Meet The Nook counsellor Amy Brown

At face value, Amy Brown has a job many cannot imagine.

As an East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH) counsellor, she finds herself by a family’s side at their darkest, most grief-stricken moment. She and her colleagues are a guide when people need them most, navigating bereavement and offering support during the most difficult of times. Amy considers it a privilege and it is a role she has been carrying out with passion, professionalism and sensitivity for nearly three decades.

“I see it as a privilege to be alongside a family at such an emotive time,” she said.

“You can’t escape sadness that’s felt when you walk into the room or situation. Each therapist will have their own approach in that moment. For me, in those moments of grief and devastation, it’s about giving people time. By that I mean giving them time in the moment, in the room.

“It’s about being comfortable with silences and reassuring families that it’s ok to feel however they feel. Some families will go into overdrive, asking what happens now, and others will freeze and need time. Either is fine and you learn to work intuitively with different families.

“Each family teaches us something new and I always try and learn and reflect on what went well and what I’d do differently. Supporting families with the next steps is a big part of my role and, sadly, there are things that need to be organised and phone calls to be made. I support parents alongside the team with memory making, with funeral arrangements and share details of the ongoing support we offer bereaved families, such as counselling, groups and special days.

“We also have events at the hospices and this makes parents feel part of a community. This can be huge for them, because, for some, their network may struggle to talk about grief and the death of their child. Bereaved parents are often asked how they are and they give the response people want, as opposed to saying how they actually feel. At our events, they find themselves alongside others who have lost a child and understand the pain and isolation grief can bring.”

Amy has worked for EACH for 27 years, previously at the organisation’s former Quidenham hospice and now at The Nook, in Framingham Earl. She says the sensitivity of such an emotion-charged job can have its challenges but feels fortunate to be part of such a supportive organisation.

“I’ve got a lot of experience in the field and am passionate about the work I do,” she said.

“Every family impacts you differently. Witnessing other people’s pain can be difficult and it doesn’t just stop at mum and dad. It’s about the wider family. As counsellors, we have to find a way to cope, and, because I’ve been doing it such a long time, I’ve learnt to try and leave work at work.

“When I can’t, I have to figure out why and there are support mechanisms to help us through that process. We have supervision and peer support and I feel fortunate to work within such a fantastic team. If I need to talk or if an individual case has affected me, I know my colleagues will always sit down and listen.”

Amy has supported hundreds of families during her many years with EACH. Among them are Lee Channell and Emie Rayfield – a young couple whose baby son, Theodore, died at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital when he was just 71 minutes old, on 22nd July 2021. He had exomphalos – a defect of the abdominal wall detected during Emie’s routine 12-week scan. At that point it was hoped surgery would correct the problem. Instead, more scans revealed further problems, notably the devastating fact he had no kidneys, and Lee and Emie were referred to EACH.

The couple spoke in a powerful EACH film released to mark the start of Baby Loss Awareness Week 2022. They shared their story – speaking passionately about the role Amy played – in a special video outlining the help they continue to receive at The Nook.

“The film was a really important part of their journey,” she said.

“It wasn’t easy to do – not only in sharing such a painful story but also in terms of stepping out of their comfort zone. They did it because they feel so strongly about both Theodore and EACH. They want the community to know about both and are passionate and committed to helping, especially when it comes to raising awareness of anti-natal cases.

“They were utterly devastated when Theodore died.They didn’t know where to begin in terms of managing such a terrible diagnosis and I started by asking them what they felt they needed. We began unpicking that question and they knew they wanted to spend as much time as possible with their son.

“We spoke about their options and it was important they had control over some aspects, like what would happen when he was born and who would handle him and if there was such a thing as a perfect goodbye, what would this look like to them. There was so much they couldn’t control and sometimes with parents it’s important to talk about the things they do have some control over.

“We made a comprehensive plan and they were able to deliver that to their consultant and the medical team at the hospital. The next part was coming to The Nook as soon as he could be discharged. The team supported Emmie and Lee, step by step, and they were able to spend an amazing few days at the hospice. Albeit a devastating time, they were able to bond with Theodore.

“They were able to take him for a walk in his pram and cuddle him, skin to skin. They felt close to him and still feel such a connection with The Nook. They have such special memories of this time, EACH provided them with a protected space to bond, to see the wrinkles on his hands and do a few of the things parents get to do with a new-born baby.”

Amy is quick to acknowledge the role her colleagues play, both within the care team and across the wider organisation.

“I feel privileged to work for EACH,” she said.

“I do my job to the best of my ability but also have great respect and admiration for colleagues from across the organisation. We’re all closely linked. They have the skill and commitment to do what they do and, without them, we wouldn’t be able to our jobs.”

Published in February 2023

For further information about this release please contact:

Matt Plummer | Media and PR Manager | 07738 328058 | Matt.Plummer@each.org.uk

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