Soft road to recovery

Susan Mathew helps children face difficult emotions. 183723_07 Picture: GARY SISSONS

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

A children’s grief counsellor must use a canny bag of tricks – superheroes, soft toys and gentle conversation.

Susan Mathew, of Dandenong North, is in the delicate business of treating primary-school aged children.

She leads a GriefLine support group for up to five kids in Melbourne’s South East suffering the traumas of family violence or a parent or sibling’s terminal illness.

Along the way, there are movie nights, fun activities and group interactions that untangle issues such as schoolyard bullying, low self-esteem and floundering social skills.

Children are vulnerable, but they are also responsive to ways to build their resilience, Ms Mathew says.

Some of the tools are positive self-talk, having a soft toy to talk to, and taking inspiration from a superhero film.

When another family member is terminally ill, the child can feel a range of grief, guilt and worthlessness, Ms Mathew says.

“The parents are always going to medical appointments and full of worries – and this child feels left out. This leads to anger in them and potentially rebelliousness.

“The main method of this program is to give them a safe place to explore these emotions. It’s OK to feel these emotions, it’s normal, and they can talk to other children in the same predicament.”

The children’s support group is a six-week program on Tuesdays from 4.30pm-5.45pm, held at GriefLine’s office in Moorabbin. It is funded by The Tucker Foundation. Cost is by donation.

Details: 9935 7444.