exhibit which involved trying to untie a big rope knot which engaged several children and has become a metaphor for them both of the difficulty of managing grief work and also how working together can achieve it! Then we moved everyone to Bambalam where they had put on a special menu from which our families could choose from. During the walk between venues Karmen (CSM) could facilitate two ten year old boys who have been isolated in the loss of their parents to begin to share. One of the guardians said that she had not seen Ned so at ease since his Dad had died and after the lunch these families returned to the museum to give the children more time together.
For the Father’s Day Workshop we decided to use the Rainbow Centre where we know many of our families feel safe to explore feelings and experiences. The teen group particularly opened up over a memory making activity and out of it we have made a further group space specifically for teenage provision. The families then created some memorial stones which were taken home or placed in the new Rainbow Memorial Garden. We bought in pizza’s and like previous workshops the families were able to talk, connect and share over food while the younger children enjoyed playing with each other both in the house and garden.
We are very grateful that we can give our families such a wonderful mix of fun amongst the difficult experiences they have had and also support to manage difficult feelings and come through the other side. This would not be possible without the generous help which we receive at the Rainbow Centre.
Stories from Families
Read Khloe's Story (2019)
I came to The Rainbow Centre because my mummy had died, and I found it hard to talk about my feelings and sometimes it was hard for me to get to sleep at night. I also found it hard to talk about my mum. I didn’t want to upset anyone by talking about her.
When I first started coming to the Rainbow Centre it felt quite scary as I had never been there before and I felt nervous about opening up my feelings with someone I had not met. After my second time it got easier and I soon settled and enjoyed my sessions. I brought my teddy to a couple of sessions too.
In therapy we did lots of different things including making a memory box, playing with puppets, objects and musical instruments. I listened to stories did some drawing, painting which I put in my special memory box. Me an my therapist also worked through an activity book and I was able to share some happy and funny memories about my mum. The book also helped me discuss different types of feelings (happy, sad, angry) and remember times I felt those feelings.
Things have changed for me and I feel confident and happy. I like to be happy, but I know is okay to have other feelings sometimes too and if I get sad or angry, I can share my feelings with people who support me. I sleep better and while I can still find it difficult to talk about my mummy, I am looking forward too coming to Rainbow Events where I can meet other children who also have a mum that’s died.
Khloe, Age 8
Read Amar's Story (2019)
When I first started coming to the Rainbow Centre I felt very sad and angry. My mummy had died suddenly and I was missing her. It felt really hard to talk about mummy and how I was feeling. At times I found it difficult to cope and I often had very big feelings, getting cross easily. I also found it difficult at night.
When I first came and my Play Therapist, I felt quite nervous but I soon settled and really enjoyed my sessions.
In therapy we did lots of different things and played lots of games. I made some things with art materials things including a memory sand jar, candle holder and memory box.
Things have changed for me and I feel happier now. My sleeping is better and it feels easier when I think about mummy. I still feel sad and angry at times and sometimes have big feelings but I know what to do to help myself feel calmer. When I feel sad I can go to daddy for a cuddle and I also have ‘Mr Good Grief’ to help me.
I know also that I can go back to the Rainbow Centre if I am sad or angry about mummy again
Amar, Age 7 (2019)
Read Daisy's Story (2019)
When I first started coming to the Rainbow Centre it felt quite scary and awkward as I had not met Helen, my therapist before. It got better as I got used to it!
My dad had died and then my counsellor, who was helping me at school, died and things just felt worse. I felt really sad and kept thinking, why me? Also at this time I found it difficult to get to sleep and in school it was hard to concentrate and stay in lessons. I was feeling really sad and was missing daddy.
In therapy I did lots of different things including playing with the sand tray, making slime and things from clay including a pot and volcano. We played hide and seek and made dens. Also I did a memory jar, ‘healing heart’ and a ‘party in a bottle’. Through these activities I have shared memories, talked about problems and worries, let my anger out and faced my fears and sad feelings.
