The Willen Hospice Social care team are currently supporting more than 40 children and young people.


One of the ways we can support them at such a difficult time is by using art therapy to communicate emotions that can’t always be put into words. As part of our art therapy programme, we held a session in August for a group of children, some of whose grandparents had recently died at the Hospice. Our Art Therapist, Kàren, used a ‘sensory pathway’ for the children to walk barefoot along and feel different sensations.

Trays of petals, sand, herbs, gravel and water-based beads, as well as pieces of soft bamboo and bark, made up the path. The children were first invited to walk by themselves and could then also re-walk the path blindfolded, holding the hand of their parent or another group member.

“The idea of the pathway is to help children connect with their thoughts and feelings in relation to their experience of grief and loss,” says Kàren. “The children were encouraged to walk the path slowly and mindfully, and to notice any memories that surfaced in connection with the loss of their family member.”

“One child shared that the bark and herbs, and then the sunflower petals and soil, held fond memories of time spend in his granny’s garden. When standing on the gravel he remembered the fear he felt when he first heard about granny’s illness. The white stones, which felt sharp to him, reminded him of the pain he felt when his granny died. And the water-based beads helped him to feel relaxed and believe that his granny is now no longer in pain and is in a better place.”

“It was wonderful, and at times very moving, to observe the children enjoy this shared experience with each other and listen to them as they reflected on their grief journeys and shared some precious memories that were evoked by the sensory pathway.”

“I’ve also done the pathway session with a teenager, who spoke about how powerful the experience had been. She was moved by what it brought to mind, including pleasant memories of family holidays but also the physical pain of grief.”

In future, we’re hoping we can expand our use of the pathway to patients and carers too. The pathway was kindly loaned to us by Northamptonshire-based wellbeing practitioner, social worker and florist Hannah Taylor-Slaymaker, who runs Iberis, an eco-friendly floristry specialising in gardening for wellbeing.

Find out more about art therapy here.