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Talking with Will & Esther Taylor of LOSS-uk
(February 14th 2013)
This couple have recently set up a local organisation for helping any who have suffered’ loss’. We invited them to share about their project with us. Because it is a a fairly length interview we follow our usual approach and have inserted headings to make for easier reading.

Introducing LOSS

Rochford Life: LOSS is an acronym I believe. What does that stand for?
Will: “Loss of Something Special” and LOSS-UK is a voluntary community organisation we have created and we are waiting for accreditation as a charity which should be coming through shortly, we hope.
RL: So what does LOSS actually do as a local organisation?
Will: We are in our early days and we are in the process of shaping what we do, although we already have a number of activities. We are already working with children, young people and families and we are focusing on supporting those groups of people who have experienced a significant loss following a major life event. That could be bereavement, it could be family separation, it could be an uprooting, moving from one side of the country to the other, it could be through a family illness or involve a young person being a carer, and so in all those sort of things there is a loss associated.

RL: So it’s much bigger than just bereavement?
Will: Oh yes! A lot of people might jump to the conclusion that we only deal with bereavement, but what we are saying is that the experiences of bereavement or grief, isn’t only associated with the loss of a special or significant person. Those same emotions can come through a family separation, where they will include feelings of anxiety and isolation, and of fears. What we try to emphasise is that those are important things in young people’s lives and families’ lives and can have some serious knock-on effects. So for these reasons we want to look at ‘loss’ in a broad sense.

RL: Isn’t support automatically there?
Will: Well, we have discovered, partly by personal experience, that quite often those people that experience a loss will only get support if it has been very noticeable, if behaviour changes and gets worse, if grades suddenly drop, and then young people get noticed and get support in school, because somehow they have to be got ‘back on the programme’. One of the things we want society to recognise is that there are so many other young people, who just turn in on themselves and the loss gets hidden but nonetheless is still there, and can still affect them in a negative way, and especially affect them the next time there is a significant loss.


RL: Have you already started doing this?
Will: Yes, we offer a number of things. One of them is mentoring which is one-to-one, intentional, short-term relationship building, normally about ten weeks. This is different to counselling and so it’s not just about giving space for a young person to talk about what is going on. It’s a place where we really challenge young people to change and, yes, to look in themselves at what is going on, and to make connections with things that have been happening in their lives. We’ve been thrilled that we’ve been able to do that and have seen real success and changes coming about.

RL: Does someone have to be referred to you, or how does the contact come about?
Will:  The referrals have come from a variety of sources.  We’ve had some referrals that have arisen as a result of the training we do (something else we offer). For example a parent came along and connected with us after the teaching. We’ve also had churches contact us and refer young people to us. A lot of churches have children’s and young people’s programmes but don’t necessarily have the experience or expertise to help in these areas. We had a referral recently from Little Havens, the children’s hospice. It can be  through an agency, it can be through a parent directly or it can just be with contacts with us through other programmes that we are running.

RL: So when that happens, you set up a programme of meetings with them?
Will: Yes, but it will be unique for each young person depending on what they want to achieve out of it.

RL: So what is the end goal?
Will: Well if I give the example of one young lad whose father and mother separated, and there was also a bereavement in the family shortly afterwards and there were other things happening in the family. He was finding it very difficult and he was struggling to focus at school and there was a lot of anger, and he didn’t know how to direct it. He couldn’t understand where it was coming from, and everything, for him, felt like a jumble. The process that we’ve been going through with him (and we are looking like we may be coming to an end), is to take each bit, understand what is going on, and connect it and see that may be you are experiencing it like this, or your responses are like this, because of another issue, maybe something that happened when you were a bit younger. We’ve talked about behaviour and things he can put in so that he can proactively express his emotions safely.  Through that process he is understanding how and why he is being like he is, and just that understanding is really helpful. The other thing is giving him permission, saying why wouldn’t you feel like this after a family separation or why wouldn’t you feel like this after a bereavement?  That is very important and often removes feelings of guilt.

RL: You’re getting them to talk it out?
Will: Yes. It is often difficult for young people to speak to their parents because they want to protect their parents from their own emotions because they see what they are going through.  There are not many teenagers that will go and speak deeply to their friends about it either. It needs specialist skills to help understand and make those connections, and when young people do this, it’s really great to see.

RL: That sounds really rewarding.
Will: It is, it’s really good to see that change in them when they see it. This one lad had been having about five sessions of counselling and it hadn’t worked, and we had one session and he basically said to his Mum afterwards – and I’ve had a letter from her – “It was brilliant. I’ve done more in one session that I did in five with the counsellor.” I think this was because we were really proactive and it’s learning about him.

RL: What does that actually mean?
Will: Well, the first thing I did with him, and do with anyone, was ask, what is your learning style? Before we work out what the problem is, how do you want to approach it?   So if you are an academic we will look at it that way. If you like drawing and are creative, then we’ll do stuff that way, so it’s all about him. Rather than me saying, am I this type of mentor, it’s about what does the young person need and how do they need to do it? My job is just to facilitate that.

RL: Do young people have to pay for this?
Will:  We have costs involved and we’ve costed it recently and it works out at £35 per hour for a mentoring session.  We are setting up as a charity and our heart would be to give this service for free to anyone and everyone, and we will do that as much as it is humanly possible to do. We want to make it as widely available as possibly so it is not limited by income or status or anything else. We just want to be able to say, we are here for you, but we have to have our cost covered, just to live! So I’ve been doing some mentoring paid for by an organisation, some that is being paid for by a parent and some where there has been no cost involved - which can happen occasionally through the particular situations involving the organisations and parents themselves.

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Continue to Part 2 of Interview