Things have changed for me. I feel much better about dad and can stay with my sad feelings for longer now. School is also getting better and I no longer find it difficult to get to sleep at night.
I know if things are feeling difficult I can share with mum and if mum is not around at the time I can take some deep breaths to help myself feel calmer.
I know also that I can go back to the Rainbow Centre in the future if I ever need to.
Daisy, Age 8 (2019)
Read A Mother's Story (2018)
In July 2008, my life was turned upside down when my husband unexpectedly passed away from a heart attack. He was 38 years old. We had two young girls at the time aged six and eight.
He was a fit and active man who played rugby during the winter, rode his bike to work every day and maintained his fitness levels out of the rugby season by running.
He was prone to lots of injuries so a call to go to our local A&E department was not unusual, but there was something different about that call, and looking at the faces of his friends when I got there, I knew that the worst possible scenario had happened.
His sudden and completely unexpected death left me and our family and friends devastated, but I knew I had to carry on for the sake of our two daughters.
For me, carrying on meant ensuring that the comfort and care of my daughters was the most important thing on my mind and ensuring they had some form of structure and routine was a big part of this.
Making sure the girls continued to attend school became a focus for me, until one day when I had managed to get them to school, I got back to my car and it all became a bit much for me. I went back to the school reception in tears and asked for some help. The school nurse spoke to me and mentioned that The Rainbow Centre may be a really good place for us all to go to. She explained the premise of the care and support they offered and gave me their phone number. I called them that very same day.
I spoke to one of the therapists (were very fortunate that we were able to self-refer at that time) and I made arrangements for my daughters and I to visit shortly after that call.
The girls were offered separate play therapy sessions at The Rainbow Centre but decided that they would like to have joint sessions; a request that was fully supported by the play therapist. I was offered massage sessions which I gratefully accepted. The ethos being that, if I was able to switch off and relax, I would be able to cope with the ‘normal’ day to day activities of supporting my girls.
I can honestly say that attending The Rainbow Centre was a blessing to us all. The girls hugely benefited from the play sessions, whilst the massage therapy I received gave me some ‘me time’. The peace and quiet I found sitting in the front room when they were having their sessions gave me time to sit, breathe and not think about anything else for a while. I would generally take a book but, more often than not, found that I was so relaxed, I would have a little snooze!
Coming to terms with the future was hard enough but the support and help The Rainbow Centre gave me and my girls made sure we were all in a better place to be able to face the future without our Dad/Husband and made what was a terrible life changing situation a little easier.
20 years down the line, my greatest achievement is bringing up my two amazing, beautiful, if somewhat stubborn, (no idea where they get that from) daughters who are a credit to their Dad!
Read Alfie's Story (2017)
Alfie was 5 years old when his Mum dies and at 6 he finds he’s in trouble all the time. Daddy arranges for him to come to The Rainbow Centre but he is very nervous because if he thinks about it someone ends up crying or getting cross.
He decides to talk to Rainbow staff on his own and we find lots of feelings tucked away so they won’t upset anyone. Some are `nicer’ like love but some feel really `scarey’ for him like anger that Mummy has gone. We talk about how normal they all are and Alfie finds he feels a little better to let some out.
We agree he can come every week for a year and share more of his the feelings with art, puppets, and toys, even when words are difficult to find.
During the year Alfie makes some giant pictures and models about losing his Mummy. Towards the end of the year, Alfie’s feelings are smaller and have names he can share. He doesn’t get in so much trouble now. Alfie gives us a card saying how glad he is to have had the Rainbow’s help. We are glad too.
Read Kate's Story (2011)
A mother's story about her experience of The Rainbow Centre, by Kate from Downend
I had never heard about The Rainbow Centre until my family was in crisis. I was so glad to hear about them then. A friend gave me the number and Linda was expecting my call when I made contact 2 days after my husband had died suddenly and unexpectedly by suicide.
I remember little about that first call, except Linda’s soothing voice and calm, matter of fact response to all that I was telling her. She made me feel so normal at a time when I felt like I had been sent to a different planet. I met her and the other staff a few weeks later.
