“It’s a really big gift”: Gloria Ehrenberger accompanies children of seriously ill mothers or fathers

When a parent is terminally ill, it puts a huge burden and strain on the whole family. It is all the more important to give the children as much carefree time as possible, even if it is only for a few hours. Gloria Ehrenberger is busy with this honorary post.

The 27-year-old has worked for the Maltese children’s hospice and family support for a year. Her first mission started dramatically. She had hardly had the first conversation with the mother of the seven-year-old girl, who she was to take care of from now on, when her sick father suddenly died.

Gloria Ehrenberger visited her little daughter for ten months, once a week for two or three hours. “I show the child: I am only there for you and we will only do what you want. Playing, reading, frolicking, it doesn’t matter.” The child alone decides whether to talk about illness, death or the loss of a loved one.

It took some time to find his place in the family and provide a little more stability, relief and normal everyday life there. But she settled in well and got to know grandma and uncle. “It’s great to see what you can give and get back in gratitude and appreciation from the family. The children are the most honest, they show everything, it’s a really great gift,” says Ehrenberger.

farewell time

It is also part of her job to make it clear that she will leave again at some point. When the time is right for this is decided together with the family. She explained to “her” seven-year-olds that other children need her now. The girl reacted very understandingly for her age. Even if it wasn’t easy for either of them to say goodbye. After all: The invitation to the little ones’ next birthday party is here – and so is the mini dachshund Rudi, Gloria’s constant companion.

Ehrenberger’s second accompaniment begins these days. This time it is about a six-year-old boy whose mother is seriously ill. Most of the children looked after by the volunteers of the Malteser project are between five and ten years old, says Ehrenberger. Young people can also take advantage of the offer. It is good for both the little ones and the elderly if the companions are still quite young. “We can run around, be more active, and a 16-year-old might be more likely to chat with someone who’s only in their mid-20s,” Ehrenberger says.

learned a lot

She certainly does not want to do without her voluntary work, it gives her the good feeling of doing something worthwhile. She always comes home relaxed from her family visits. She also benefited greatly from the preparatory course last year. “Many people think it’s about death and goodbye. But I also learned a lot about communication strategy, questioning techniques and, above all, about my own attitude in life.” She now pays even more attention to the really important things and to doing what makes you happy, no matter how stressful her job is. is a crisis manager in a large media company. And she wants to convey that to others as well.

She feels in good hands with the Maltese, also thanks to the seamless care. “My coordinator is always there for me, I can call or meet her for every little thing. If I want, she will also come to the family.” Once a month there is also a meeting with a supervisor and the other 10 to 15 volunteers in the project. “It helps enormously to talk to each other. We are very connected, and friendships have also developed,” says Gloria Ehrenberger.

Anyone interested in this task: A new five-day preparatory course starts in mid-September. For more information, contact coordinator Antje Rüger-Hochheim on tel. 656 61 78 27 or by e-mail to antje.rueger@malteser.org. Further information is also available online at malteser-berlin.de/junges-ehrenamt.

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