Losing someone or something we love and feel close to is extremely difficult and painful. Grief is our natural emotional response to this loss, and it is a process rather than an event.
How a child grieves is vital to their immediate and long-term future. The death of a close family member has been shown to be a risk factor for children and young people. Bereavement in childhood have been shown to link to:
• lower academic attainment
• lower aspirations for continued learning
• increase in physical health complaints
• increase in risk taking behaviours
• higher levels of anxiety and depression
• increased risk of school exclusion
• increase in youth offending.
So how do you support children and young people and help them deal with their grief?
If you work as a teacher or within a church community, it is inevitable that you will meet with children affected by death in one way or another.
The immediacy and enormity of these experiences may vary, but in each situation, you have a genuine chance to positively affect a young life.
We believe that with the right support at the right time, a child can face the future with confidence and hope.
Communicate, communicate, communicate.
The most important thing that you can do for children is acknowledge the death and offer them the chance
to talk about it. This is true for staff and parents too and depending on individual circumstances, they might all benefit from having a named person that they can go to if they need support.
Every child is unique and will cope with the death of someone important in their own way.
There is no magic formula but things that help include:
• clear, honest and age-appropriate information
• reassurance that they are not to blame and that different feelings are OK
• normal routines and a clear demonstration that important adults are there for them
• time to talk about what has happened, ask questions and build memories
• being listened to and given time to grieve in their own way
Fegans has put together a free online course for parents, carers and teachers to help understand how children deal with grief and loss, and how they can support them in their bereavement. Look out for more details in November.