What a wonderful place The Rainbow Centre turned out to be. Linda helped me to get through my husband's funeral and gave me the confidence to trust my instincts as a mother and tell my two young children what they needed to know from me. I gained insight into my children’s' behaviour and their basic needs and was better able to cope with unhelpful comments and pressures placed on me by family members. Looking back I don't know how I would have navigated my way through those early weeks and months without being able to get support and guidance from Linda and the staff.
To make matters yet more complicated I was expecting a baby at the time my husband died and was left facing this prospect alone too. The Rainbow Centre offered me counselling after a few months as soon as a slot became available. I saw my counsellor every week for more than a year. During that time I was supported through some very difficult events indeed: my pregnancy and anxieties that something else bad was bound to happen, how to tell my two young children about suicide (they were just 3 and 2 at that time), the birth of my third child just before Christmas, family rifts and difficulties, support during the inquest process, hearing all the details of my husband's death and eventually visiting the place he died and confronting my own grief. This was peppered with regular contact from Linda to see how I was doing, including an unexpected, lengthy and much needed phone call that first Christmas Eve to see how I was.
The sessions with my counsellor were my lifeline and I never missed one, my new baby girl Hope was just 4 days old when she first visited The Rainbow Centre (luckily she was born in-between counselling sessions). Most weeks I just sat and ranted about the stress of everything or I just cried. Eventually though I was able to talk about my own grief and anger and bewilderment and loss and start to work through my deep rooted pain.
Linda once said “your children are very young and they just need you. As long as you are ok then they will be ok”. That was honestly the most helpful piece of advice that I have ever received. It helped me to get things into perspective and learn to live again. It helped me to realise that I was not responsible for their pain or the task of trying to take it away from them, simply that I had to let them know I was there for them as they made their own individual journeys through the loss of their father by suicide.
More recently I have attended the group therapy for bereaved partners and have got a huge amount of help from this too, from both the staff running the sessions and the other attendees. It has been a privilege to meet people in similar circumstances and to learn from their experiences and to be able to offer support and advice to them in return.
The Facebook page has really helped me to keep in touch and see what is happening. The reception room at The Rainbow Centre is always a lovely place of peace and quiet and welcome with all those amazingly helpful books and resources. Most of all the dedicated staff are always there, always offering their support and helping families come to terms with the hand that fate has dealt them.
It is now three and a half years since my life changed forever that fateful day in June 2008 and I am starting to move on. Our family has just re-located to Northamptonshire to be closer to family and friends, a move which would have been impossible before for a multitude of different reasons. We were unable to make the Candle Ceremony of Remembrance this year which was a shame as it is always so beautiful and poignant. Things change and people move on and learn to live with their loss, although we will never forget. Thank you so much all of you at The Rainbow Centre for continuing to think of us, to help us and for all that you do. Long may you be around to help families like mine to dig themselves out of the darkest and bleakest of places.
Read Rachel's Letter (2010)
A letter to The Rainbow Centre from Rachel of Bristol.
Dear All at The Rainbow Centre,
This card comes with the warmest wishes (& deep gratitude and love) to you all.
This is the first year since Yuri's death that I've felt strong enough to embrace Christmas again, with what feels like some emotional stability - and that's been in no small way due to the love and support I've received through the Rainbow Centre.
It's been a long and painful journey - a real rollercoaster ride of emotional turmoil - but the love and kindness and acceptance of the people at the Rainbow Centre have been a real light and helping hand; there to steady me when no one else could. I was (and continue to be) truly blessed to have found you. Thank you.
That you offer such an amazing gift "free"-ly is nothing short of a miracle. Enclosed is a small token of the enormous gratitude I have for the work that you do and the beautiful people you are at the Rainbow Centre.
There is no monetary value that can be placed on the gift that you are to people in a unique and socially isolating situation - you are a unique light in a very dark place. I know my money is a real "drop in the ocean" in the bills that the Rainbow Centre incurs in its day to day running but I am consoled by the fact that it is through such drops that the ocean is fed.
