Family Support

Need help with your cancer journey?

When an adult in the family is diagnosed with cancer it affects the entire family. It can be a distressing, isolating and frightening time. Sometimes, it can be hard for a family to openly talk about exactly how it feels to go through a cancer journey.


For children and young people, it can bring unwanted and dramatic changes to their lives and can affect their experience of school, relationships, and ongoing development.


Family Support is one way for children, parents, and guardians to express their emotions. An opportunity to talk one-to-one or as a group in a safe, non-judgmental environment.

Click here to make a referral

What to expect?

A designated Family Support Worker will discuss a family’s individual needs and will arrange suitable support.

Support provided:
• Helps families, children and young people untangle complicated emotions and fears

• Provide a support service tailored to meet the needs of each family

• Offer constructive practical and emotional support when life feels difficult

• Help your family find the language to speak to each other about cancer

• Provide opportunities for children/young people to meet others in a similar situation

• Provide opportunities for parents to share experiences and feelings

• Support the family to have some fun together and enable them to continue family life


“When I had to give my sons the news that their dad was terminal, they didn’t know what that word meant so I had to explain it to them. We went out afterwards to get ice cream and cried as we bought them. Thanks to these sessions, I have noticed a shift in how one of my sons is able to manage his emotions. He is only 10 years old and it’s hard for him to have lost his father.” 


Past Participant

About the service

The service is for children/young people and their families when a significant adult has been diagnosed with cancer. The adult might be a parent, grandparent, or carer. Sometimes an individual member of the family might benefit from one-to-one support or the entire family can have a space to be together and share their feelings.


This service is delivered across Northern Ireland and is run by experienced Family Support Workers. The service engages with Cancer Focus NI’s wider therapeutic teams to respond to the individual needs of local families.


Available Family Support Programmes:

  • Family Bereavement

    Bereavement evenings are held once a month in venues around Northern Ireland. The aim is to enable grieving families to come together and for children and carers to meet with others to gain support and friendship. The meetings are informal with games and activities for the children and a time for parents to speak and be heard.

  • Writing for the Future and Memory Work

    We enable people living with cancer to collect written ideas and items to keep in books or in memory boxes. We also support families as they collect memories after a loved one has died. Each piece of work can be adapted to best suit the needs of the children whatever their age.

  • One to One Support for a Child / Young Person

    Sometimes it may be beneficial for a child or young person who meet with a Support Worker alone to talk about their thoughts and feelings. Meetings are arranged to suit the individual’s preferences such as taking place at home or another setting. This service helps prepare children and young people for the loss of a loved one.

  • Dads Bereavement Socials

    An opportunity for bereaved dads to meet once per month with family support workers in an informal setting. This can include walk and talk sessions, coffee mornings, or activity-based meet ups.

  • Parents Sessions

    Exploring the issues around talking to children about cancer and how it is to be a parent coping during a cancer journey. These can be standalone workshops tailored to the needs of the group and can be offered according to any developing needs.

  • Teenage Support

    Supporting teenagers and young adults on either a one-to-one basis or in a group session. The focus is on how it is to be a teenager when a parent or significant adult has cancer. The service offers a safe place for teenagers to explore their feelings, build trust, promote autonomy and meet others in a similar situation.

  • Children’s Group Work

    A 6-week programme for children aged 5-12 who have a parent living with cancer. These groups run throughout the year according to need and are offered in the evenings to minimise disruption to school life. These are fun and educational sessions that support children to connect with their feelings, understand more about cancer and meet new people.

  • Individual Family Support

    Providing time with a Support Worker can help families find the right words to talk to each other and work through concerns and worries. Meetings can be arranged at whatever location is most convenient for the family, including their own home.

Click here to make a referral


Click here to download our services leaflets and flyers

Video Resources

Our Family Support videos are one way to help families and schools to begin to have the right conversations.

The Journey:
A video series that aims to help parents or carers who have cancer speak to their children about what lies ahead.

Access full video series

The Learnings:
A video series to help schools understand the needs of young people who have a parent with a cancer diagnosis.

Access full video series

How to access the service

Please contact our team on 028 9066 3281 or email


Alternatively, you can complete the contact form below and a member of our team will be in touch:


    It is thanks to generous donations that we can continue to deliver vital complimentary cancer support services to thousands of people and families each year.


    We keep all donations local and invest 82pence in every £1 directly towards the delivery of our services.