Feel the Magic mentor Rachel

Volunteering can bring a ‘helper’s high’

Volunteering can bring meaning and purpose to your life. It can bring people together by building communities and creating a better society.

There is also evidence that helping others triggers a response in your brain that can give you a buzz sometimes known as the ‘helper’s high’.

Without our caring and dedicated helpful volunteers at Feel the Magic, we simply couldn’t support the many grieving children that need us. Why? Campers benefit from one-on-one trained volunteer mentors at many of our Camps.

Feel the Magic volunteer Rachel

Meet Rachel (pictured as part of the support crew for Magic Ride 2022), one of our amazing volunteers. Rachel initially became involved with Feel the Magic in 2019 as a mentor at Camp Magic in ACT.

We asked Rachel why she joined Feel the Magic as a volunteer.

Rachel’s dad died when she was 11 years old and her brother 14. Rachel said “The first day of camp would have been my dad’s 60th birthday. When I found out what Feel the Magic was and the work they were doing with kids going through the same loss, I had to get involved and join in and help make it a little easier for them”.

Rachel has now attended five camps, two as a mentor and three as part of the wellbeing team. She was also part of the support crew for the fundraising Magic Ride 2022 and has amazingly signed up again for 2023!

Rachel told us what inspires her most about our Campers is “the vulnerability and growth that you see over the course of the weekend.”

Rachel further said that “A program like Feel the Magic would have benefitted my brother and I a lot”.

Feel the Magic is fortunate to have many people like Rachel who understand the significance of losing a loved one as a child, can relate to Campers and recognise the vitality of our programs.

Rachel shared a little bit about her own journey of grief and said that “grief is a non-linear cyclical adventure. It goes up and down and is not something that ever ends. It’s been nearly 16 years since my dad died and there are still days when I am completely blindsided by the grief of that loss but there are also many days when I am not so quite blind sided anymore”.

Benefits of volunteering

Volunteering can offer vital support to people in need and provides individuals with a sense of community. The benefits of volunteering can be profound.

The right volunteering opportunity can help you connect with a community, learn new skills, and even advance your career.

Giving to others can also improve your own mental and physical health and provide a sense of purpose.

  • Volunteering often helps counteract the effects of stress, anger, depression and anxiety. 
  • The social aspect of helping and working with others can have a profound effect on your overall psychological wellbeing. 
  • Being helpful to others provides immense enjoyment, can give you a sense of pride and identity, and ultimately increasing self-confidence. 
  • Doing good for others and the community may provide you with a natural sense of accomplishment. 
  • Helping others triggers the reward pathway in the brain known as the mesolimbic system. The release of neurotransmitters such as oxytocin and vasopressin can give you a buzz sometimes known as the ‘helpers high’. 

No matter your age or life situation, volunteering can provide a sense of purpose, keep you mentally stimulated, and add more zest to your life.

Rachel’s advice to others considering volunteering with Feel the Magic: “Just do it! It is something you will consider for ages and always put off, but once you do it, it’s so worth it… absolutely do it!”.

“Volunteers make the world go around. I knew I would volunteer somewhere sometime and Feel the Magic hits that spot for me. We wouldn’t be able to get through life without people volunteering to help those in need of different services and charities like Feel the Magic”.

Volunteering is a meaningful way to feel a sense of belonging, catch feel-good emotions, embrace your passions, and open the door to life satisfaction.

A big thank you to our volunteers for your unwavering commitment and dedication to the Feel the Magic community.

If you are interested in volunteering with us at Feel the Magic, click here for more information.

References

https://www.sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2017/05/03/7-surprising-benefits-of-volunteering-.html

Dr. Michael Bowen (BA ’08 BA(Hons) ’10 PhD ’14) 

Feel the Magic camper activity

Resources for Grieving Children

Grief is often overwhelming and can be hard to process no matter your age, which is why it’s natural to feel anxious and lost when trying to help your children heal after the death of a loved one.

You and your family aren’t alone in this struggle as, sadly, 1 in 20 Australian kids experience the death of their mum or dad before they turn 18*.

At Feel the Magic, our mission is to help families like yours heal, which is why we’re happy to provide you with these resources to help you and your child through your grief.

Supporting your child

The death of a parent can leave a child feeling isolated. It’s important as the remaining parent to comfort your child and always remind them that they are loved and cared for.

Providing comfort doesn’t mean you need to always be ‘strong’ – authentically expressing your emotions can help teach your child that it’s ok to be sad and talk about negative thoughts and feelings, and opens up opportunities for conversations about self-care, and positive coping strategies.