I've also bought these two lovely books especially for the Rainbow Centre library because I haven't seen them upon your shelves. They are two gorgeous books that have really helped myself and the children (particularly my son) in coming to terms with our grieving process. I thought maybe you hadn't come across them.
As a final note.. my Mum & Dad and myself and the children attended the Candle ceremony this year. It was beautiful - Thank You. Again a unique and holding space was provided freely for all and it was lovely to be able to share it with my extended family (and the food afterwards was absolutely delicious even my mother was impressed & that's no small accomplishment!!)
Read Erika's Story (2008)
A mother's story about her experience of The Rainbow Centre, by Erika from Bristol
Maria has been ill for 5 months, now we finally know why – she has leukaemia. Her prognosis is good but treatment will be 2 ½ years long, very grotty at times... Good? What do they mean? She could die!... How can we live with this for 2 ½ years? How can we get her through it? And her younger sister, Anna?
Fear, panic, tears, trying to be strong for the girls..... Maria is coping well, there’s lots of support in the hospital and she has thrown herself fully into treatment and into getting better.
It’s harder for Anna. Anna only gets attention when Maria doesn’t need it. Sorry, love, I know I promised, but I must take Maria to A&E. No, I don’t know when I come back, could be days....of course I’ll come home in between, but I can’t take you swimming as promised... no, darling, you’re not second best but....yes, darling, I love you as much as your sister but..... no, my love, it’s not your fault that this happened..... no, it’s very unlikely that it happens to you too..... of course it’s ok to get angry with your sister.... she probably won’t die, but we can’t promise....I know you don’t want to go to Holly’s after school but.... I can understand that you want your friends to invite you because they want to be with you, not because I need childcare.... sorry, darling, can’t talk now.... sorry, my love, cuddle over, I can hear your sister being sick again....yes, it’s ok to be angry. With me too. After all, I’m part of your problem!
I can’t help, I can’t even promise to listen properly any longer! How can we get through all this for 2 ½ years?
My baby might be dying, my life is turned upside down, Anna is suffering, I have no energy left, I have no answers. Where is normality to come from? Who can help??
Thank God for the Rainbow Centre! Thank God for sanity, for peace, calm, deep understanding, for a place to rest for a moment, knowing that truly caring and qualified people can help my little angry and frightened girl.
Do I believe in miracles? I do now!
After several months of art therapy, Anna is no longer knotted up with fear and anger. She has found deep strengths in herself, has discovered amazing coping skills, and she has made friends with her sister again. Anna is as well adjusted as any of her friends and it’s time for her to say good-bye to Rainbow.
After concentrating on the immediate treatment for a year, Maria is now ready to face what is happening to her. I have accompanied her on her walk through serious illness, but I cannot truly reach her when she’s facing the possibility of dying, when she’s isolated at home, ill in hospital, different from all her friends, stuck at home with me all day long, day after day after day. She doesn’t talk to me...she’s angry...withdrawn...restless... It is time for Rainbow.
And so Maria starts her journey towards peace. Through an unexpectedly tough second year of treatment, Rainbow is there for Maria, giving her a safe haven to explore everything that is happening to her, holding her through painful treatment with sometimes horrendous mental and physical side effects.
There are times when she’s tempted to refuse all treatment. I can’t blame her! I would probably even support her. How long can we live like this?
It is Rainbow where she finds the healing, acceptance and strength necessary to complete the treatment, Rainbow where she is helped to become the girl who only months after the end of leukaemia treatment is fully integrated back into school. A normal teenager, focused on schoolwork, friends and fun. Having lived through the present, worked through the past and ready to walk into the future.
I cannot imagine where we would have been without this amazing place of healing.
Read Tom's Story (2007)
A young person's story about his experience of The Rainbow Centre, by Tom from Bristol.
