British Columbia

Nanaimo takes grief services mobile for children in need

A new community outreach vehicle in Nanaimo is bringing counselling services to children who have lost loved ones.

A converted RV allows grief counsellors to visit children who are coping with loss of loved one

The RV, which is about 34 feet long, is decorated with children playing and butterflies. (Nanaimo Community Hospice Society/Facebook)

A new mobile outreach vehicle in Nanaimo is bringing counselling services to children coping with the loss of a loved one. 

The service, offered by the Nanaimo Community Hospice Society, is an extension of the grief counselling services already on offer for children and youth by the society, says executive director Paul Sibley.

"People tend to think of hospice as a seniors' organization, but a lot of the work that we do is with people across the whole age demographic — and children have certainly been a big part of what we do," Sibley said.

The specially retrofitted RV has been made to resemble the play therapy room at the society's physical building, with art supplies, a wall of figurines and toys, and other objects of play. 

Because kids can't sit down and talk like adults about the loss of someone they love, SIbley said, the hospice society's specially trained counsellors use the toys to encourage the children to express their grief.

The inside of the RV has been designed to look like the hospice society's therapeutic play room. Children can grab a toy or figurine while a therapist guides them to talk about their grief. (Nanaimo Community Hospice Society/Facebook)

"Kids can come in and choose what they want to begin to play and our therapists who are trained in play therapy act as guides with them to start to tell the story," he said.

"And oftentimes the most pressing story for them is the loss of someone they love."

The mobile unit can reach children at school or at home — places where they already feel comfortable.

Sibley says the RV will also be useful for reaching marginalized populations, like people experiencing homelessness.

"Those folks have grief like the rest of us. They lose people they love ... but they wouldn't necessarily [come to] our building for service," he said. "I believe that we can show up where they're at."

Listen to the segment on All Points West:

A new community outreach vehicle in Nanaimo, B.C., is bringing couselling services to children who have lost loved ones. 9:39