A great way to support your children is to  validate their feelings. You can let them know it is normal to experience big emotions during grief, and ensure they feel listened to through your body language, tone of voice, and eye contact.

We know that not all adults are comfortable and experienced at talking openly about emotions. This is why we have a range of resources to help parents communicate with their grieving children. We also have resources to help with your own self-care, because looking after yourself is an important first step towards being the best support for your children that you can be.

Activities for staying connected

When living with grief, getting through each day can take up all your family’s energy, so it’s easy to lose connection with each other. This loss of connection can make the experience of grief even more difficult, so it’s important to put effort into maintaining and strengthening the connections between yourself and your child.

We recommend organising connection activities and have compiled a list of some of our favourites. Good connection activities provide a fun and safe environment in which your kids can connect both with you and the grief they feel for the loved one they lost. You can also use these activities as an opportunity to start conversations with your kids about what they are thinking and feeling.

When to reach out for support

No matter where you and your child are in your grief journey, reaching out for help is always ok. If you need immediate help or wish to learn more about other grief organisations that can offer you support, we have created a list of other organisations that exist to support people’s mental wellbeing and grief. You can also join our grief community if you wish to connect with other families who understand what you are going through.  

At Feel the Magic, we are dedicated to helping grieving kids heal. We have virtual and face-to-face camps designed by psychologists and run by mental health professionals to give kids and parents the tools they need to connect with their emotions and each other.

Our programs encourage healthy grieving and introduce families to a supportive community that understands. For more information or to register your interest in our camps, please contact us.

Camp Magic Campers

Supporting Bereaved Siblings

Siblings are an important part of a child’s world and the relationship between siblings is unique. Therefore, the way siblings grieve is unique too.

Facing the death of a sibling often presents a unique set of complex and emotional challenges. Siblings often experience a range of conflicting feelings for each other, and their relationship usually changes over time. They may sway between looking up to one another and caring for each other, and feelings of resentment, responsibility or jealousy for one another.

Past sibling dynamics can often affect the surviving child’s grief. Research findings indicate that the death of a sibling may have a potentially significant impact on the psychological and physical wellbeing of the remaining child (1).

Further research reveals that some potential consequences following the death of a sibling include increased depression, suicide attempts, physician visits, anxiety, illicit substance use, mortality risk and lower educational attainment (1,2,3,4).

Suicide incidence rates between 2017 – 2019 indicate that suicide was the leading cause of death among Australians aged 15-24 years (5). The high prevalence rate of death by suicide among young people indicates that many children grieve the loss of a sibling to suicide.

5 common grief responses

Guilt: Guilt can stem from a sibling questioning why they were spared because they feel no better than, or inferior to, the sibling who died. It is important to acknowledge that many siblings feel guilty and address their irrational thoughts by reassuring them that they are just as important and loved as the child who died. It is also important to provide them with honest and clear information to ensure they don’t draw wrong conclusions and blame themselves.

Regrets: Surviving siblings may express regrets or remorse about things they did or said to the sibling who died. They may reflect on fights and instances that they “wished” that their sibling would disappear or die and believe that their own thoughts and feelings caused the death.

Normalise your child’s feelings by reassuring them that all brothers and sisters fight or disagree at times, and this is a natural part of sibling relationships. It may be helpful to explain what caused the sibling’s death.

Explain that all children feel angry or have unkind thoughts about family members from time to time, but those feelings or wishes cannot cause a death to happen.

Lack of expressing feelings: It can be difficult to talk about your child who has died, especially if you feel that surviving children are too young to understand and should be protected.

Children may misinterpret the lack of open communication, that it is not okay to talk about their own feelings about the death. They might try to hide their own feelings, or even develop physical symptoms.

Open communication will help you to understand your child’s feelings, fears, and understanding around their sibling’s death. Although it can be difficult, it is important to give children honest, age-appropriate information so that they can feel comfortable coming to you with questions, concerns and feelings.

You can also look for and use opportunities to talk about their sibling who died by sharing stories and memories.

Confusion around changes: The death of a sibling often leads to changes in the structure of the family, and in the roles of the surviving siblings. These changes may give surviving siblings a sense of pride in their newfound responsibilities, or it may result in feelings of pressure or resentment.

Some children may feel that they are expected to replace or live up to the behaviour and goals of the sibling who died. They might respond by acting out or rejecting their new place in the family, or they might take on a caretaker role.

A family meeting or one-on-one talks with a goal of discussing different household jobs and responsibilities can be an effective way for everyone to share feelings and to create new family routines.