Death…… it’s like you’re walking up some stairs in such certainty and then thinking there’s one more step (than usual). A sickly moment of surprise, and then you’re just falling.
This is how I feel when I think about my mum’s death, and I know she’s not coming back. I know she’s not going to be there when I come home from school, and I know that she’s not going to be there to give me a kiss.
This afternoon, when everything seems so certain and other people are looking forward to Christmas with their family, remember all that happiness could be gone in a split second. But we just have to remember that whoever has passed away, that their love will always remain in your heart - and nothing or nobody can take that away. And even when we pass away it’s our souls which will live forever - just like the person who has passed away lives on.
The Rainbow Centre has helped me through all the pain and anger and guilt and the misery and I can’t thank them enough.
Before mum died, my path was clear with mum. When she died it was like a mist and I couldn’t see. And then I saw a rainbow in the distance.
Read Nicki's Story (2006)
A mother's story about her experience of The Rainbow Centre, by Nicki from Bristol
Our family’s relationship with The Rainbow Centre began in December 2004 – a time of emotional turmoil and distress, when we discovered that my daughter Lauren’s cancer had returned after the briefest of remissions. She was nearly twelve.
We had spent most of the preceding five months in and out of hospital as Lauren underwent chemotherapy for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. In September she had been given the all clear – her cancer had responded very well to the treatment and she had enthusiastically launched herself back into life, starting at her new secondary school, making new friends and going for a memorable half-term holiday in the Lake District, where she seemed to have more energy for mountain walking than her exhausted parents…
This period of hope lasted until November, when an X-ray confirmed that the cancer was back. With more months of demanding treatment in prospect and no certainty that they would be successful, I felt close to despair. Lauren was distressed and angry when she first heard the news, but her pragmatic and positive approach to life soon re-asserted itself and she continued to focus upon what she could do each day, chemotherapy schedule permitting.
My husband was always optimistic too – seeing little point in being otherwise. I knew I needed to be positive and confident for my daughter’s sake, but inside I knew I wasn’t. I was terrified and in desperate need of emotional support, which the medical staff, who delivered such excellent clinical care to my daughter, were not in a position to offer. I began to look for other sources of help.
My call to The Rainbow Centre brought immediate reassurance – they understood the extremity of our situation and had the expertise and resources to respond to our needs. The relief I felt at this point was immense. I knew that in order to continue to help Lauren I needed help myself: the weight of anxiety, fear and sheer emotional pain that I felt at this time was too much to bear alone. To be able to talk to someone in complete confidence about these feelings gave me a sense of being held and supported, renewed my strength and enabled me to function through the darkest days I have ever had to face.
Alongside counselling support, The Rainbow Centre arranged homoeopathic treatment for all of us – and Lauren managed to attend a session of art therapy, which she loved. This holistic approach was nurturing and calming and helped us all to cope so much better with the stresses of our situation.
We had a precious few weeks at home once Lauren’s hospital treatment ended, during which she astonished us with her calm acceptance of the prospect of her own death and her ability to live each day as it came – with happiness and with grace.
She died at the end of July 2005 and was buried in a spot she chose herself in a natural burial ground in Wales. Support from my counsellor at The Rainbow Centre in these weeks continued by telephone – I find it hard to express just how important this contact was in helping me to cope day by day.
The experience of grief which has followed our daughter’s death has been very difficult for my husband and me and we have found different ways to deal with it. For me, my weekly counselling sessions at The Rainbow Centre have provided a safe place where I have been able to express and explore the overpowering emotions which bereavement brings. It is no exaggeration to say that these sessions have been instrumental in helping me to survive a loss which at times seemed unsurvivable.
My daughter’s favourite film was “The Lord of the Rings” and the script became for her a source of pertinent quotations for every occasion….of The Rainbow Centre, I think she would join me in saying that for us it has been “a light in dark places, when all other lights go out”.
