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
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.