Sadness and isolation: Some children strive to be like their sibling, some are protective, and some feel challenged by them. Nonetheless there is often a strong sense of connection between siblings.

After the death of a sibling, the surviving sibling can be left in a place of confusing emotions. Surviving siblings may experience intense sadness and feelings of loneliness and isolation. They may also experience a loss of appetite, sleep difficulties, a decline in academic performance, and/or lack of interest in normal activities.

No matter how they react to the loss of a sibling, always be honest, provide clear information and ensure they receive consistent love and care.

Parent self-care

You may feel you need to always be available for the needs of your grieving child, but it is vitally important you also take time to look after yourself and your own grief. To best support yourself through this difficult time, make self-care a priority. We have created some parent self-care guides, found on our Grief Resource Hub

Feel the Magic exists to help grieving kids heal with free camps, strategies and resources to prepare them for living healthily with grief. All our programs are evidence-informed and created by psychologists. Feel the Magic is a place where families experiencing grief can belong. All our programs are completely free to families thanks to our generous donors and supporters.

Camp Magic activity

Returning to school following the death of a loved one

Returning to school following a significant loss can bring up a range of feelings and emotions for bereaved children.

The absence of security from loved ones is a common fear. On the other hand, some children may find that the return to school feels like respite from the intensity of family grief.

No matter how they are feeling or what they are experiencing, returning to school is an adjustment that you can navigate together.

Notify the school

It is important that the school is aware of the circumstances prior to your child’s return to school, so they can help support your child during this time.

Informing the school that your child has experienced a significant loss may be a difficult task to do as a parent, and you may want to ask a close friend or family member to contact the school for you or join you during the conversation as a support person.

Involve the class teacher

The class teacher will often play a crucial role in supporting a bereaved child’s transition back into the school environment. Acknowledging to the child that they are aware of the death is a simple, although very supportive gesture.

Letting the child know that they’re available to talk or listen at any time will also make them feel more comfortable adjusting back to school.

Other strategies for teachers:

  • Create an inclusive environment throughout the school year, but be particularly mindful on days such as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Involve them in decision making, such as asking if they would like to participate in the craft activities and stalls related to these days, rather than assuming they would rather not attend.   Use language that is sensitive and appropriate to all students, such as “a parent or caregiver”, rather than “mum” or “dad”.
  • Make yourself available to have open and judgement free conversations.
  • Be flexible with schoolwork and homework, as grieving children might have difficulties with their  memory and concentration.
  • normal school routines and classroom structures, as consistency in the child’s environment is crucial to maintaining their sense of psychological safety at school.

Access support from the school

If support from the school is available for your child, such as wellbeing or psychological support, it may be beneficial tuse these services.

The return to school following a significant loss is a daunting and overwhelming experience for many children. IIt is important to facilitate support for your child to express their thoughts, worries, and feelings with a qualified mental health professional. The school may also be involved in working on a plan with you to ensure your child’s return to school is as smooth and comfortable as possible.

Involve your child in a back-to-school plan

Including your child in a back-to-school plan will allow them to feel more comfortable and at ease with the transition. Examples of ideas for the back-to-school plan include:

  • Taking some time out in a safe space when they are feeling overwhelmed, such as five minutes in the book corner or a drink of water.
  • Going outside for some fresh air when they are feeling sad or upset, with a dedicated area they are allowed to go agreed in advance.
  • Bringing a special toy or object to school or using a fidget item in the classroom.
  • Academic modifications, such as reduced homework load or extra time to complete assignments.

Strategies for parents

Some children may not want to return to school, which will present various challenges for you as a parent. Here are some examples of strategies you could implement:

  • Provide your child with something to look forward to at the end of each day. This is a simple and inexpensive way of praising them for being brave. Rewards may include playing their favourite game after school or a soothing back tickle before bed.
  • It may be helpful for bereaved children to take a familiar or soothing object to school to hold when they feel sad or anxious. This could be something that helps them feel connected to their loved one who died.
  • Use language that makes it clear you expect the child to go to school (e.g., ‘when you go to school today’ not ‘if you go to school today’).
  • Try and explore why the child doesn’t want to go to school. There could be many reasons, such as feeling embarrassed, feeling like their friends will treat them differently, worries that they will be bullied, or fear about leaving the remaining parent alone. Uncovering the ‘why’ behind the behaviour is the first step to helping children address these concerns in healthy ways that don’t involve avoiding school.

Whilst returning to school following a significant loss is a major transition for bereaved children, there are also many other changes that children navigate following the death of a loved one.

Click here for further support to help your child through the changes brought by death, or book a call with one of our team to talk about how our face-to-face programs may be able to help your child.