Read Esme's Story (2005)
A mother's story about her experience of The Rainbow Centre, by Esme from Bristol
Two and a half years ago in January 2003 I gave birth to my third child, a baby girl named Olivia. She was the younger sister to James, 4, and Francesca, 2. Olivia was born at home on a cold winter’s night and we had a fire going. One of the happiest memories of my life is holding Olivia in my arms and looking into the fire and I felt my family to be complete.
Olivia was a beautiful healthy baby, alert and attentive, especially to the songs and games of her big brother and sister. Then one day when she was four weeks old she suddenly stopped breathing while out on a trip in the car. I tried to resuscitate her. She was taken to hospital where they managed to get her heart going and she was put on a ventilator.
She remained in intensive care for 10 days during which time it became clear that her brain stem had been damaged and that without life support she would be unable to live. We allowed Olivia to die peacefully in our arms. A post mortem was carried out and nothing conclusive was discovered so it was pronounced Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
I was desperate. I didn’t know how I was going to survive. I felt pain, anger, loss, shame, guilt, fear. I felt scared for the children and what this would do to them and then for Rob my partner and how he would cope and how we would cope together.
I had heard about the Rainbow Centre at the hospital and I rang them. They arranged to see me quite quickly and from this initial appointment we arranged a weekly counselling session for me. It was a lifeline. I felt safe, understood and not alone. In the immediate aftermath of Olivia’s death I clung on to the certainty that I would go to the Rainbow Centre each week and be able to express whatever I was feeling, be that rage or fear that it was my fault or desperate to have Olivia back. The rest of the time I had to try to be strong and continue looking after James and Francesca.
I always remember a quote I read on the wall in the waiting room at the Rainbow Centre:
“A child can live through anything provided they are told the truth and allowed to share the natural feelings people have when they are suffering” - Eda LeShan.
This helped me immensely. I realised that there was no magic way to deal with children’s’ grief, just be honest with them. Our children were very young when Olivia died. James who was 4 and in his first year at school was very upset, whilst Francesca who was 2 nearly 3 seemed less bothered by Olivia’s death but was very aware of our sadness. She almost became the family protector trying to keep us all cheerful. Both were dealing with Olivia’s death in their own way.
Both James and Francesca came to the Rainbow Centre. James came weekly for nine months for play therapy. He loved coming and having the attention of one adult, someone outside the family to play with and to listen to him. Francesca came for a shorter period for music therapy. This was brilliant for her because she felt important and included as part of the ‘Rainbow Centre family’.
Rob and I have also been together to see a counsellor at the Rainbow Centre. People grieve differently and although there is the cliché that it brings you closer together, it is still very hard. Coming to the Rainbow Centre together provided us with a valuable time and space to talk and listen to each other.
I feel immensely grateful to the Rainbow Centre. I went to the centre every week for two years. This allowed me to slowly accept Olivia’s death as part of my life and part of who I am. With their support I have been able to find ways of not feeling alone and to hold Olivia in my heart.
Read Sarah's Story (2004)
A young person's story about her experience of The Rainbow Centre, by Sarah.
I don’t remember the actual day I was diagnosed with cancer, I just recall the overwhelming relief that someone was taking me seriously at last, that someone believed me when I said I was in pain.
It was a long six months before I was diagnosed but the following six months were even longer, a continuous cycle of treatment and side effects. On Christmas Eve 1998 I finished active treatment. I had my last radiotherapy session, said goodbye to the nurses who I’d grown so close to and went home ready to celebrate Christmas.
Everyone was so relieved that I was ‘better’ that the reality of being back to normal took a while to sink in. I half-expected to pick up where I’d left off six months previously, except things weren’t the same. My friends, although wonderfully supportive, didn’t understand what I had been through and I came to realise I wasn’t the same person anymore.
In February 1999 I thought I was doing pretty well at getting on with my life. My hair was growing back and I was preparing for my GCSE’s that summer, but during half-term I experienced my first panic attack. Compared to this, having cancer was a doddle.