5 Ways to Talk to a Grieving Child on Father's Day

5 Ways to Talk to a Grieving Child on Father’s Day

For many families in our community, Father’s Day can be a difficult milestone. And for many others, they can struggle to know what to say to a grieving child.

Often, because they fear saying the wrong thing, or don’t even know what to say, they say nothing at all.

We want to change that and help children and adults give grieving kids the support they deserve.

Helpful tips for talking to a grieving child

We’ve put together this guide 5 Ways to Talk to a Grieving Child on Father’s Day (as recommended by grieving kids!) to help your child or a friend who misses their Dad.

It doesn’t always have to be with words, a simple text message can make all the difference.

By simply taking the time to let grieving kids know you are there and thinking of them, you can prove they are not alone this Father’s Day.

In the next couple of weeks, we’d also like to invite you, your family and friends to join our movement – #LetsTalkFathersDay.

Building a community of support

We hope to build communities of support for grieving kids, by giving the wider public the confidence to reach out and support them.

It’s also a chance for grieving kids to share how they’d like people to support them around Father’s Day – whether that be through sharing memories, building new traditions, or maybe the opposite – not talking about Father’s Day too much at all. 

Follow us on socials in the coming days and join us to create a movement that helps grieving kids feel safe to talk about their Dad. 

If you’re supporting a bereaved child or know one, you may find our article How to support a grieving child on Father’s Day helpful. It explores the importance of social support as an important aspect of encouraging post-traumatic growth in young people.

You may also find this article ‘Supporting Children & Teens Through Grief Anniversaries and Significant Events’ useful to help support a child or teen through significant milestones.

How to support a grieving child on Father’s Day

Father’s Day can be a difficult day for many children grieving the death of their dad or a significant male in their life.

For many others, they can struggle to know what to say to a grieving child. From fear of saying the wrong thing, they often say nothing at all, leaving the child feeling even more isolated and alone.

We want to help you change that.

Give your support to grieving kids

Evidence shows social support is an important aspect of encouraging ‘post-traumatic growth’ in young people who have experienced the death of a parent or guardian.

Talking with grieving kids about their loved one and their grief is important.

Post traumatic growth is shown through positive psychological changes to their beliefs, self-esteem, and identity, following highly difficult life events. Having opportunities to express their grief is important.

Remember that you don’t need to take away their grief and pain, you just need to hold space for it and let children know that all emotions and responses are valid.

Research, and our own experience of supporting grieving children through our evidence-informed programs, have shown the positive effect on wellbeing of talking with grieving kids.

It doesn’t always have to be with words.

If children don’t want to talk about their grief verbally, conversation and connection can be through things like symbols, drawing, craft, dance, poetry, play, images and text messages.

Grieving children often feel isolated from their friends and community. Others around them may not have experienced bereavement and loss like they have. They can feel detached and alone, especially on significant days like Father’s Day.

Many of us don’t know how to support grieving children during difficult times like Father’s Day.

We asked kids from our Feel the Magic community what they would like their friends and family to say to them on Father’s Day.

Here is their advice on how to talk about their dad (spoiler: they want to be included!), plus we share some of our tips: ‘5 Ways to Talk to a Grieving Child on Father’s Day’.

If you are supporting a bereaved child or know one, there is help available and a community who understand what you are going through.

You may find this article ‘Supporting Children & Teens Through Grief Anniversaries and Significant Events’ useful to help support your child or teen.

Our mission at Feel the Magic is to ensure grieving kids, families and their friends have the support and resources to help them feel and heal through their grief.

Our Grief Resource Hub has guides, activities, books, videos and TED talks you may find helpful.

We have a range of face to face and virtual camps, so we can help grieving kids heal – no matter where they are.

If you need guidance, you are welcome to make an appointment to chat to one of the team. Or join our team at one of our monthly information sessions to learn more about programs, camps and resources.

References

Auman, M. J. (2007). Bereavement Support for Children. The Journal of School Nursing, 23(1), 34–39. https://doi.org/10.1177/10598405070230010601

Metel, M., & Barnes, J. (2011). Peer-group support for bereaved children: a qualitative interview study. Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 16(4), 201–207. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-3588.2011.00601.x

Wolchik, S. A., Coxe, S., Tein, J. Y., Sandler, I. N., & Ayers, T. S. (2009). Six-Year Longitudinal Predictors of Posttraumatic Growth in Parentally Bereaved Adolescents and Young Adults. Omega: Journal of Death and Dying58(2), 107–128. https://doi.org/10.2190/OM.58.2.b