Suddenly this huge grey cloud hung over every aspect of my life. I’d wake up in the morning feeling sick and anxious and go to bed feeling exactly the same. I didn’t want to leave the house and my bedroom became my haven. The feeling of dread was so physical that I was convinced I had another tumour. It seemed the only logical explanation and my paranoia fuelled my worries. But every scan came back clear and my doctor suggested it was psychological.
I was reluctant to take pills and realised I needed to get to the bottom of the problem.
A friend suggested going to the Bristol Cancer Help Centre but I was too young to visit there. Instead, they recommended the Rainbow Centre and within weeks I had an appointment to meet Rosie. At our first meeting we just chatted- I filled her in on my medical history and why I had sought them out, and she told me what the centre had to offer. At the end of the session we agreed that the treatment that might suit me best was homeopathy.
Luckily, I didn’t have long to wait before an appointment became available. I met my therapist and although the first few sessions were daunting, filling him in on my history, it became easier as the months went by.
I still remember the effect of my first remedy. I took it just before spending the weekend away with family and friends and nobody could believe the difference in me. I was so much more content and confident, and even in big groups I was happy to socialise.
Gradually different symptoms, which I had almost grown used to, began to recede. The constant headache actually eased and my whole outlook changed.
My session with my homoeopath became a monthly ‘high’ and I’d look forward to what he might tackle next. I kept an ongoing diary and it was easy to see the improvement.
In order to sort out the visible problems we had to tackle the buried issues. Part of the work with my therapist was for me to accept cancer as part of my life and to life with it, rather than fight against it. Accepting my situation and facing it head on means things don’t get buried and then creep up on me unexpectedly.
Of course it wasn’t all wonderful. I relapsed twice, both resulting in surgery and radiotherapy but because of my positive attitude I felt able to cope.
I’m now leaving the Rainbow Centre and although I’ll continue to see my homoeopath privately, I’ll always be grateful for the lifeline the Centre offered me.
Read A Mother's Story (2003)
A mother's story about her experience of The Rainbow Centre.
My husband dropped dead of a heart attack in front of my 8 year old son on the evening of Sunday 4th August 2002. He was 41 and there had been no warning signs.
My 3 year old was woken by the commotion and stood at the top of the stairs as his father was carried out on a stretcher to an ambulance. At that stage both hoped that Daddy was going to be made better in hospital, in reality Daddy was dead by the time he hit the floor.
The 8 year old reacted to his father’s death by refusing to let me out of his sight even for a moment. Any suggestion that I should do something on my own was met with hysterical blind panic of an intensity that dumbfounded onlookers.
The 3 year old was totally bemused. Me, I was full of anger at everyone and everything save the children. Then I got glandular fever and this increased the 8 year old’s panic even further. Something had to be done and I contacted The Rainbow Centre.
I met with Rosie about 6 weeks after my husband died. I talked to her for an hour and it was such a relief to tell someone who was not going to cry, pity me or make fatuous remarks.
She agreed with me that the youngest was coping in his own way at the moment but that the eldest needed help urgently.
And that was what he got. Miraculously, there was a vacancy for him to have Art Therapy with Liz. That was a very special time for us both. I would collect him from school and we would make the 40 minute drive to The Rainbow Centre, he would have his session and I would have a cup of coffee, sit in the comfy sofa and read silly magazines or doze. I even had an impromptu Reiki session when there was an unexpected cancellation, which was bliss.
He would come out of the sessions a different child to the one who went in—chatty, enthusiastic and keen to discuss ideas for what he would like to try the following week.
He got so much out of The Rainbow Centre. It was his safety net over the worst time of his life. It diminished his panic and the calming effect on him meant that our home was a calmer place too. We all benefitted. He went for 7 months until he decided that it was time to stop but he knows that he can always go back if he needs to and I know that I can always ask for help for me, him or his brother should the need arise.
I took great comfort from some words on the notice board in the waiting room, to the effect that just because I was the only parent the boys had left did not mean that I should try to be both parents to them. I should just do my best.
Those words got me through some really black times, and The Rainbow Centre got us all through.